Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Gown Fit for an Ass-kicking Survivor Princess

Every Saturday I spend seven and a half hours with people planning what is hopefully one of the happiest days of their life. It's sacred time helping a woman, her mother, her sister(s), and friend(s) pick out a wedding gown. It's not an act many people get to be a part of and the inside scoop and access many of these women are willing to grant you in the confines of the dressing room can be truly staggering.

The bride-to-be I worked with this week, we'll call her Jenny, was one of those brides that had a major impact on me the first time I worked with her. Note to the inexperienced out there: brides often come back to the same boutique three or four times with a whole new posse each time to make sure they're really sure about "the dress." Such was the case with Jenny. I worked with her for the first time in mid-February. Jenny is tiny. A petite, fellow curly haired gal (although a brunette), with a way of carrying herself that just lets you know in some way she's fragile. She came in with a smile plastered to her face, although it felt a little forced. Wedding dress shopping can be a bit intimidating and a fake smile isn't all that rare to see. But something about this was different.

Jenny had her mom in tow on this first trip and I could tell they both had heavy hearts. I'm the kind of person that for better or worse (pun recognized) I pick up on whatever energy is around me. So much so that sometimes I literally feel like I walk around through life the permeable girl. At any rate, Jenny began picking out dresses. She had a budget that was strict and a requirement - the dress couldn't be too heavy. After gathering up some selections I put them in her room and asked if she wanted my help getting in and out of the dresses. I got a polite but swift "no thank you." Some people are shy and don't want someone in their fitting room (I'm one of these people) I get it. But again, this felt somewhat different. As Jenny tried on dresses both she and her mother seemed to perk up a bit.

Jenny even asked for my help a few times getting in to some of the bulkier dresses. Finally she spilled the beans: "I have skin cancer and I've had some very painful procedures recently." Cue the not wanting heavy dresses, rough fabrics tugging on her skin and a stranger in her fitting room. We spent a moment staring each other straight in the face. From that point on I was not a bridal consultant. I seriously cared that this girl get exactly what she needed and wanted and not just in a wedding gown. I remember how carefully I clipped her dresses (which all gaped off of her tiny frame) so as not to pinch her skin and how hard I tried to find exactly what she was looking for.

Jenny and her mom left, we had a very heartfelt goodbye in which I sincerely told her I hoped she'd be back and that I was wishing her all the best.

Cut to yesterday when I showed up to work to see Jenny's name back in the book for a second appointment. Jenny rolled in to the bridal boutique a new woman. Curls bouncing, friends in tow, mom with a gleam in her eye - these girls were ready to make a decision and get this wedding rolling. I was greeted with the warmth of a lifelong friend. As I put Jenny's dresses in her fitting room she jabbered away about the shoes she had ordered that she hoped would make it in time for this appointment (canary yellow heels), the dancing she planned on doing at her wedding and the order in which I thought she should try on the dresses to give her audience the best show.

As I went to exit the dressing room so Jenny could try her dresses on she grabbed my arm, "I need to tell you something, all of my tests came back negative." Now neither one of us was in a hurry to get me out of the fitting room. I shut the door behind me, my eyes welled up and I grabbed Jenny's hand and told her how incredibly happy that news made me. She also explained to me that the last time they had been in not only were her test results unknown but her grandfather (her mother's dad) had just passed.

As Jenny whittled down the selections, took the feedback from her friends and mother I came to realize that somehow, someway she was most interested in my opinion - though I have no idea why. Finally she tried on the all lace dress that I remembered her lighting up in on her first appointment. That familiar look crossed her face and I couldn't help but feel the "this is it" feeling that I imagine I might feel one day myself. Needless to say, everyone else saw the look and felt the feeling too - even though not everyone was aesthetically in love with the dress, they shut their mouths, looked at Jenny's face and knew it was "the one."

Needless to say, Jenny ordered that lace dress yestereday for her wedding and promised me to only make appointments on Saturdays from here on in - on the days I'd be there to see her. I don't know if this really counts as a good deed for the day but I can tell you this, I was more present with Jenny than I've been with anything or anyone in a long time and I feel like somehow she knew.

Here's "The Dress:"

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