I fell in love with a wedding dress. It was white satin and lace with a pearl bodice. I was eager to get married in that dress, and have my dream wedding in an exotic setting. My parents had bought me that dress during my junior year, when I became engaged to Martin.
Martin made a good living as an engineer. He was charming, witty, and had thick curly hair. My parents adored him. All the arrangements had been made for our spring wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii. I was in love.
I had already moved my clothes, and the wedding dress, into Martin's house, even though I still lived with my parents, but only for a few more days. I was elated.
One week before we were to leave for Hawaii, I found my all my clothes, and my wedding dress, shoved into paper bags and left on my parents' front porch. There was no note. The stuffed grocery bags said it all.
I hung up my wedding dress to release the wrinkles. I found out later that Martin had dumped me for his ex. It would have been less painful had he kicked me in the gut.
That summer, I went to my cousin Susie's wedding in New York. Her wedding dress was nice, but not as beautiful as mine. At the reception, I met Gary, a curly haired math professor who looked like an Adonis in thick eyeglasses. We hit it off immediately.
Two minutes after I caught Susie's bouquet, Gary asked me out on a date. I was excited to think I might get to wear that wedding dress after all. One month later, Gary asked me to marry him. He wanted to have an August wedding in Italy.
I flew to California to pick up my dress, flew back to New York to pick up my bridegroom, and then the three of us flew to Italy for my big day.
One afternoon while we were pre-honeymooning on the Italian Rivera, Gary took me to the beach. As I rubbed suntan oil onto his sexy 29-year-old body, he whispered that two ladies under the nearby beach umbrella were turning him on. I followed his gaze but all I could see were liver spots on two skinny sagging grandmas.
Gary started to rock back and forth against the beach blanket as he ogled the octogenarians. His buttocks tightened, and then he let out an audible "ahhhhh." Then he flipped over, seemingly oblivious of the wet spot on his trunks.
I ran back to our hotel, alone, packed up my dress -- which I was not going to waste on him -- and took the next train out. As the train pulled away from the station, I thought: Since I'm already here, why not tour Italy -- by myself? I always wanted to see Venice.
I arrived in Venezia at dawn. The sky was rosy pink fading to blue, and the Grand Canal was storybook emerald green.
I checked into a hotel on Lista di Spagna, put my wedding dress into the carved chestnut armoire, and I went outside to explore the City of Love. I wanted to pour my disappointments into the watery canals, and lose myself in the narrow streets.
It was a sweltering day in August, during a beastly sirocco, the name for those hot air masses that drift across the Mediterranean from the Sahara Desert, and which cause Europeans to drop dead from the heat, or wish they had. I wore my yellow mini dress with spaghetti straps and put my hair in braids. It was so hot my kneecaps sweated. All the bridges and canals looked alike. I was lost.
While I rested at the foot of a bridge with my nose in a map trying to figure out where I should turn next, I heard, "Buongiorno, Signorina. May I help you?"
I looked up into the green eyes of a drop-dead gorgeous Venetian with curly hair. He bought me a gelato and gave me a tour of the city. We ended up at his apartment. I was ready to jump into love. He was ready to jump into bed.
The next morning, I packed up my dress, settled my hotel bill, and moved into his apartment. For the rest of August, we had a lot of sex, but never made love.
My last year of college was starting after Labor Day. I was out of Traveler's Checks. The Venetian had not proposed. It was time for me and my dress to go home.
Just as I was about to board my plane at Marco Polo Airport, he presented me with a ring -- a big diamond solitaire. I was shocked. This was a real diamond. I thought this guy must be the real deal. As he kissed me passionately goodbye, I said to myself: At last I am going to wear my dress.
In November, my fiancé came to California. Contrary to my dreams of an exotic wedding, we were married in my parents' living room in Pacoima. When the rabbi asked us that pivotal, life-changing question, I wanted to say I don't. But I was afraid to disappoint Mom and Dad, and the 50 guests crammed into my parents' parlor. Even though my gut instinct was to run, I could not allow those deli platters and decorated cake to go to waste. And finally, after three proposals in seven months, I was wearing my beloved dress.
Unfortunately, a wedding dress does not a marriage make -- which I soon learned when we honeymooned in Death Valley.
My Italian husband kept my American passport, and jewelry, locked up in his Venetian vault, and only he had the key. Then I got cancer. I insisted I see an American doctor, in America. He refused, so I refused to sleep with him until he gave me my passport.
I divorced the Venetian.
The dress was devastated, but I was just fine.
Below, Betty and her father, David Goldstein, on Betty's wedding day.