91. Mother of the Groom

91. Mother of the Groom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Mother of the Groom

You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.

~Wayne W. Dyer

No dress. The wedding’s a month away. My sister vetoed my first outfit as not suitable for the “Mother of the Groom.” I’ve procrastinated, dreading shopping for an outfit that will beautify my plentiful curves. Not to mention the presence of my ex and his second wife’s Barbie doll shape.

Thankfully, my Italian hairdresser suggests a small dress store owned by her cousin, insisting I call from her salon. A cheery, heavily accented voice greets my inquiry for a Mother of the Groom dress. “You come now. We fixa you.” An offer I can’t refuse.

Two old Italian ladies greet me. “Me owner,” the smaller one claims. “Her, assistant,” she points to a stout woman, a head taller. A flood of Italian begins as gnarly hands pat and pinch various parts of my body, turning me around as if selecting produce. Shock prevents me from vocalizing alarm. The private conference continues as the owner gestures toward a rack of gowns. Dresses are held in front of me as the rapid fire Italian bounces off the walls. No one asks my preferences. Unconsciously, I raise my hand. The women nod, ignoring my gesture. “My sister didn’t like the first dress I chose,” I state nervously.

Temporary ceasefire. “Sista no like?” one asks. “We finda one sista like,” the other proclaims. The owner pushes me inside a dressing room. The assistant places three gowns on the hook. Apparently my vote doesn’t count.

The first evening gown is rust-colored with a smock bodice. Opening the door, I gesture toward the back zipper. Expert hands turn me around, zipping me up. Sensing my wish to bolt, the stout woman’s well-muscled arm leads me into the room to the center stage mirror. In unison, both crones shake their head no: “Nota good color.”

“How will I zip my dress?” I wonder.

“Husband,” they respond.

Raising my ring-less hand, I explain, “No husband. Divorce.”

“Escort,” they fire back.

“No escort,” I clarify.

“No escort?” they ask, turning to each other shocked. Looking back at me, they say in unison, “Sista help you, Sista help you,” their newly discovered mantra. Feelings of loneliness descend on me. Maybe I should rent an escort.

The smooth lines of the dress accent my curves, hiding my self-declared problem areas.

Next is the navy gown with the high collar. It is met with shaking heads of dismay.

The last gown, a muted celery green, has a square neckline with embroidered gold straps. There’s a jacket trimmed in matching gold embroidery. It looks elegant. Glancing at the price tag, I shudder. The assistant zips me up as I enter the room. They pace from my front to my back. Silence reigns. The women glance at each other, “Yes, yes, yes!” they say, clapping their hands. Their heads nod enthusiastically.

I glance into the mirrors again, shifting my body to view various angles. The smooth lines of the dress accent my curves, hiding my self-declared problem areas. I feel regal. Then I remember the price tag. “It’s too expensive,” I say — half my mortgage payment to be exact.

“You sit with familia?” the stout woman inquires, ignoring my concern.

“Actually I’m at the head table,” I answer. Their heads pop up, jerked by an invisible string. “It’s a different approach,” I explain.

“Head table with a no escort?” the owner asks with a frown.

“My younger son will be with me. He’s the best man. At the table will be my son the groom, future daughter-in-law, her parents, maid of honor and her date, my ex and his wife —”

“Stoppa!” shouts the owner. “Stoppa!” She raises her hands as if to ward off a blow.

“Ex’s wife? No good.”

“Yes,” I confirm, looking forlorn as I add, “she’s much younger than I.”

“No, no, no,” she replies. Another burst of Italian fills the air accompanied by frantic hand gestures. The muscled assistant grabs my elbow; the owner pushes me from behind as I’m marched back into the dressing room amid clucking tongues. I’m taken out of the jacket. The owner yanks down the front of the gown while the assistant rummages behind me. She returns, wrapping me with a full strapless corset stretching from my belly button to bust, cutting off my air supply. “Takea bra off,” the owner directs.

I release my bra. Noncompliance is not an option. The assistant begins strapping me in as if it were a straitjacket. My breasts point skyward with a perkiness lacking in my adolescence. This torture chamber leaves me vulnerable to confessing all my sins in the hope of mercy. “I can’t breathe,” I complain.

“Like watch, clamps on, youa forget,” the owner responds, tweaking my breast like she’s milking a cow. “This one too small, “she announces. “You need help.”

I’m beyond help.

“We fixa. No one matches,” she states, gripping one of her enormous breasts. “This one a bigger,” she proclaims, bouncing her right breast in her hand. Out of her pocket comes padding. She pins it on the outside of the corset. “No inside, willa itch,” she states.

“Who will get me into this?” I’m sharing a hotel room with my younger son. Seeing me in this contraption could result in years of therapy. I envision myself knocking on hotel doors at midnight begging for release.

“Sista help. You a needa look good,” the owner replies, as I’m zipped and assisted into the jacket. I’m led to the mirrors. “Look neck. Good neck. Wear jewelry,” she instructs. The shopkeeper continues pointing at various body parts as if it’s an anatomy lesson.

“Let’sa see arms.” The jacket’s removed. “Gooda arms!” she cries, rubbing her hands up and down them. “No skin. No drip.” She points to her assistant’s sagging upper arms. “No weara jacket. Take off. Showa arms. Letsa see legs.” Both she and the assistant pull up the gown. “Gooda legs!” she shouts, raising her fingers to her mouth, smacking a kiss toward the ceiling. “We shorten gown, no? Showa leg.”

“I’m not looking for a date,” I protest.

“You a needa look good!” she retorts, smacking her hands together as if she’d rather take a swipe at me. The stout woman nods her head in agreement like a bobble head doll.

Their positive rating of my attributes leaves me perplexed; I’m unaccustomed to conducting my personal inventory in such a manner. It’s an adjustment to view my body’s terrain with identifiable assets. Reality settles in. While softly fingering the smooth dress material, I say, “The dress is too expensive.”

“This you dress. You no like?”

“Yes, I like. It’s beautiful but costs too much.”

“You dress,” she repeats. “Take $150 off dress, $100 off alterations. Good buy.”

The two ladies are staring at me with heads angled to the side, questioning my reason. “Looka nice,” the shopkeeper says timidly. They both agree, nodding, pointing to the dress. They declare in unison, “Sista like.”

Realization dawns. Why am I worried about what others think? My happiness isn’t dependent on someone else’s opinion.

“Yes, Sista like.” I’m ready to fly solo.

“Sold!” I say, as they applaud.

~Anne Merrigan

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