The first time my mother pulled out food stamps in our local supermarket, I was confused. She had just bought me a new Kate Spade bag -- a gateway purse for any girl growing up in our wealthy enclave of Long Island. Could we really not afford cheese?
I had all the trappings of a middle class teen -- Hard Tail pants that sagged ever-so-grandly in the derrière, Juicy Couture velour, and enough Abercrombie billboard apparel to wear to every gym class. While this could hardly compete with my peers who held their books in Prada backpacks and owned a Fendi bag in every breed, I was content. I never coveted what they had. I understood that excessive tokens were bestowed on these 16-year-olds on no merit of their own. Their mothers simply wanted them to be able to keep up with the over-Keratin'ed class.
We weren't quite poor, at least not in the traditional sense. My one-bedroom apartment was modest compared to my besties' estates. Instead of a housekeeper to make me grilled cheese after school, I packed a snack and nibbled in the lunchroom of my mom's hair salon. I did all of the vacuuming.
My mom raised me by herself, with some weekend help from my Bronx-bred dad who considered brands like Express high fashion. He owned a t-shirt company and couldn't understand why I'd ever want to purchase pants with someone else's name on them when I had a perfectly good arsenal of tie-dyed sweats waiting for me at his warehouse. Despite occasionally admiring quilted clutches with signature c's, I had enough confidence on my own that I didn't need a $4,000 shield against the cruel kids.
Being at peace with my outlook on pricey goods has been almost entirely negated since I started planning my wedding. I always knew I wasn't going to spend an inordinate amount on my gown (and by that I mean, I'd keep it under $3,000) but what I didn't realize is how many other props need to be purchased to accompany your "big day," or in my case, my big week.
I chose to have a tropical destination wedding for two reasons. Firstly (and most importantly) I wanted to kidnap guests for a few days to have one extended party where they would all be laughably drunk for 48 hours with no car access. Secondly, as someone who finds decision-making impossible, I didn't want to be tempted to fixate on details like linens and votive count.
My wedding is in the hands of Mayte, a bohemian Argentine who runs the remote beach restaurant we'll be wed at in the Dominican Republic. Her average response rate between emails runs about three weeks but she closes our exchanges with "un abrazo" (Spanish for "a hug") so I feel at ease. There are entire bridal forums dedicated to this woman and the neurosis she stirs in brides who nightly fret that they won't see their centerpieces until two days before their receptions. For me, this is perfect. I sent my Pinterest board off to Mayte to give her a sense of just how many twinkle lights and peonies I want and the rest is in her trusty hands. Wedding planning complete.
Or so I thought. In an unforeseeable circumstance, I have found myself unemployed in the months leading up to my wedding. A note to brides everywhere: this may seem like a fantasy. It is not. Too many hours logged on Style Me Pretty will make you feel utterly inadequate. These virtual brides-to-be transformed from my inspiration to my nemeses who did everything better.
To fill my free time, I use task lists to feel productive. Things like "find best ever monogrammed tumblers," and "research tankinis with complementary swim skirts" have become full day affairs and sources of stress. Even after ticking off jobs, I'm left wondering if I did in fact get the perfect robe for my bridesmaids. Perhaps they'd prefer boxers, or tanks or ironic headbands. How do you pick one item that expresses proper gratitude to your friends? I know! A chevron makeup case with their initials on it definitely says, "I appreciate you." There's no harm in the occasional procrastination when you're on the clock, but when finding these items is your only occupation, absolute bride-sanity ensues. I get twitchy every night around 3 a.m. to feed my recent online shopping addiction. I feel like Michael Fassbender in Shame, with my incessant, passionless purchases, just trying to get a fix with every click, hoping I'll eventually feel a sense of calm.
One of the simultaneously best and worst things to happen to news media was the creation of 24/7 coverage. I can say this with complete authority because I once met Ted Turner. This is how I feel about the bridal publishing market. It's a blessing that I can access planning sites whenever I fancy, but also a curse. I've been able to tune out most of the chaos over the course of my nearly three-year engagement. But now, with two weeks to go, I'm beginning to worry that I didn't study enough for the exam. Did I get enough facials? Should I have stopped eating salt/white bread/white chocolate/brown soda/tequila by now? Which of the 700 workouts on Pinterest will actually give me the best bridal booty in seven days? And where do I get a trousseau? Does that come with the cake?
Every time I pass a shop window, I feel a strong pull to go inside -- maybe within lies the one purchase that will give me composure before I make this huge life change. Maybe, just this once, the high-end outpost will have the answer.
Like my grade school peers in Prada, my constant pursuit of items that I hope will transform me into my best self the week I get married has made me lose sight of what really matters. While I may not be secure in my choice of flip flops, cover-ups or crystalline sash, I am confident in my choice of who I'm marrying, even if I haven't found him a proper swimsuit yet. That's on tomorrow's to-do list.