There I was, walking down sixth avenue, after being placed on hold with customer service about a dispute on my credit card when…I walked right by the infamous, David’s Bridal on 26th street. I paused. I was angry, annoyed and irritable – which turns out – are three S-U-P-E-R power emotions to get you to do things you are really scared of! It took all of three seconds for me to decide TODAY was the day I would try a wedding dress on!
While still on hold, one earbud in and the other hanging from my purse, I went directly to the lady at the front desk. “Excuse me…I realize I don’t have an appointment but would it be possible to browse through the wedding dresses in the back?” “Absolutely!” she said with confidence. Awesome. No more sneaking around.
At this point, I hung up with customer service. Because, customer service, WHO CARES!!! I’M ABOUT TO TRY ON A WEDDING DRESS!!!
This time, as I browsed through the big-white gowns, I felt differently. Hmmmm…I can kind of see myself in that one. Or maybe that one. Then, I saw one, on the sales rack and decided…this would be the one I’d try.
I went back to the lovely lady at the front and asked, “I just found a dress on the sales rack that I would love to try on…may I?” She looked at her list of appointments. I felt nervous, but calm. She said, “Can you fill out this appointment card…then we can squeeze you in.” “Oh absolutely!” I replied with joy.
Now, I’m thrilled. Second time around and I’m getting to do what I want.
The questionnaire required little meaningless details like, approximate date of the wedding, which I was able to write down as a possibility. You know, if things went well and I met someone in time for that date!
It also required my email address. Which now, thankfully, I get emails congratulating me on my engagement and informing me how many months away until my big day. All very thoughtful, and more encouraging for my ego than the usual, “Still Single? Don’t Kill Yourself Yet…He’s Online Now!!!”
I filled everything out and waited for a sales associate to call my name. “Charlene???” A young woman announced. “RIGHT HERE!!!!” I stood up like I had been waiting my whole life to get called.
“Which dress would you like to try?” she asked. I pointed to the dress. She removed it off the rack and placed it in one of the dressing rooms. I started to feel nervous again. But more excited-nervous. Butterflies-nervous. Happy-OMG-nervous. “Let me know if you need anything while you’re undressing.” “OKAY!” I shouted. (yes, everything I say will be in all CAPS because in my head, I was SCREAMING!!)
Now I’m excited. Adrenaline is pumping through me. Nerves going crazy. I felt, again, like I had to pee in my pants! But to calm me, I kept repeating to myself: There’s nothing to fear anymore. Step into the role completely. Go out there, with confidence. YOU ARE GETTING MARRIED. Yes, YOU! Allow yourself to believe it. Allow it to feel real. And so I did.
I walked out, turned around to see my reflection in the full-length mirror…and there, staring back at me, was a girl — no wait — A WOMAN…ME!! AS A BRIDE!!!
“DO YOU HAVE SOME HEELS I COULD TRY?” I called out. “Oh, of course!” she said. “Wow, that dress fits you perfectly. Let me get something to tailor it a bit in the bust area.” As she’s clipping my back to tighten the fit, I started to really see my wedding day. My family there, my friends, my husband…it actually began to feel real. Not far away in fantasyland, but…possible.
“How should I wear my hair, do you think?” I asked. HOW SHOULD I WEAR MY HAIR?? WHO AM I RIGHT NOW?? “Oh, I’ll get you some hair clips to try.” I tried a few on. I had the sales lady take some pictures of me in the dress. I think I even started to sway from side to side, just to feel how it danced. I looked at the price tag and thought, “I could actually buy this, if I wanted!!”
I turned to the sales lady and gave her a big hug. My heart was full. “Thank you so much…I really appreciate everything!”
As I broke away from the hug, I heard her say, “Wow — even though this is fake?” Wait — What? Huh? What did she just say??? Did I imagine that or did she actually say that? I shrugged it off like I didn’t hear her and went back into the dressing room to change.
Then, behind the closed doors…I really heard what she said. In fact, it became the only thing I could hear. And I started to tear up. I took the gown off, walked out of the dressing room and hid my feelings as much as I could. I smiled and waved goodbye as I walked out.
Once I left, I started thinking: Who is she to know if it’s fake? Who is she to rob me of that moment of joy? Wait a minute…I have the power here… and I WON’T LET HER!!! Nobody can take your joy away from you…unless you choose to let them.
Even though I got to try that dress on…I still felt like I was missing something. Like there was a bigger lesson here that I didn’t get yet. And then, it hit me:
Sometimes we need the universe to manifest our deepest fears so that we really know – with certainty – that we can survive it.
I was terrified – both times – that someone would know that I was “single” and kick me out or tell me I wasn’t “allowed” to be there or throw me in some room marked “NOT ENGAGED/CALL AUTHORITIES” or some other ridiculousness.
And I was afraid of sharing this story. Of admitting to everyone that I even wanted or needed that moment. And I just did. I just…did.
I needed this experience to fulfill a childhood dream; of becoming a Bride. As I got older, that dream became so distant and far away, I started to doubt that it would ever happen. And by stepping into that dress, and walking into the Bridal store, I had to face all the shame I had been carrying around…for being single at this age, for what society tells me about that, and how badly I have felt about myself because of this one area in my life.
This experience was so much bigger than the dress. It allowed me to face these insecurities and finally, be free.
Perhaps my biggest fearless act has been revealing so much of myself over social media. I didn’t expect to get this… real. But, it’s also been the greatest gift. By opening myself up, I get to release my shame, my fears, my embarrassments, my weakness, my joys, my heart….all of it.
And that is what this journey has been about for me. Getting to the truth of who I am.
I cannot express how deeply grateful I am to you – for following along with me, for sharing your words and notes of encouragement, of love, and validation that I am not alone. You have shown me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be human, to be flawed, to be…Me.
As I embark on yet another milestone in a few days, another “blessed” year of life…I have only two words to offer: Thank you. Just…Thank you.
This would not have been the same journey if I didn’t get to share it all with you.
Here’s the next chapter… 41 and beyond…
All my love,
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