57: The Folly of Vanity

57: The Folly of Vanity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Folly of Vanity

Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman. Much of her grace is in her frailty.

~Victor Hugo

It seemed like a great idea at the time. We gathered at the bride’s apartment, seven ladies in long, flowing gowns that laced up the back. We took turns pulling each other’s stays (corset lacing to those unfamiliar with historical lingo).

The tightening was subtle. “Is that snug enough?” led to, “I think I can cinch it in a little more.” And, finally, “Wow, girl, look at your tiny waist.”

After a few rounds of pulling, there we stood, a bevy of lasses with reduced waists, exaggerated busts, hips, and, of course, little room to breathe. But vanity had stealthily crept into our midst, and though I couldn’t bend over or even sit down, I felt like a beautiful damsel. I’m pretty sure my voice took on a southern belle drawl.

I looked in the mirror and delighted in my pretty dress and va va voom curves. I was Scarlett O’Hara, Marie Antoinette, and the infamous Gibson Girl of bygone days!

About an hour into the tight lacing, I tried to eat a snack, but my confining attire denied me any sustenance, not even a cracker. Fortunately, I could drink, and so a margarita on ice slid down nicely.

As the wedding hour approached, I noticed a stinging ache down my spine along with the growing compression of my now heaving bosom as the bottom of my lungs began to fill with fluid. My quads throbbed with lactic acid from my ill advised pre-wedding workout, and my hairpins felt like daggers stuck into my head. My feet were so swollen I could barely walk.

As I lined up to walk down the aisle, I trembled at the length of what seemed like a never-ending runner. My husband, the wedding pastor, smiled at me like a warm beacon. And guided by his big, goofy smile, I tottered toward him, semi-delirious in pain but determined to appear graceful and elegant to the large crowd assembled.

After a lovely ceremony, more pictures, and millions of seconds of searing pain, I finally sat down at the dinner table in a heap. But sitting proved even more restrictive. An old song played in the background. It was a catchy dinner-music tune, and in my state of pain-induced euphoria, I swayed to the crooner’s voice. Strangely enough, it sounded like the word “salad” was being repeated over and over. Then again, it could have been my starving belly crying out for food.

“I didn’t know they had such cute songs about salad,” I announced to the table.

My girlfriend, Krista, also a corseted bridesmaid, but clearly retaining a few more brain cells than me, shouted, “Did you say ‘salad’? It’s called ‘Solid as a Rock.’”

The table erupted in laughter, myself included, at the error. But then along with my laughter came a blackish sort of envelopment. The table, the guffaws… it all began to fade as I teetered on the edge of fainting.

Indeed, I was a damsel in distress.

My friend, Katherine, recognizing my flushed face and dilated pupils, quickly steered me toward the ladies’ room where she tore at my laces and opened up my lungs for some much-needed air.

Returning to the table, I sheepishly sat down and inhaled my dinner. Now moderately laced, I was able to eat, dance, laugh, and enjoy a big piece of strawberry cream wedding cake without the restrictive garment of my own folly. (It wasn’t too much later before Krista was begging me to let her loose, too.)

I learned an interesting lesson that day. Vanity is subtly deceptive. I believed the corset to be glamorous, romantic, and whimsical, but in truth, I found it to be agonizing.

I should know better by now than to be duped by another promise of pretty… But then again, “The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity” (Psalm 94:11 KJV).

Someone up high sure has got my number.

~Samantha Keller

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