There are a lot of things I was concerned about when my mother told me we would be going wedding dress shopping on her next visit. I was afraid that she would say some part of my body was too fat and that comment would swish around in my brain like a spin cycle. I was worried she would find dresses I hated and we'd have to argue about why I didn't want the traditional wedding dress. I was also really worried about ruining the dresses I would try on because I'm clumsy like that.
What I didn't anticipate, was not being able to try on any of the dresses at all because they didn't carry my size and this making of a nightmare turning out to be such a blessing.
The first store we went to boasted their, ironically, sizable collection and variety. We descended on the store like vultures and found a few dresses for me to try on. The largest being a 14. I have the back of linebacker and couldn't close any of the dresses. I've spent a lot of time in the past year and half focusing on loving my body and thankfully, this was but a small deterrent for me. I was past the days of trying to have a quiet panic attack in the dressing room while simultaneously trying not to cry all over the clothes.
I walked out of the fitting room and unabashedly asked the attendant where her larger sizes were. She said they were on the other side of the store in the corner and that they would have a "Plus Size" sign. I skipped over there merrily with my already distraught mother in tow to find the magical "Plus Size" section.
Here's where things could have really gone either way.
What we found was unlike the rest of the store. There were approximately two styles of dresses in various colors labeled "Plus Size." The sizable collection and variety the store promised apparently didn't apply if you weren't "Regular Size." The look on my mother's face was pain. I wanted to join her in her disappointment and frustration. This was outrageous when the average women in America is 166 pounds. Not to mention the women's size chart is at best, a bad joke.
But suddenly, I was off the hook! I didn't have to worry about ruining dresses or arguing with my mother or being pressured into buying a ridiculously overpriced dress. I was ecstatic for myself, but also deeply sadden for all the women who want to look fabulous at prom or a special event and are reduced to two choices.
Nevertheless, we continued on to the next store which only carried sizes S-XXL. We managed to locate an XXL dress only to find XXL looked more like a medium.
"Is this a store for ants???" I thought to myself and laughed while my mother mumbled how ridiculous this was and scurried out.
I don't say this often, but I was downright giddy. All of my worries and concerns out the window all because I wasn't "Regular Size" and society didn't value my money the same. Huzzah! But anyone who knows my mother knows she is a determined woman especially when it comes to finding the perfect outfit for me. We made our way over to the Walmart of wedding dresses - David's Bridal. They'd have to have something for me there.
David's Bridal was everything I've seen in movies down to the unimpressed dress helpers. The first mistake we made was walking into the store like it was, well a store. We found some dresses for me to try on and went up to the receptionist (yes, this place has a receptionist) for assistance.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"Did you check in when you came in?"
We made an appointment for later that day and were assigned a helper. The first question she asked me was what size pants I wear. I chortled, because I really thought she understood the ridiculousness of the question, but looking her over I realized she probably was always a size 4.
I explained to her that I had pants in sizes ranging from 6 - 16 so maybe my waist size would make more sense. She shrugged me off and suggested I try an 8. This time, I laughed HARD. This person really had no sense of sizes or bodies for that matter. I knew it wasn't her fault and she was just trying her best, but the least you can do is carry a size chart. I digress.
We found dresses and she prepared a fitting room for me.
"What size bra do you wear?"
"Oh I'm wearing one."
"Yes, but you'll need a strapless and a waist trainer, wait here."
She might as well have brought a plastic bag for me to wrap around my head because the contraption she brought me left me breathless, literally. I immediately forfeited, threw it in a corner, and started trying on dresses. I tried on a 10, 12 and 14 that all generally fit. So much for size charts.
Toward the end of the fitting there was one dress that I needed a bigger size in so I tracked down our helper.
"Are you sure you liked this dress enough to try it on again?"
If I wasn't so tired of trying on wedding dresses I would have found 15 more!
I wasn't sure what made me not worthy enough of full service. Maybe it was because I laughed at her size suggestions. Maybe it was because I refused to wear a death trap. Maybe it was because I was the only woman in there who hadn't brought an entire entourage. Or maybe it was because I was a size 14 and so it didn't really matter that I got a beautiful dress because look at me.
Thankfully, my self-love shelf life was still holding strong. I thanked the woman for her time as she shoved a catalog and toothpaste samples in my hand before rushing off to another appointment.
Although this venture worked out well for me, I still lament that this experience isn't the same for many women out there. I lament that my self-love comes off as strident. I lament how I made my mother feel as if there was something wrong with her because she cared so much about how people were going to see me and I very vocally didn't. It's not her fault, it's not the helper's fault. It's the world we grew up in where women are confined to a set of parameters. The same world that fear-mongers us into thinking we're not worth as much if we don't fit into these parameters, that we're not worthy of being happy.
To everyone who has had this happen or who has these same fears, you are worth so much and you deserve happiness and a big, puffy, shiny, ridiculous dress if that's what you want.