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here comes the bride, big fat and wide

Katherine Heigl, who is unabashedly gorgeous, admits that she was hating on her weight when getting ready to walk down the aisle. Katherine blames the dress and while granted, white is not exactly the most slimming of colors, what is it about an upcoming wedding that turns on our internal inferiority complex? Logistically, isn’t this guy marrying you for, you know, you? They say that when a newly engaged guy thinks about his upcoming marriage, the biggest thought in his mind is “I hope she doesn’t change”. And yet, I’d be willing to bet that the percentage of women who didn’t actively try to lose weight for the wedding would be in the single digits.

And I wish I could take the high road here, but then I’d have to pretend that my short walk down the aisle didn’t come after several dozen miles spent huffing and puffing around the walking track at the local Y. You see, I ordered a custom wedding dress that was supposedly cut to fit my proportions and in theory should have fit right out of the box. I had spent the extra money to do this specifically because I knew that I had a propensity to react to high stress situations with disordered eating and I knew that the wedding? With everyone looking at me? With this big expectation that I would be the most beautiful girl in the room? Yeah, that was gearing up for one huge amount of starvation that was thinly veiled as crazy-assed dieting.

Finding a wedding dress when you are a size 24 can be summed up in one word: SUCKS. Oh, they have them. There are wedding dresses out there. And if I were Amish or 75-years-old or enjoyed swathing my fine ass in a three-foot wide bow, to gift wrap the very thing I wanted to hide, there wouldn’t be a problem finding a wedding dress.

Instead, I went to every bridal store in a 130 mile radius (and I am not making that up) and stripped to my bra panties in large rooms surrounded by giant mirrors while waiting for the dress store women to return with size 6, 8, and sometimes 12, and be told to either squeeze into the sample or hold it up in front of my naked self and imagine. In what other industry would this be acceptable? If you’re trying to buy an Escalade, would the salesperson bring you a CTS and tell you that if you close your eyes, it’s practically the same thing? Would you buy a pair of shoes by just looking at the floor samples and not giving them a few trots around the department store? Of course you wouldn’t.

On top of the rest of the emotional issues surrounding an impending nuptual, I also had to deal with the bridal store employees, which fell into one of two categories: either it was a lithe youngish woman wearing way too much makeup and perfume or it was a matronly type of woman wearing flat shoes and so many foundation garments that she didn’t walk so much as dither across the floor. The youngish types were the worst. One actually made a gagging sound when I told her my bra size, and then pretended that she had an impromptu cough (and later tried to lie and say that the store didn’t carry such gargantuan cup sizes, even though I had visited the store earlier and been coerced into trying on dresses with one of their longline bras by one of the matrons, so I knew damn well that they carried Zeppelin-sized bras and larger). Another of the youngish types actually did a little head tilt and then patronized me by saying how lucky I was to find someone who loved me “You know, despite how you are.” Bitch, please.

However, three months before The Big Day, when my wedding dress arrived, things went horribly wrong. It didn’t fit. Not just a little Didn’t Fit. A LOT. The zipper went up to my first rib bone and then refused to budge. I trembled and my mother-in-law reassured me that it could all be altered and I wasn’t wearing the right bra and things would be ok just don’t panic don’t PANIC! My mother-in-law is a saint, people, a saint. However, then my own mother walked in and got her first view of the dress. Apparently she was already perturbed that my mother-in-law had unwittingly usurped my mother’s role as trusted older female advisor during the wedding dress shopping process (although in all fairness, my mother was so not interested in shopping with me that it just wasn’t funny). My mother has never had a weight problem in her entire life. She could spend all summer dining on hot dogs and potato chips and the pounds would jump off of her body as though out of fear. I stood on the little carpeted box that they make you stand on, wearing a princessy bundle of white matte satin, waiting for her to say what everyone had said up until that point, that the dress was lovely, that it accentuated my waist and hid my upper arms and basically took all of my areas of tragedy and whisked them away with a fury of sequins (it was the late 90’s, and plus size gowns were still stuck in the late 80’s, so I didn’t have a lot of choice here).

She took one look at the dress, somehow criss crossed her lips into a perfect X (how she does that, I still have no idea) as she caught sight of the open zipper in the mirror behind me. “Well, what are we going to do about this?” She walked behind me and stared at my back, the red bra I was wearing suddenly feeling very tawdry and slutty.

“I have a seamstress already for the bridesmaid’s dresses, so she’ll–”

“No, Weetabix, what are we going to do about THIS?!” She grabbed each side of the open zipper and tried to shake me into the dress. My mother is surprisingly strong, and for a moment I almost lost my footing between the layers of crinoline, the little box pedestal tipped and threatened to throw me headfirst into a very flustered bridal store clerk.

“I’m not wearing the right bra right now and I’m not going to worry about it until the seamstress looks at it.”

“There’s no seamstress that can fix that.” She clicked her tongue.

“Well, then I’ll just buy a new dress!” I snapped. She said no more and my bridesmaids and mother-in-law all looked in random directions, feeling awkward.

On the surface, it might have looked like I won, but in reality, I was lost, so very lost. The seamstress, however, was an angel. She pinched and gathered and pointed out that the dress actually did fit my measurements perfectly, the problem was that the inches just weren’t in the right spot. So she took in two inches at the waist and took out two inches in the bust. Result: perfect fit. But I still went to the gym four times a week, because I was so afraid that it was going to all go to hell. I would open my mouth for a bite of our delicious wedding cake and blammo, the side seams would split and there would be a cataclysmic ripping of yards upon yards of European taffeta and then I’d hide behind the ice sculpture and cry bitter tears of fatness.

So who can blame Katherine Heigl, she of the Amazonian physique and sometimes bad potty mouth, for trying to lose weight when faced with these stresses? Despite your best attempts, the second you accept a proposal, your beauty and look is suddenly up for discussion. It might be the closest most of us ever come to walking the red carpet. The wedding industry is the equivalent of Joan and Melissa Rivers waiting for us, microphones in hand and wicked glints in their eyes. It can only exist if it fills us with self-doubt and sometimes, self-loathing. If you don’t have the right cake topper, just the perfect embossing on your invitations, the right length of veil, all will be lost! You will be doomed! It’s a minor miracle that any of us survive to tell the tale.

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