April 3, 2001
Just Disembowel Me Now


A couple of years ago, I fell instantly and madly in love with a dress I saw in a mail-order catalog.

There was no engagement ring on my finger yet, at that point. David and I were still at the We'll-Get-Around-To-Making-It-Legal-Someday (But-Right-Now-It's-Fun-To-Keep-Our-Moms-In-Suspense) stage of our courtship. The Great *FootNotes* Invitation Vote was still a couple of years down the road.

But I looked at that dress, and I said That's the dress I'd like to be married in someday.

It wasn't an actual wedding gown, per se, but a simple, ivory-colored dress: very feminine, very pretty, trimmed in lace and pearls, with a flowing, diaphanous skirt that hit the leg about mid-calf.  I looked at that dress in the catalog and could actually see myself wearing it on my wedding day ... carrying a bouquet of roses and baby's breath, maybe, with a little wisp of something lacy tucked into my hair. I liked the dress so much, in fact, that I ripped the page out of the catalog and folded it up and tucked it away, in a secret compartment of my wallet, where I carried it around for the next two years.

Once in a while I would pull the dog-eared clipping out of my purse and look at the dress some more, feeling wistful and excited and deliciously impatient.

Someday, I told myself. Someday.

Of course, when the time finally came for me to begin looking for wedding apparel in earnest, the dress was long-gone. "Out of stock" I was told, when I called the national headquarters of the mail-order catalog company a few weeks back. But that was OK. By then, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to buy my wedding dress through a catalog, anyway. (Or through a website, or on eBay, or at a garage sale.) But at least I was starting out with a clear idea of what I wanted: something pretty but not frou-frou ... elegant but not pretentious ... informal but not tacky ... traditional but not icky. Something not too uncomfortable and not too hot and not too expensive, and, most importantly, not at all reminiscent of my first wedding dress, which I hated and looked terrible in and still feel crabby and resentful about every time I think about it, twenty years later, even though *I* was the one who picked it out in the first place.

Something traditional but unique: something that expresses both my soft gooey romantic side AND my Bohemian Wild Woman side.

(Something that says Yes, I'm a 43 year old second-time bride, and I want to look reasonably dignified at my wedding ... but I'm still gonna take off my shoes and slide around on the floor in my stocking feet at the reception.)

I really don't want to get started shopping in earnest until I drop another few pounds. (I'm thinking the second or third week in July might be good, actually.) But in the meantime, there are two other critically-important, wedding-related dresses that need to be figured into the planning/purchasing equation between now and July 21st:

Maid-of-Honor gowns for both Daughters #1 and #2.

Logistics and schedules being what they are, it made sense that we would shop for Jaymi's dress this past weekend, while she was in town. It would be a way to check one more thing off the wedding *To Do* list. I thought maybe we would spend all day Saturday and part of Sunday, if need be, combing every store in the greater downtown San Francisco area ... even the stoopid stores, like Ross Dress For Less and Old Navy ... until we found her the perfect dress: something tasteful and flattering, either in Dusty Rose or *FootNotes Green* (which ISN'T the same thing as TEAL, by the way) ... hopefully in a style that she would be able to wear again after the wedding, if she wants to ... and hopefully in a price range that wouldn't jeopardize the health and well-being of my infant credit cards.

(And while we were at it, maybe I would force myself to take a look at the women's formal wear department, just on the off-chance that the perfect wedding dress just happened to be ... you know ... miraculously hanging right there in plain sight.)

It seemed like a great plan. I hate shopping: Jaymi loves shopping. I have terrible taste in clothes: Jaymi has excellent taste in clothes. I hate spending money: Jaymi loves it when I spend money. Etc. If nothing else, this would give us something "fun" to do for two days. It would be this fabulous Mother/Daughter bonding experience. David would drive us anywhere we wanted to go. Plus it would provide me with a little female companionship as I embarked on what will almost certainly be the most nightmarish part of the whole getting-ready-for-the-wedding process:

Choosing a wedding dress.

I'm looking forward to shopping for my wedding dress with about as much enthusiasm as I would look forward to public disembowelment. Or a Mary Kay makeover.  We've discussed this here on *FootNotes* before, of course: how I'm missing all of those key *chick chromosomes* that make shopping seem "fun" and "natural" and "not worse than public disembowelment." We've talked about how standing in a changing room in my underwear  --  surrounded by mirrors, squeezing into another off-the-rack horror crawling with DNA from a bazillion other women  --  is pretty much my vision of hell on earth. My aversion to shopping is old news. But in this case we must also factor in that I will be 1.) shopping for THE single most important day of my life: no pressure there, and 2.) shopping for clothing that by its very nature -- white or light-colored, flowing, semi-sheer -- is guaranteed to make me look like a doublewide. So having my daughter there to hold my hand during my first token efforts at wedding-dress-shopping would be a comfort.

Plus she could hold my purse while I was in the dressing room.

But here's what I wasn't counting on: the fact that Jaymi would be even less enthusiastic about dress-shopping -- for either one of us -- than *I* am. She started dragging her heels on the issue almost from the moment she arrived on Thursday. Her main concern, she said, was her weight. Although she looks absolutely perfect to my (totally unbiased/completely impartial/objective mother's) eye, she says she hopes to lose a few pounds between now and the wedding. 

"If you buy me a dress now," she said worriedly, "I'm afraid it won't fit anymore by July."  A concern to which I, speaking as someone who is almost singledhandedly supporting the Slim Fast Foods Company this spring, can definitely relate.

"OK," I said agreeably. "How about if we just look at dresses while you're here, then?" 

I thought that if we could at least look at a few different styles and make sure we were in agreement stylewise/colorwise/pricewise, then I could send her money later this spring and let her shop for herself in TicTac. The important thing was to make sure we were on the same page here.


Her response: a noncommittal shrug.

Sometimes I can be the most intuitive mom on the planet. I could tell she'd lost interest in Girl Scouts, for instance, when she threw her Brownie uniform onto the compost heap behind the garage. But there are other times, I'm afraid, when you pretty much have to bludgeon me over the head with a four-pound chub of Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, seven or eighteen or fifty-six times in a row, before I finally get the message. This was clearly one of those hit-me-over-the-head situations. After three or four more attempts to interest her in the let's-just-look-at-dresses school of thought  --  with the same half-hearted results --  it eventually began to sink in that maybe her heart really wasn't in this whole 'wedding thing' right now.

Maybe it's because of her own recently-cancelled engagement (which, although a mutual decision, was devastating for both of them). Maybe it's because she feels some perfectly normal, perfectly legitimate emotional weirdness about her mom getting married again. Maybe it's because she really IS concerned about her weight.

Maybe it's because she simply didn't want to go shopping for wedding clothes with her mother.

Maybe it's all of this stuff put together.

Whatever the reason(s) for her obvious distress and unease, I dropped the issue completely for the rest of her visit. I quietly pulled out my credit card and paid for her jeans and sweaters at The Gap ... for her CDs at Amoeba Records in Berkeley ... for her Philly Cheese Steak and onion rings at IHOP ... and I didn't say another word about weddings or dresses or wedding dresses or dresses for weddings. 

In fact, I tried to avoid using the *W* word entirely. She'll be ready when she's ready.

But even if we weren't going to shop for her dress ... I still felt I should at least make a token attempt at looking for mine. Otherwise, this whole weekend was going to smell like failure. So while Jaymi was upstairs on the second floor of the department store, exchanging a pair of pajamas, I grabbed David by the hand and dragged him over to the Women's Department to take a quick sneaky peek at formal wear.

"You get to be my 'dress-shopping girlfriend,' " I told him.

("Goody," he replied. "Can I hold your purse?")

There really wasn't much to look at. A couple of semi-not-terrible formal suits -- both in ivory, one of them a little more ornate than the other -- but they were both made out of this awful, heavy polyester knit that would probably be miserably uncomfortable in July. A lace dress that didn't completely suck ... except that it was knee-length, and I'm actually looking for something between the knee and the floor. Another lace dress that was pretty and had a great neckline, but was only available in ghastly baby-blanket-pink or even ghastlier seafoam-green.

"This is going to be worse than I thought," I sighed.

As we were standing in the Womens Department, Jaymi quietly joined us. "What do you think?" I asked, pointing at one of the formal suits.

She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "I think we can do better," she said.

I nodded in agreement. "I think you're probably right," I said. "But at least this way we can say that we officially 'started looking' this weekend." 

And with that, we left the department store and headed back to Alameda for Chinese food.

two years ago: panic97 for dummies
one year ago: love/hate relationship
[daylight savings time sucks ... for the first eight hours]

throw a rock