51: Not Pretty in Pink

51: Not Pretty in Pink

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Not Pretty in Pink

Rich colors are typical of a rich nature.

~Van Day Truex, Interiors, Character, and Color

Pretty in pink? Not this maid of honor. It was bad enough I had been dragged kicking and screaming to the bridal salon to pick out a dress. Now the saleswoman was trying to fob off some pink organza extravaganza on me. Ha!

At nineteen, I knew what I didn’t like. And I didn’t like pink. Or any other pastel color. Nor was I afraid to make my views known, quite loudly and repeatedly if I had to, which I obviously had to do with this saleswoman since she wasn’t getting the message.

My sister, the blushing bride, had already picked out her dress, and so had my mother. That just left me. Having said no to ten dresses in succession, each one more hideous than the next, I could see my mother losing her patience with me. She was giving me the look that said: “If you don’t pick something soon, I’ll pick it for you.”

I finally deigned to try on a dress that was marginally less repulsive than the other ones the saleswoman had trotted out. But when I came out of the dressing room to model it, the saleswoman made her fatal mistake.

“Oh,” she said, practically wiping a tear from her eye, “this is perfect. You look so sweet.”

“Sweet?” I repeated, in a sugary voice that had my mother and sister cringing in their chairs because they knew what would be coming next. “It makes me look sweet?” I repeated. The saleswoman nodded, thinking she had wrapped up a sale.

That’s when I swooped in for the kill. “Then it’s obviously the wrong dress for me because,” I paused for a moment as I looked her in the eye, “I don’t do sweet.”

By this point, the saleswoman had finally figured that out. “Oh,” she said in a small voice. “What kind of look are you going for?”

That was the problem. Although I knew what I didn’t want, I wasn’t totally sure what I did want. But it wasn’t going to be pink. I said the first thing that came to mind. I said, “I want a brown dress.”

The saleswoman looked at my mother, my mother looked at my sister, and my sister looked at me. “But you’re so young to wear brown and…” the saleswoman began. She glanced at the expression on my face, and the rest of the sentence faded off into oblivion.

For a minute, nobody said anything. Then there was a collective sigh as they all realized the only way they were going to get me into any dress was to go along with me. If that meant a brown dress, well, it meant a brown dress.

The saleswomen retreated to the back of the store and returned carrying huge folds of material. She took off the plastic protector and unveiled this latest creation. And it was brown. But not just any brown. It was a deep rich brown taffeta with an iridescence that changed colors as the light hit it.

Victorian in style, the dress had a high collar with a small ruffle that was repeated on each cuff. The pleated bodice ended with a simple band at the waistline. From the waist down, the skirt billowed out. It was a dress you read about in a storybook.

I wanted to hate it. I tried to hate it. I really tried. But the moment I saw the dress, I fell in love with it. When I put it on and stood in front of the mirror, I felt like a princess. Even wearing my sneakers underneath the skirt couldn’t take away from the sensation of stepping out of my usual jeans-and-T-shirt world into a world of elegance and grace.

I turned this way and that, peering over my shoulder in the three-way mirror, looking for a flaw. The dress moved with me, making a faint rustling sound. I found myself standing up straighter, taking smaller steps. Even smiling a little.

No one said a word. I could feel everyone holding their collective breaths. Waiting. Then I said those three little words that made it all worthwhile. I said, “I’ll take it.” And I did.

Oh, there were fittings that I grumbled about. New shoes to be bought and dyed. A visit to the hairdresser. But none of that could lessen the thrill I felt every time I looked at the dress or heard the slight rustling sound as I played with the material. Not that I would have ever admitted it.

The night of the wedding arrived. My sister, as befitting the bride, looked properly radiant in her beautiful white wedding gown. My mother looked lovely in her deep burgundy dress, and my father beamed in his matching cummerbund.

And me? I felt like Cinderella at the ball. I flitted around all evening, talking to people, dancing, and smiling. For one evening, I was transformed from my everyday, ordinary, nineteen-year-old self. The transformation was so complete that many of my parents’ friends who had known me for years didn’t recognize me.

For years after the wedding, the dress hung in a closet in my parents’ home, never to be worn again. For a while, I would run my hand through the fabric, reliving the feeling I had when I put it on. Then it got pushed farther and farther into the back of the closet. A few years after I moved out, my mother asked me what I wanted to do with the dress.

“Give it away,” I said, in my usual non-sentimental way. “I have no use for it.”

So she did.

But every so often, I take a look at the small wedding album that I have tucked away in one of my drawers, under a pile of scarves. I peer closely at the luminous girl wearing the brown dress and remind myself that I’m still her.

~Harriet Cooper

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