This post is part one of what is a three-part series about the BIG fun we had at my cousin’s wedding in Birmingham, Alabama. Family weddings don’t get any better than this one, y’all.
We received the Save the Date for my cousin’s wedding in February, so it wasn’t like I had no idea I would be attending a wedding over Memorial Day weekend. I knew. I also knew I would need a new dress for both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. I knew. In February.
Weeks before the big day, Ginny told me I should go online and order, “like fifteen dresses and try them all on in the comfort of your own bedroom. Then, send back the ones you don’t want. I do it all the time. It’s so easy.” I thought about it for a day or two and decided to try it her way.
After a Google-search for “Appropriate Wedding Guest Dresses for 40yo Woman”, I found a handful I liked from an online company that I’d never heard of. The website looked reputable. I double checked the return policy. I studied the sizing chart and took my own measurements with a measuring tape to be sure I ordered accurately. Because the company was based in the UK, I did the price conversion myself to be sure I wasn’t getting the wool pulled over my eyes. I did my due diligence.
However, after two weeks passed and my order had still not arrived, I contacted the company. They assured me I would receive my order within three days. Those three days came and went and still no dresses. The wedding countdown clock was ticking. I called Ginny in a panic, to which she responded, “Zizzy, you ordered from EUROPE? Why do you do this to yourself? I TOLD you to order from Nordstrom.”
On Tuesday, before the wedding that Saturday, when the dresses from Europe had still not arrived, I resolved to go to town during my lunch break and find two dresses. It had to be that day. I had run out of days. It was now or never.
On my way to town, I started feeling queasy. If there is one thing I hate, it is clothes shopping. I’ve never really liked it, but now that my body-image is in the toilet, it is definitely my most hated thing.
I had a white-knuckle grip on my steering wheel. In an effort to calm my nerves, I turned off NPR and prayed, “Dear Lord, I realize you have bigger issues on your plate today. This silliness and anxiety I’m having right now about not looking like a royal embarrassment cannot even be on your radar it is so incredibly insignificant in the scheme of our troubled world. But Lord, I have got to get this done, and I don’t think I can do it without your help. Please help me find two dresses: one that is cocktail party appropriate (as per the invitation) and one that is 6pm wedding guest appropriate for a 40 year old. I would love it if I could coordinate with my impeccably dressed children, but if it cannot be, it cannot be. And Lord, since I’ve already wasted your time on this, I’ll go ahead and ask that if you can also help me find a suck-it-all-in ladies foundation garment, that would be incredibly helpful, too. Please forgive me, Lord, for this selfish, indulgent request, but I cannot look ridiculous at this wedding. Amen.”
Clearly on a mission, I parked the car and headed straight for the ladies’ dress department. This was an in-and-out situation. Focus and breathe, Cantrell.
I have a much easier time of declaring what I won’t try on: no sleeveless anything, no peek-a-boo sleeves, no maxi-dresses, nothing that gathers or pulls, no pleats, no rhinestones, no polyester anything, no loud prints, nothing that has ties or strings or belts. Subtle is what I wanted, just something that would help me blend into the surroundings.
I saw options right away and decided to take as many as I could carry into the dressing room with me to save time. The first dress I tried on was too small. I got stuck with only my head and shoulders in, unable to pull it over my shoulders, like a dog with its head stuck in a bucket. I started to smother. An unseen zipper had clogged the works, and I was doing the twist trying to wriggle my head and neck back out. “Go toward the light, girl,” I whispered.
I could feel my heart beat faster as my brain started it’s negative diatribe, “You’ve really let yourself go. You may not be able to find anything flattering. I hope they don’t take a family picture. You’re such an embarrassment. You’re not getting any younger, that’s for sure. When did that start flopping?” I closed my eyes and swallowed hard.
I looked at myself in the mirror, suddenly a drill-sergeant, “Pull it together, Cantrell. This is not do-or-die. You are trying on dresses for a wedding, for Pete’s sake. Get a hold of yourself, sister.” That seemed to do the trick. My heart rate slowed. I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths.
The dressing room was hot though, and I felt woozy. I was breathing too fast and too shallow. Again the drill-sergeant, “You cannot have a panic attack in a department store dressing room. Your deductible is too high for shenanigans. Get these things tried on and get out of here, Cantrell.”
I find it oddly comforting in times of crisis to call myself Cantrell. It helps me focus.
It really didn’t take too long. With the drill sergeant’s help, I found a knee-length, A-line, navy sheath with a navy lace overlay and a smattering of navy sequins with three-quarter sleeves. It was subtle, had a flattering cut, a little sparkle, perfect for a cocktail party. Ever the optimist, I determined it could easily be worn again – maybe to a fancy Christmas party – or my funeral –