It Wasn’t Mine, Anyway

First of all, go read this.

(No, I mean it.  I’ll know whether or not you did, so no lying.)

I adore her writing, and the post (which you read, right?) made me write again after a month off.

(Image from here.)

So once upon a time, I had a wedding.

It got out of hand.

I was 23, and not even a very confident or self-aware 23.

His mom was a seamstress.  And a good one, too.  She really, really wanted to make my dress.

I assumed it was because she was feeling a surge of familial generosity towards her new daughter in law.  And I don’t doubt that that instinct was part of why she made the offer.  But as would become glaringly apparent while planning the wedding, girlfriend had major control issues.  If she made the dress, she would have complete control over one of the big memories that people would take away from the day.

I gave her some ideas, cut some pictures out of bridal magazines.  She looked at them, thanked me for the input.  And roundly ignored the majority of it.

If you look at the pictures, in the big, leather-bound album that rarely sees light, it’s sad.  Not one part of the dress, the long  and unbecoming lace sleeves, the awkwardly cut neckline, the body skimming fabric that serves to highlight my ample stomach (no I wasn’t knocked up, just fat) all explain the hollow look in my eyes.  I felt horrible.  I felt like I was ugly, and this dress was what I deserved, because let’s face it, no dress was ever going to make me pretty.  I felt resigned.

When the day was mercifully over, I shoved the dress into a duffel bag.  There were expectations as to how this “heirloom” would be preserved, so I dutifully took it to a cleaner, who claimed to be an expert at this sort of thing.  I hoisted the bag onto the counter.  He put on glasses, and looked disapprovingly down his nose through them, surveying the damage I’d manage to inflict on Italian silk.  He seemed confident he could get the stains out, and knew exactly what steps to take, to make sure my daughter would wear it one day.  I didn’t have it in me to tell him I wouldn’t wish that on my imaginary child.

I picked it up two days later.  It was firmly packed into an enormous cardboard box, replete with layers of blue plastic, to protect it from the UV rays it would never see.

It stayed in my in-laws’ basement, undisturbed for several years.

One day, bored and curious, I opened the box.

I gently removed the dress.  Tried it on.

In the intervening years, I’d lost 90 pounds.  The dress hung.  Comically so.  I laughed till I cried.

I started up the stairs, calling to my mother in law to come and see this.

She looked.  She gasped.  And for some reason, I thought she’d laugh with me.


“Oh my GOD!! You took it OUT?!?  What were you thinking?”

The laughter died, suddenly.  I quietly unzipped it, folded it, laid it back in the box.

And as I closed the box, I realized.

The dress had never been mine.

37 responses to “It Wasn’t Mine, Anyway

  1. i cheated, and didn’t go read the link yet. but you made me cry. i gave away snippets of my wedding to my mother. no, let me rephrase that. she took a few. i just hope i remember to not do that to my children. weddings. babies. homes. i’m an ‘extra’.

    i’ll go back to the link now. promise.

  2. I am really fortunate that my in-law’s are wonderful. They make the effort to visit Alberta from Ontario 3-4 times a year, and when they are here, they insist on helping out so much with the kids, and around the house. While personally I think my sister-in-law takes advantage of their visits to get help doing major renovations in the backyard, I try to only impose by having them spend as much time with their grandkids as their energy levels will take.

    They never “impose” any agenda or openly disapprove of our decisions. I constantly learn from how polite and gracious my mother-in-law is. If I could learn to handle people half as well as she can, I would be so far ahead.

    I really hit the jackpot with marrying an awesome woman, with wonderful parents. Fortunately not all in-law’s live up to the stereotype.

  3. I did read the link. I laughed at almost every thought she put down. I’ve had my dress for twenty years now. A beloved aunt made it. It’s a huge meringue of satin with lace and sequins and pearls galore. I adore it. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned. A few years ago, a young friend and I got it out of my momma’s closet, where it hangs unprotected. We tried it on and went out to the hill in the woods and video-ed eachother recreating the Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music from the movie. We laughed until we cried. Then we lined up all the children in the house and took hillbilly bride photos. And laughed and laughed some more. Momma and all the children laughed with us.

    I dearly wish that your mother-in-law had been a lot more like Momma. I hope she gets a papercut. And makes lemonade from scratch on the same day. You poor thing. Your entry broke my heart.

    You will make better memories for yourself than this one.

  4. I do not have a dress nor a wedding in my past, but I do understand feeling unworthy of beauty. I’m sorry you had to feel that way on a day when it’s “supposed” to be the opposite.

    But hey, at least you’re not responsible for storing the damn thing. One less box, you know?

  5. Wow, Gin. I don’t really know what to say. I’m so sorry that a dress holds such terrible memories for you.

    Oh! I know! Congrats on losing 90 lbs.! That’s a big accomplishment!

  6. Precision Grace

    You made me gulp up (that’s an expression, right?) that is so sad!
    My mother had a beautiful dress for her wedding which she made into fashionable flared trousers in the 70s. I wouldn’t have minded an heirloom but mother was not a heirloomy type (she is all sorts of different now that she grew up, mind)

  7. I am so sorry. I am having wedding issues of my own, so I sympathize. My mother came up with the bright idea of having a seamstress friend of the family make my dress, and I said absolutely not, because what if I couldn’t get across to her what I wanted? What if I hated the result? Not going down that road.

  8. First, hope you are doing alright Ginny. Second, that post makes me want to give you one big virtual hug, then set up a couple of tumblers and pour out a couple of doubles of Irish whiskey. Third the fact that she got married in a light blue dress with stripper shoes was excellent, that fact she can use them to give head for dime bags of blow if needed even better.

  9. The inspiration post was AWESOME, so thanks for sharing that.

    Your post, awesome, but in a whole ‘nother light… I say “awesome” because I just love the way you write… and well, I guess that’s where the awesome ends because regardless of “best intentions” (*sputter sputter laugh laugh*) I’m sad that your dress holds such thoughtless reminders for you. But it’s good that you were able to get that monkey off your back about who’s wedding it REALLY was (like we/you didn’t know).

    But to revert to the Awesome, 90 pounds is pretty f-ing awesome.

  10. I am so pissed at your mother in law soooo much right now. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get to have your own wedding. Uh – but the 90 lbs thing, well that’s damn great. Good for you.

  11. (I read the link: hot dress!)

    I have some t-shirts from high school that I’ll never fit into again, but I can’t bear to part with because they remind me of happier times. (Quite unlike your own dress.) I don’t think I’m the only guy that does this.

    Glad to see you writing again, though, you’ve been missed!

  12. First, a warm welcome back, because you were missed. Second, I did as you said, went straight over there and read that post. Short and sweet, I liked it. Very funny. I save the link to check out the site more later. Thank you.

    As for your post, not so funny, but very moving. ;). Congrats on the 90lbs. I had no idea. I hope I can pull that off in the near future. So far so good.

    I hope all is going good for you, lady. So glad to see you back on the scene.

  13. I would find some way to destroy the dress and make it look like an accident….

    (And I did read the other post first…. haha)

    • I am with Kelly!! Take that dress back as your own and do whatever you damn well please with it (destroy it).

      Then, get a sexy $100 prom dress for your svelt new bod and renew your vows with your hubby privately, but hire a photographer to take lots of pictures.

      Love your blog!! Found you from a facebook link with your school supply blog entry from last year!!

  14. Our wedding was very impromptu — my husband proposed to me on a Wednesday and we got married five days later. I wore a royal blue, knee-length dress he’d bought me for my birthday a few weeks earlier. The ceremony was in our living room with my mother, two friends, and our dog in attendance. We did it that way because we knew if we tried to plan anything larger we’d lose all control over it — it would become my mother-in-law’s event and neither one of us wanted that.

    I will never, ever be that way with my daughters, or my son and his fiancee. Mind you, my husband and I also don’t believe in parents spending thousands of dollars on their children’s nuptials. My parents paid for theirs, we paid for ours, and we expect our children to do the same. (Well, mostly. I’ll probably get weak when the time comes. I’m still a sucker when my adult children call me “mommy.”)

    The dress? I wore it a few times afterward. And then it was relegated to the back of the closet where it hangs beside a very slinky disco dress (yes, I did look like a hooker, which is apparently what caught the eye of the man I later married), the bridesmaid dress I bought for my sister’s wedding (much more expensive and bulky than my own wedding dress), the enormous hippie shawl I crocheted for myself in the early 70s (good memories of being a very bad girl), and a boys’ cardigan sweater I bought in grade 9 (no idea why I kept that).

    I can’t part with any of them, but they made great dress-up clothes when the kids were little and I look forward to my grandchildren abusing them the same way.

  15. I didn’t think to suggest this when I wrote before: why don’t you wait for some significant anniversary and then buy a great dress that you want (and that shows off your fabulous bod), invite some friends, maybe even renew your vows. And mom-in-law gets absolutely no input.

    • That’s what my mother-in-law did. On her twenty-year anniversary she had a huge “wedding” party with friends and family where they renewed their vows. On her wedding day she gave in to outside pressure and wore a dress she didn’t like. She said when she did the renewal she really felt like a bride.

  16. Yeah that’s why we gave no one any notice and fucked off to another continent to get wed.

  17. I remember reading on etiquette heel about how this woman was at her wedding and her mother in law showed up in the wedding gown that she wore when she got married.

    Like, she was at HER wedding. Grooms Mom shows up in full bride attire from when she got married.

    I think you should totally crash a wedding and wear this dress to it.

  18. Bummer about the dress. I have never understood why women love their own weddings so much, or other womens weddings. Men don’t really get anything their way at any wedding. Can you imagine a man inventing a party where he hangs out with his in-laws in a suit and eats cake before he goes dancing? Not a chance. My perfect wedding would be a cookout with steaks and nachos and magic brownies, where we could sit around on couches, wearing jeans, bathed in the warm glow of neon signs, and rock out to Skynyrd before we entered a massive demolition derby with the grand prize being a lifetime supply of beer and blowjobs. And at my wedding all the dresses would be a lot smaller no matter what size the woman, and they would be red not white. And I would not receive any gifts that smelled like lavender. Instead everything would smell like a mix of sawdust, smoke, and beef jerky.

    Now that I think of it, that’s probably why I think candles are lame. They never smell good, they just stank up the place with various flowers and candy. I bet a company that made good smelling candles would sell shit like hot cakes. Things that you actually want to smell, instead of things you think you enjoy smelling. Like fresh glazed donuts, or bacon, or salty air mixed with a tinge of fish. Hell yeah, everybody loves beach stink.

    Wow I got side tracked. So yeah bummer about the dress and the mother in law.

  19. I have a difficult time understanding why people (other than the bride and groom) think a wedding is about them. Yes, you can be involved and you can share the memories, but this day is all about the people actually getting married. You had your day, so let someone else have theirs.

    Aside from that, I have to say that your observation about the dress never actually being yours made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

    I’m glad you posted again, even if the post had a sadness to it. You’ve been in our thoughts (my wife’s and mine) and we hope you’re doing well through these tough times.

  20. Oh Ginny that’s sad. So what happens to a MIL post divorce? I’d like to stay married to my husband but divorce my MIL, is that possible?

    When I was first preggo, my MIL casually offered to throw me a baby shower. I had grown up and gone to college in another state and the few female friends I had were not close enough that I’d ask them to buy me presents. My mother in law asked me what friends I’d like to invite. All of my close friends live out of state I told her. You don’t have ANY friends here? she exclaimed. I said “ouch” and walked away. After swallowing feelings with my own parents, I just didn’t have any room left to swallow them with her.

  21. Thank you for writing again, I’ve missed you. When I read your posts I always feel like I’m talking to a dear friend.
    I am not married, in large part, because I know my MIL will make the day about her. (Also, I do not want to have the same name as her.)
    Don’t give it a second thought. You can’t change her actions or mind. Just keep your chin up, and keep writing;)

  22. Wow, I am so boring and practical, I rented my wedding dress, just like my husband rented his tux. I got married at the ripe ol’ age of 40 and had fallen out of love with wedding dresses long ago. I guess I’ll just have to settle for the ‘perfect’ man.

  23. michael.offworld

    Shit Ginny, You are such a great writer. Awesome.

  24. Is it wrong to hate a woman I’ve never met? Because if that stupid cow showed up at my house right now I’d cover her with honey and set her on top of an ant hill.

  25. Yeah, shit, Ginny. You are. So glad to read a new post here!

    I like how you took that inspirationally comical post (yes, I went and read it first as instructed) and used it to your benefit. And to ours. Isn’t it amazing when someone’s reaction is so unexpected and yet so educational?

    carlae’s comment renders yet another pragmatic perspective entirely. My daughter’s wedding dress (professionally created), for some reason, is taking up a lot of space in MY side of the closet. It could move, any day really, to the ample closet in her new house, thus giving my crappy little shirt collection some breathing room. I think that this post of yours could be just what I needed to try to make that happen in the not-too-distant future. So thank you for that too!

  26. I love my mother-in-law to death (in a good way, not in a Tracy Ullman movie kind of way), but I would never in my life have let her make my dress. I wouldn’t have let my own mother make my dress (not that she’s got that sort of talent, but I digress). Hell, it was bad enough having my mother with me when I picked my dress out; I knew if I got the “sour” face, it was a no.

    Anyhow, I kind of love my dress. Kind of. It was the right price. According to my maid of honor it made me look like “a skinny bitch”. The color was perfect for my skin tone. There was no train. But it was strapless and I didn’t want strapless. Ugh. So I almost loved it. When shopping in the $300 price range one really can’t be too picky.

    It’s hanging in our closet, zipped up in the dress-store bag I brought it home in. I had always planned to have throw pillows for out bed made out of it, but my wonderful husband often snacks in bed and there’s just no way Nacho Cheese Dorito dust is going to come out of that material.

    So my dress remains in Limbo.

  27. Dammit you made me weep.

  28. Love the post, and yes, I read the other post first. Thanks! My dress hangs in the closet below our stairs which we call the “Harry Potter Hole”, still stained all black and greasy from dragging on the ground for a drunken, marina-side stroll to our wedding suite two years ago this month. I have no plans on getting it cleaned, but my vision for the dress has something to do with at-the-beach, in-the-waves, trash-the-dress inspired photography, but for now, it’s enjoying an upgrade from the nail in the garage from which it hung for over a year.

  29. I have NOT read the link yet, but I SWEAR I will. Loved your post. I asked my husband the other day if he ever wished we’d had a “real” wedding.

    Your post made me remember why we eloped.

  30. OK, maybe it’s because I have a little different perspective on your life than most the readers, but I don’t find this story sad. I find it liberating. This is a dress that you never really wanted, knew all along truly wasn’t yours and that day she laid claim to it. Hallelujah. She can keep it. BTW, while it may not have been the dress you wanted, I can vouch for how absolutely beautiful you were that day.

  31. so I was listening to the Moonlight Sonata wile reading this. Talk about setting the mood.
    Maybe that’s not the best phrase to use right now….
    but I digress.
    This made me want to cry. I’m not married, and I don’t plan to be for a while, but this made me realize how horribly what supposed to be a woman’s perfect day go so, SO wrong. I’m so sorry, Ginny. I wouldn’t want to see anyone go through that.

  32. Dear Ginny,

    I miss your posts.

    Hope you’ll be back soon.



  33. Miss you. Please come back when you’re ready. I’ll be eagerly waiting.

  34. Such a sad tale, and sadly not the only one I’ve heard! I hope you go right out and buy yourself the prettiest dress you can find and just keep it all for yourself!

    Or you can go with Josh’s route up there and just fill up on steaks and nachos and magic brownies, whatever makes you feel best!

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