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Lisa B. Samalonis Headshot

Divorcing The Dress

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I dumped the too-tight clothes, outdated computers, chunky cell phones and unused exercise equipment. I ditched unread books, old billing statements and a plethora of papers. The purging was pragmatic-- my new place would be a much smaller space than my pre-divorce home and storage units are too pricey. Did I really need every birthday card I ever received or every picture I had ever snapped during the 20 years of my now-dead relationship?

Through the de-cluttering process, I grew more peaceful. With each trash load I dragged to the curb or drop I did at the donation center, my house and my possibilities expanded. Friends accepted gently used toys, books, and children's clothes. I returned an unfathomable amount unused (an unopened) products to stores, and weekly, I drove up to one of those metal bins in shopping centers and stuffed in another blessing.

That thinking worked fine until I got to my wedding dress, which had been preserved in an acid-free box post-nuptials. I didn't want to keep it. I didn't think anyone would wear it again (I have sons). Yet, I continued to take it with me. The bulky box had moved from our post-wedding apartment, to our then-new four bedroom suburban colonial. After the divorce when I moved to my smaller town home, I lugged the box up the stairs and begrudgingly stashed it into a closet. Deep down, I knew I shouldn't bring the wedding dress -- a symbol of my marital hopes -- into my new home and allow it to take up essential real estate in my closet.

"Sell it on ebay," said my savvy single friend. "Turn heartbreak into cold hard cash."

Selling things on the internet is not my thing. I shook my head and described the day I stood before the tri-fold mirror in the store and first slipped on the iridescent sparkling sheath with its long-fitted sleeves.

"It has sleeves?" she said. "No one wear wedding dresses with sleeves anymore. Haven't you looked in a wedding magazine lately?"

Errr...no. I had been busy being married, having children, and then getting divorced. Bridal magazines did not get delivered to my mailbox. A quick call to a consignment shop told me she was right. Prim attendants politely told me that pre-2005 dresses would not sell unless they were vintage couture or had been worn by an A-list celebrity. So I thought I might give eBay at try after all. A search showed a few exquisite couture gowns (never worn!) for sale and then pages of hideous dresses, and many outdated ones like mine. Someone could buy and alter my gown but that possibility seemed less likely than a successful second marriage which studies (or at least internet lore) rank somewhere around a 60/40 split to demise.

The big brown dumpster by my house started to look like a good option. I could see myself heaving that ivory box over the lip, shoving it in, and hearing the thump of the black lid. I also heard the voice of my younger self (or was it my mother?) tsking: "Remember how much you paid for it plus alternations and the veil -- how wasteful."

The choices for removing the dress from my life seemed all too much and so I blocked it from my brain. A few months later as I switched over my spring clothes, the dress stared back at me. I had recently read in a magazine that charitable organizations collect wedding dresses, resell them, and donate the proceeds to breast cancer research. I could feel good about that, I thought. But when I checked the site, it said because of high inventory and low demand they would not take old dresses like mine.

I chided myself for wasting time mulling over the fate of a dress from a day long gone. I had already moved past this, hadn't I? My new life -- although difficult at times -- flowed along and yet I still had that wedding dress in my closet.

Then one morning over coffee something clicked: I would dash into the Goodwill donation center on the way to work, hand it over, and be done. It would be better than shoving it into the dumpster in a fit of rage (although that would feel good for maybe a minute) and it would be recycling, too. Approaching the center, I reminded myself I was releasing the dress for my future (and to have an empty floor in the closet.)

When I pulled the rectangular box from the back seat, an older man walked to my car.
"Well, what do we have here?" he said with a lopsided smile.

"It's a wedding dress," I said, nudging it toward him.

"My, my, we have someone here who could use it," he said as he looked back at the door of the center.

I nodded, collected my tax receipt, and retreated to my car. As I drove away, I wondered if he said that to all the women who come to donate their old dreams. Then, I just decided to believe him, smiled, and drove to work.

Lisa B. Samalonis writes from New Jersey.

What did you do with your old wedding dress? Do you have any regrets?