On Tuesday, my clothes weren’t fitting. I mean, they were fitting, but they weren’t working. You know how sometimes there’s nothing in the fridge, or in the closet, or on the radio? That’s how they weren’t fitting. The zipper zipped and the button buttoned, but the person in the mirror looked ill-fit, wrongly-dressed, confused, and fraudulent.
The following Monday, my mom and my best friend would go with me to try on wedding dresses for the first time, and I’d been looking forward to this moment longer than I’d been engaged. But what the hell was going on with my body, and how could I fix this in time to try on dresses?
On Wednesday night, it came out of my mouth faster than I could process the fear: “What if I don’t look good in a wedding dress? What happens then?” I’d found myself on the phone with a friend, tallying off the list of note-worthy happenings: the visits, the bridal appointments, the body image, the self-hate.
“You know all these things are connected to each other,” she said to me, as I abruptly broke down in a series of sobs that didn’t ease up as she continued, “I don’t think the fear is ‘What if I don’t look good?’ I think the real fear is ‘What if I look stunning and I accept myself for who I really am?’”
You know the phrase “it hit me like a ton of bricks”? Well, this hit me like a brick building. Her words sung through the cathedrals of this body that felt the least bit sacred or holy, their restorative love seeped into the torn cracks in my self-image, and I was brought to my knees. Dumbfounded. What if I look stunning in a wedding dress and I accept myself for who I really am?
On Thursday, I’d connected the roots of this body-hating weed to deep family traumas that I’ll save for my therapist… but I was also thinking a lot about what it means to be a bride with a human body in this body-obsessed, diet-driven, inspired-by-negativity culture we live in.
I can walk around thinking and saying that I’m not going to buy into the bridal body-trimming industry, but it’s not that simple. It’s not as if these narratives about being “thin and trim and perfect” by the time of a big event haven’t been running rampant in movies, and magazines, and music, and the thick American air I breathe in every morning. It also whispers, “if you could just be better…”
The thing is: weddings have become so incredibly stripped from their purpose that we forget why we’re doing them in the first place. Weddings existed before Facebook, before photographers, before bridal boutiques. Weddings are actually about the celebration of starting a family together. Weddings are not about being thin.
By the weekend, I was trying so hard to love my body. But to be honest, I wasn’t making a ton of progress. I was expecting the engine in my little machine of self-love to spontaneously jump-start. I was expecting to move from believing that I’m physically wrong and “in progress,” to owning my body, loving it, thinking it’s fantastic. “I can beat this,” I thought, “I can intellectually beat this.”
But you know what I was still trying to do? I was still trying change myself. The “acceptance” that my friend spoke of was still miles away. Only this time, I wasn’t trying to change my body, I was trying to change my mind. And I can’t change my mind without losing it.
So you want to know what I decided to do? I decided to own it. No secret. No struggle. No “trying.” This is my body with curves, and dimples, and cellulite, and suppleness. This is my mind, which critiques and shames and beats me down. And you know what happened? The power of it all went away. The fight was over. I was free. I heard once that the person in the battle who raises the surrender flag isn’t the loser, because that’s the person who gets to live. That person is free. Isn’t it poetic that truce flags and wedding dresses come from the same color family?
On Monday, I tried on wedding dresses. My body was incredible, draped in white silk and white lace, exactly the way it is. The things about my body that bugged me just a couple days before were somehow lost in the magic of the wedding dress. My hips and my belly looked fertile, and graceful, and womanly. My arms, which I regularly pinch and prod, fell beautifully over strapless bodices. My small breasts felt honored to be a part of this vivacious body. I loved the sexy and substantial woman reflected back at me in the mirror.
My body is my body. It has hair, wide hips, fat, and a womb. My body is of substance. It’s not the flat, smooth, trim silhouette my skinny jeans are made for. But my body is the body these dresses are made for. Marriage is not for girls. Marriage is for grown-ups. To be a “bride” means to be a woman: a grown-up, formed, filled-out woman — whatever shape that may take. To be a “bride” is not to be a Cover Girl. To be a bride is to be who I really am. And you know what? I look stunning.