69. To Have and To Hold

69. To Have and To Hold

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

To Have and To Hold

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

~Carl Gustav Jung

As soon as I announced my engagement, my mom wanted to go dress shopping. She didn’t have a dream wedding with her own true love, my amazing stepdad, and she’d been dreaming about seeing me glide down the aisle in a sea of tulle, lace, satin, and sparkle for a long time. The problem was, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of trying on wedding dresses.

Each time Mom suggested a trip to the bridal boutique, I’d make an excuse: I was busy, I had to work, or I had to write a paper for school. Unfortunately, none of these was true. I dreaded looking for a wedding dress because I was “too fat.”

I was one of the last of my friends to get married, something I attributed to my weight, of course. I didn’t conform to society’s idea of what a bride should look like (even though my fiancé thought I looked fine), so I figured that the search for the perfect wedding dress would be torture.

I imagined derisive stares from salesladies, painful girdles and corsets squeezing me like a stuffed sausage. I shuddered thinking about what size wedding dress they’d have to drag out of some dusty closet to accommodate me. Everyone in the store would snicker behind my back and pity me, the chubby bride. It was as if I didn’t deserve to get married because I wasn’t tiny.

So I went on a diet. That was, after all, what every girl was supposed to do the second she got engaged, right? I know all my friends did, even the slender ones. Dieting was pretty much a mandatory part of wedding planning: get engaged, choose a venue, agonize over bouquets and color schemes, and starve yourself to death. I would have been remiss if I didn’t at least suffer through a few juice cleanses, so I started low-carbing, walking, and going to the gym.

But then I got sick. I’m not talking about a little cold here; this was serious. I had a large tumor on my thyroid, something called a toxic adenoma, and it was making me feel terrible.

On top of that, the tumor needed to be treated with radiation at a cancer center, so the months before my wedding filled up with doctor appointments, scary tests, results I didn’t want to hear, and more needles than I could possibly count.

My tumor was a wake-up call, showing me how my self-consciousness was preventing me from enjoying what should have been the happiest time of my life.

Suddenly, table settings, guest lists and the font on my invitation didn’t seem important. And you know what? Neither did my weight.

When I went to the cancer center, I saw patients far sicker than me — people who were frail from illness, people who might die. I felt thankful and lucky — my belly rolls, dimpled thighs, and wide, flat butt didn’t seem so bad when I viewed my flab as an indication that I was alive, that I was ultimately going to be okay, and that I was not wasting away from disease.

I didn’t lose weight before my wedding. In fact, I gained a few pounds. Some of the medications slowed my metabolism and made me bloated, but by then, I didn’t care. Getting sick taught me not to take my body and my life for granted and not to hate myself. My tumor was a wake-up call, showing me how my self-consciousness was preventing me from enjoying what should have been the happiest time of my life. I vowed from then on to celebrate — and, to have a macaroni and cheese bar at the reception!

Dress shopping, that once feared chore, turned into something of a miracle. The afternoon I found my wedding dress, I was surrounded by people who loved and cared for me in sickness and in health, regardless of my size.

When I zipped up my gown for the first time, the size on the tag was the furthest thing from my mind. I felt beautiful and joyful. My entire perspective on life had changed and it was freeing. All I wanted to do was dance.

My husband and I had the greatest wedding. Sure, my cheeks were round and my upper arms look as plump as canned hams in every photo. One of my great-aunts mentioned my size and asked if I was pregnant, but I laughed her off. I’d learned that a wedding isn’t about what you look like; it’s about gathering your favorite people together to celebrate love and have a good time.

I savored every second of the meaningful ceremony and the raucous party that followed. And yes, I ate plenty of that mac and cheese and the delicious cake we’d picked out without a shred of regret. I didn’t care that I wasn’t 30 pounds thinner. No one has ever once gone to a wedding and left saying: “Well, it was a nice party with a fantastic DJ and an impressive buffet, but I would’ve had a better time if the bride had been skinnier.”

My body wasn’t meant to suffer in order to conform to some arbitrary standard of what a bride ought to look like. My body carries my spirit so that I can live this beautiful life to the fullest, enjoying and celebrating every second — grateful that my arms, however chunky, can embrace the man I love.

~Victoria Fedden

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