While, of course, you all know that I cannot post photos of this dress, or the photos of me taken in said dress – because Drew isn’t allowed to see it – that doesn’t mean I can’t talk about it.
My first marriage, let’s go back. I was 17 years old and marrying my high school sweetheart, of sorts, and we had been together for a year and a half at that point. I was a size 16 at the time and at only 5’4 – that made me feel all sorts of down about myself. I, essentially, let my Grandmother pick my dress, and she paid for it. My marriage lasted nine years, and many of them were shaky, but I never ever forgot that feeling of ceremony… stepping through the door into something wild and unknown and, perhaps, a little frightening given our ages. I remember being in that dress. I remember feeling beautiful, because nobody, except Grandma, knew that the dress was a size 16 and I was starting to tip the scales in a direction that would take me years to work off and into top shape. I felt like, in that moment, because it was my wedding dress – I was creating a memory of myself that perhaps our children would look back on and say “Ah… Mom was so beautiful on your wedding day.” That was it – that was what I wanted.
Fast forward 10 years later: I had moved out into my own apartment. I was figuring out the single mom life on my own and I was actually making it! I was actually surviving on my own – paying my own bills, with no help, no support, and I was finally living. I was in a budding new relationship (though later it would be, likely, the largest heartbreak of my life) and I was finally starting to dream again. I was thinking to myself – “I could marry this guy – he could be someone I could really see myself with for a really long time. He has helped me to feel alive again, when for so long I just have not been living.” And so, off to Pinterest I went, in its infancy. I created this board that was helping me find ANY silver lining to being divorced. Anything. At. All. I found a few – but one was that I would, possibly, get to have a nice wedding – where my parents attend and I am not 17….and there isn’t a tension in the crowd – and I would be absolutely utterly confident that this person was the ONLY person I was willing to give forever another ‘try’ at. Let’s be realistic. We should not say “’til death do us part” in your vows… because you have no idea what the other person is going to hit you with in the years to come – and honestly, I have learned exactly what my deal breakers are by being presented with them (during the aforementioned relationship) and then realizing it was NOT something I was willing to put up with. I was never really ‘sure’ with that person – but I was trying to get myself inspired. I found a dress, and another dress, and another dress… and before I knew it, I had an entire board dedicated to this fairytale-like day, even though I knew I would want something a little more modest… but just because. You know? There was this one dress…
When that relationship ended, and my anxiety and my depression were at its worst, after being in a relationship with someone who was not mentally stable themselves at times – I was struggling to find anything at all to keep me feeling like there was a future with someone, anyone at all – because I really didn’t believe anymore after the damage had been done in that relationship that I would ever be loved enough by someone else, that I was worth loving, enough to walk down the aisle.
I still had not re-framed the experience in my life to where it later was… “Is there a future with someone who will love me for exactly who I am and stop trying to turn me into a woman I am not?”.
And even a few months later… “Is there a future with someone who is truly deserving of MY future — and who works to be a fulfilling part of MY life as it is now?”
And while I dated off and on for the better part of that next year – and even fell back in with the very man that put me in the original place of being made to feel so small and insignificant. (Be not confused, Ladies, I let myself BE pushed into that hole, just as much as he was applying force. What you put up with, is EXACTLY what you will end up with… and you really SHOULD believe someone the very first time they show you who they really are.)
I struggled with it all – the break ups, the failures, and hell, even the guys I went on dates with that I just wasn’t that into – hurt! I wanted to believe that one of them would work out… but I was still feeling down. I kept pinning these dresses, decorations, hair-do’s, nails… you name it, all because I wanted to believe that companion was out there somewhere and if I just kept pinning to this mythical event – even without a face or a name attached to this person. I had to believe that there was this happy-ever-after in the universe for me (I am a realist and I know life isn’t a fairytale – take what I say figuratively…) and that I most certainly was not the broken shell of a woman struggling with depression and anxiety that I had been post-divorce and post-subsequent ex. I was going to do that stupid thing that people kept telling me in texts and via Facebook. “Just keep swimming.” It kept me distracted from total breakdown long enough for something to happen… I started evaluating people as to whether or not I wanted THEM in MY life… and stopped trying to figure out how I fit into theirs.
Fast forward to now – I am engaged to the person who proves himself to me every day. Who carved himself into my life without me feeling void of affection and then having to ask for it… Who loves me for exactly who I am and believes that we are best friends who will conquer everything if we are “us” and not two separate entities going it alone. We have our own sets of friends and do things apart often – but we recognize we are the person that the other wants to be with the most. I found that person. I found him – he found me – we knew – and we haven’t really wasted any time. Ten months and 23 days from the day we met… I said “Definitely!” …. “Absolutely!”…. I couldn’t even say “Yes.” because this person deserved a bigger word for his question.
So, now that it is socially acceptable to reflect on my manic ‘pinning’ and admitting that I listened to other people’s love/romance/wedding playlists on Spotify that might be good for a wedding (though none of them were chosen…) while I was out for a run… I went back to that board. The “Dream Wedding Board” that was so thoughtfully called “Maybe again someday…” for the better part of two years…
….I saw this dress. And according to Pinterest, I had pinned 10 identical links to this same dress, and 4 other versions of links to people wearing the same dress. The final time I pinned it, I was pinning out of boredom. I clicked it and it was a link to the dress… in my size… no longer a 16, but a size 4, and there it was… I promptly pulled out my debit card, paid for it, and had it shipped to myself. This one thing was connected to this beacon of hope – getting me through the phases of learning to convince myself that I was good enough, and that I did deserve to be loved – though I had been taught and, indeed, told otherwise in one instance, was now in my living room. It had been a consistent piece of a very tiny dream I had been dreaming. Most of the time when I make purchases, I have to talk them through in my head… figure it out…. “Is it worth it?”…. “Do I really NEED this…?”…. “Does it have a purpose…?”…. “Where will I store it?”. Not this time. I owed this little self-reward to me.
This weekend Drew and I were attending a family birthday party and the ladies in my family, and I, had planned to kick Drew out (he drove separate) and then get into my dress. We, in the very least, needed to figure out some places where a bustle would blend nicely, how many inches I need it hemmed, etc…
I got into the dress, with….. well… A lot of help… I am starting to think of it in a rather funny anecdote… “How many Italians does it take to get a girl into a corseted mermaid gown!?” Har-har.
Initially, I was so hard on myself… I stood in front of the mirror…. scoffed at myself. Became angry at the few pounds I had put on in the last few months of overindulgence and vacation, etc. I wasn’t having that moment of tearful… “I SAID YES TO THE DRESS!”… you know, like on the show?… that I don’t watch…or critique their taste in dress…. or in men. I digress. It was not until I saw the cell phone pictures of me in my dress passed around the room that I could step outside of myself and see myself through the eyes of others. Even though they were little cell phone photos… I looked beautiful. I felt beautiful. I felt like I had chosen the absolute, most, perfect garment to say “I do” in. I was finally getting that imprint, that memory, where our children will look back and say things like “Wow! You guys look so young! Look how amazing and happy you both look…”
After all, it has never been about the ‘stuff’, the ‘event’, the ‘ring’, and the ‘pomp and circumstance’…It was about hope through a time when I couldn’t find anything to hope on. It was about finding him.
It’s really about having this imprint that we can look back on and remember a moment that started something really happy – something worth talking about.