Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Always the Bridesmaid...

Last year, before I abandoned The Washington Post to spend a year in the land of warm beer and cold loos, I worked with a lovely young woman named Julie. She was my assistant and, working together in a not very big office, we were each other's audience. It was helpful for my 40something male brain to hear things from a 20something female perspective.

I most enjoyed hearing about Julie's wedding preparations. Not for her own wedding, but for the nuptials in which she was playing the role of bridesmaid. I think there were at least two last year and it was a pleasure to hear of the outrageous demands being made upon her. The biggest indignities, of course, were the bridesmaid dresses themselves.

I don't know if you knew this or not, but women are very particular about how they look. They are especially particular about how they look at certain high-profile events. Just try telling a bridesmaid that she is not the main attraction at the wedding and you're likely to get a dyed-to-match shoe up your bum. The tragedy from a bridesmaid's point of view is that she will inevitably be forced to wear a hideous garment, the whole point of which seems to be to diminish her in the eyes of any eligible males at the wedding. (And who's to say there isn't something to that? I wonder if, much as in certain primitive societies the bloody sheets of the marital bed must be displayed as proof of conjugal deflowering, so too must bridesmaids be dressed in ugly outfits.)

Julie kvetched continually about the color, cut and design of her wedding wear. She even went so far as to stealthily alter one dress so she could show a little more leg.

I thought about Julie, and all those other poor bridesmaids out there forced to pull on oddly-colored, puffy-sleeved garments, when I came across a passage in a book I'm reading for a story I'm working on. The book is the memoir of a society woman named Daisy Breaux Calhoun who was born in 1864. In describing her wedding in Charleston, S.C., in around 1890 Calhoun writes:
The bridesmaids were all dressed as wild flowers, field companions of the daisies, and carried baskets of daisies, mingled with the flower they represented. Besides the wild roses there were two brilliant brunettes as buttercups, in yellow crepe, their hats lined with golden brown velvet and covered with butter cups and two blonde girls represented corn flowers, with hats and baskets similarly bedecked. Then there were two petites chataines as ferns, in pale green crepe with maiden hair ferns on their hats and in their baskets, also two striking brunettes representing poppies.
See, Julie, it could have been worse. You could have had to dress as a flower.

By the way, there's an entire Web site devoted to ugly bridesmaid dresses.


mark from alexandria said...

Reminds me of the old song: "Why do you build me up, buttercup baby, just to let me down?"

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

My father is still grateful I eloped.

And the bedsheets thing wasn't just in primitive societies. You'll find it in Isaac Bashevis Singer stories of Eastern European Jews (late 19th to early 20th century).

Julie said...

And to think, just last week I received my latest bridesmaid's dress -- it's tennis ball yellow! So I'm just going to stand next to the bar and hope to create my own topspin. Sigh.

MEB said...

You'd better hope neither of the brides Julie maided for reads your blog.

John Kelly said...

I might be wrong but I think it's hard to make a bride mad AFTER the wedding. Before the wedding, on the hand, the slightest thing can set them off.