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  • Jan Flynn

I Said Yes to the Dress

And now I’m in existential freefall

From L to R: wrong, wrong, not terrible but wrong, awful. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

I’m not getting married; my son is

His bride is lovely, kind, gracious, intelligent, and a self-made entrepreneur who works like a demon but makes it look easy. For all her drive and achievement, she is easy-going and fun to be with.

She has excellent taste in everything. Naturally, that includes my son, for whom she is an ideal match. They’re fully-fledged adults with established careers and healthy bank accounts who both waited for just the right person. And it paid off.

Her family is warm and friendly. They’ve welcomed my son with open arms. As for how my husband and I feel about her, we’re over the moon.

My son’s the happiest I’ve ever seen him, except maybe for when he was three and got a miniature, rideable electric motorcycle for his birthday.

Ask any parent of adult sons: seeing them happily matched to a wonderful person with whose family we are happy to merge is like winning Powerball.

I hit the jackpot with my other daughter-in-law too. Sometimes lightning strikes twice in all the nicest ways.

So I have nothing to worry about

Her family’s in Wisconsin, his is in Idaho, the bride and groom live in Denver, and the wedding is at a beach resort in San Diego. A small, semi-formal, adults-only cocktail affair. No attendants, no fuss. The couple is footing the bill.

Other than travel arrangements and a room reservation, there’s not a lot of ancillary stuff to obsess over. No Jordan almonds tied into little net bags with printed ribbons or anything like that.

Which presents a conundrum. For a mind configured like mine, having nothing to worry about is an unnatural state. Moreover, despite my sons being successful, eminently responsible adults with full lives (and better incomes than I ever managed), I’m still their mother.

As with many a mom, worrying is my love language.

Just like space abhors a vacuum, in the absence of anything actual about which to fret, my brain can and will invent something. Surely there’s something I can and should be doing.

Especially now that I have The Dress.

No, not the wedding dress: that’s being custom-made for my DIL-to-be at a salon in Denver. I was in on the dress shopping excursion with her, her mother, and two of her BFFs several months ago, a weekend of total girly fun.

The dress she chose is like her: beautifully constructed and effortlessly elegant. She looks like a model or a movie star in that dress, except without the supercilious attitude or the fragile ego.

Did I mention that she’s a personal stylist to high-end clients?

I say all this to let you know just how high the bar was set as I began the search for my dress for the wedding. Which is in June and this was only September, but such a decision is worthy of some time and effort.

Or outright mania.

Democracy may be in crisis, but I need a dress!

With a hearty distaste for mall-shopping and limited options in my hometown, I launched into an online search that lasted months.

Frivolous? Vain? A waste of time I could have used to draft another novel? A feverish attempt to appease my internal hanging judge while cravenly seeking the approval of family and friends who just want to enjoy the wedding?

Possibly. Okay, probably. But cast not the first stone, oh-ye-who-hath-not-been-the-mother-of-the-groom-when-the-bride-is-a-professional-stylist.

Google “mother of the groom” (aka MOG) gowns and here’s what you’ll find: a plethora of dumpy silhouettes constructed of crepe in colors too muted to have real names. Many are further frumpified with the addition of short, boxy lace jackets or modestly hideous capelets.

The alternative is over-the-top embellishments — pounds of beading, truckloads of sequins, miles of netting, along with thigh-high slits and necklines that plunge navel-wards.

I wonder when the wedding industry concluded there are two distinct species of MOG: those who have abandoned all stylistic hope and wish only to be invisible, and those who are determined to strut their stuff like a drag queen on acid.

At their son’s wedding.

I fit neither profile.

Deliveries arrive. And are returned

Ruffles? What was I thinking? I don’t do ruffles. Back in the box. And the one with the super-fitted mermaid skirt looks fine as long as I stand with my legs crossed and my knees bent just so while sucking my gut to my spine. Off to the UPS Store it goes.

The few slam dunks I find all come in one color: black. Which the bride has politely vetoed.

I resort to the mall. At one of the big stores, I eventually locate the evening wear section where I am confronted with racks of prom dresses that appear to be composed of cotton candy, mylar, and neon.

I find a bridal store. It has a whole rack of MOG dresses which are easily as horrifying as anything I saw online. I try on a few of the non-wedding dress gowns and look like a dowager bridesmaid.

At last, I resort to a holdout: a venerable standalone department store that has managed to survive. I poke among the racks and dispiritedly pull out a few dresses that might work if I try them on. Off I go to disrobe in a cubicle — when I am stopped in my tracks.

There, hanging on a wall hook, is the dress

A lovely, not-too-bright peacock blue, not shiny but with a subtle sheen. Fitted bodice, mandarin collar split with a not-too-deep V plunge, and a long, full skirt. With pockets.

It’s the only one in that style. But it’s in my size.

And it’s on sale.

I try it on. It’s comfortable, elegant, and frump-free. Dignified, not dowdy. I text selfies to DIL TB and she approves.

Then I go downstairs and find the perfect shoes in muted gold. Also on sale.

At home, I pour a libation to Alphadite, the goddess of shopping, to thank her for smiling on my quest. I am flush with triumph and relief.

For about ten minutes.

Now what?

I’ve got the dress, I’ve got the shoes, we’ve booked the flights and the room. The bridal couple has everything else handled.

There are four months between now and the big event. A vast expanse of time in which to spin in the ether, unmoored from wedding-related practicalities.

I feel like I’ve been shot out of a cannon into space. What do I do with my wanting-to-be-involved-but-not-obtrusive MOG energy?

Come to think of it, my husband could use a new suit. He hates shopping with the power of a thousand suns. This could be a worthy challenge.

And maybe I’ll just get busy and make some of those adorable wedding favors I see on Pinterest. Nobody’s asked me to and I’m the least crafty person in the world, but you never know.

There’s always those little net bags filled with Jordan almonds.

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