I was, what you might call, a “fringe punk” teen. I frequented local rock & metal music shows on Fridays, and sang in church with my mother and sisters on Sundays. It was a strange time.
After I would finish up my week of classes at Bluefield High School, and if I wasn’t rehearsing in my friend Dan’s basement for a battle of the bands, one of my favorite things to do was to hitch a ride to Charlottetown, to browse the second-hand shops for clothes. One of my key fashion moves was to go into the children’s section of any second-hand store and try on the children’s dresses in the “Large” sizes and wear them as tops. They fit my petite frame quite well, and it was surprisingly hard to find mermaid sequence in the teen section in any shop at the Towers mall at that time. I wore a lot of black eyeliner back then, and had also dyed the bottom layer of my red curly hair black with my high school friends Breanna and Stephanie. I thought the red and black ringlets looked fabulous, but my mother thought otherwise. She was on the phone with her sister when she turned over her shoulder, saw my new hair style, dropped her head into her hands and cried.
On one particular weekend shopping trip, I found myself alone in a Charlottetown thrift store, running my hand over the fabrics in the “DRESS” section. To this day, I still love to do this: walk up and down the aisles running my hands over waves of fabric. Floral patterns, cotton fabrics, and sheer dresses of all lengths and sizes. I had reached the end of a long line of summer dresses when I looked up to find myself in the section labeled “FORMAL WEAR”; the fabrics were silky, long and in all kinds of hilarious styles and colors. There were prom dresses with big puffed sleeves and Elizabethan necks; I remember shaking my head and thinking “who the hell would wear something like that?”. Having a grand time laughing at the fashion follies of others, the neon greens and highlighter pinks soon turned into ivories and whites:”WEDDING DRESSES”.
Prom seemed to be so far away, so you can imagine how far off in the distance a wedding seemed like to my teenage mind. I was embarrassed to be seen looking at the collection of white dresses, but so very curious and drawn to them. I was constantly looking over my shoulder and would retreat hastily to elsewhere in the store whenever another shopper would walk by. This was the same move I would pull when picking up tampons or while at lingerie stores, jumping from the “thong” section to “boy cuts”. Again, very confusing times.
I don’t know what came over me that day, but I unhooked one of the wedding dresses from the rack and made a beeline towards the changing rooms. To my luck, every single one of those rooms were full, so I found myself standing in line, trying to act casual with a billowing white gown under my arms. This was no easy task; you have to understand that if any of my friends had walked in at that moment, I would have forever been the laughing stock of my crew of weekend misfits. I dashed towards the first room that became available, stuffed the dress inside and locked the door behind me. I excitedly kicked off my baby blue high-top sneakers, shuffled out of my green army pants and slid the wedding dress up over my shoulders. I zipped it as far as I could reach, took a deep breath and turned to face the mirror.
I wish that I could say that I turned around and gasped at the beautiful young woman who had been hiding under all of that black eyeliner, but I didn’t. I turned around, and I was immediately overcome by a sharp pang of disgust and some very palpable nausea. I took in my reflection like a statue; the buzz of the florescent lights and the far off cries of tantrum throwing children made the entire scene all seem like something out of a sad movie. I just couldn’t get over this feeling of being so disappointed in myself. Mustering all of the courage I could, I took a breath, dropped a hip and tried to make myself look at all fashionable.
The dress was heavy, with some beading and went far beyond the length of my 5″3 frame. I pulled and pinched at the fabric, I sucked in my stomach and stood on my toes. I flipped my hair from one side to the other, threw it into a low bun, a side-braid and shook it out. I repeated all of this until my brow was firmly furrowed. I stood there, feeling sweaty, defeated and with eyes that started to burn with tears. I can still hear the thoughts that ran through my head as I completely unraveled that day: ”Why don’t I look pretty? I am supposed to look PRETTY. Why did I do this? This doesn’t look right. This is stupid. You’re stupid. Meaghan you are SO stupid”. A sudden knock at the door made me jump and run to secure the lock: “JUST A MINUTE!”. I slipped out of the dress as fast as I could, fixed the eye liner that had run down my cheeks and left the dress in a heap on the changing room floor.
This memory makes my heart ache, but it has been coming back to me often while my partner and I plan our wedding day, so I thought I’d better write about it. I seem to have developed a very real aversion to going wedding dress shopping, and I think this memory might have something to do with it. I can’t be the only woman who is happily in love, who wants to be married, but feels the pressure to really “BE THE BRIDE” on their wedding day. *cue the Caddyshack golf scene
If you know me, and have come to my shows, you’ll know that I love dresses. They are literally all that I have in my closet, but something about a buying a traditional “wedding” dress seems to overwhelm me. It’s not just because they are outlandishly too expensive (which a lot of them are), but because within the fabric and the price tag, there seems to be a message that I feel like we, as women, have been spoon fed our entire lives: “by wearing the white dress, you are worthy”. This comes at us at all angles from childhood to adults through magazines, television, film, family traditions, etc. Call me cynical, but it seems like so many women feel like they’ve “made it” when they find that “perfect” dress, and when they can check off the box: [X] “MARRIED”. Almost as if the brilliant work they do and their phenomenal success stories and hard work pale in comparison to the day where they get to be “THE BRIDE”. Am I the only one who finds this a little backwards?
I have had more people stop me on the street to ask me about “my dress”, and yet, hardly anyone has asked me about our life plans together as husband and wife. Maybe that is just par for the course, but what I am dying for is some solid and honest marriage advice to go alongside the advice about napkins, wedding attire and invitations. Don’t get me wrong, I am PUMPED for our wedding day, we have been having SO much fun planning it and it’s going to be a beautiful ceremony, with the people we love to death and a huge crew of musical hillbillies playing tunes into the night. I have been enjoying ‘talking wedding’, but I also have so many other questions that I would love some insight into. Is it crazy to want advice on actually BEING married? Tell me about what it means to you to be a loving partner. Is it something you work at every day? Tell me about the hurdles you face in marriage. How do you tackle finances? Tell me about couples counselling. Have you done it and would you recommend it? Ask us about the life we see together, about the children we want to have, and the places we want to go.
There is so much to talk about.