You know that moment in the movie where the nerd girl takes off her glasses and pulls down her ponytail and steps into a fitted, sparkly dress? She is transformed. She timidly makes her way down the stairs, and the guy at the bottom stares up, open-mouthed, seeing her as though for the very first time. Who is this sudden goddess? It is probably Aphrodite.
That has never happened to me.
Not even close. Not even when I was shopping for a wedding gown.
The first place I went was Macy's. The saleswoman brought out a string of huge, elaborate white gowns. She helped me into the first. It was complicated. She led me to a row of endless mirrors.
"If you need to cry, just do it," she said. "It's overwhelming, seeing yourself like this for the first time."
I blinked hard. I looked at myself in the mirror. I leaned forward, gazing deeply, cushioned by billows of shimmering white gown. It was true. One of my eyebrows really was a little higher up than the other. Weird. And my face looked saggy. Saggy? Seriously? I was twenty-four! How was this possible? The face did not match the gown. I looked stupid.
"It's OK," said the saleswoman. "I know it can be very emotional."
"Can you get me out of this dress, please?" I said.
I do not transition smoothly into a fairy princess. Instead, in fancy clothes, I look a little confused-- like my hair didn't get the memo. I look like myself-- but wearing something nicer.
It's disappointing. Some women (including many of my friends) are full of womanly mystery. In their street clothes, they are lovely, but their loveliness hints at some greater potential. They might spring into full stunning gorgeousness at any moment, given the right shoulder-baring dress, eye makeup, and hair stylist. At their weddings, they will be dreamlike creatures of fantastical beauty. Not me. What you see is definitely what you get. And what you get looks like it should be wearing overalls with paint splatters on them.
For a long time, I hoped that something magical would happen when I dressed up. I hoped that I'd transform. I'd watched too many movies. I'd had too many friends with excellent collarbones and sculpted shoulders that were practically begging to be bared. I thought that the ability to undergo a metamorphosis from normal to stunning with a few simple props was an integral part of being a successful woman. I certainly thought it was an essential part of being a bride.
Now I'm not sure it is. I'm sort of glad I looked like me on my wedding day. After all, it was me getting married. Not a fairy princess. I mean, I was glad my husband looked like himself, in his tux. I wanted to see his familiar face, not the face of Prince Charming. That would've freaked me out.
When I saw myself for the first time in the gown I ended up buying for my wedding, I thought, "That's definitely better than the last one." And then I thought, "I look pretty good."
"She's going to cry!" said the saleswoman.
But I didn't.
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