Intersections – Becoming a princess
By Nicki Salcedo
No matter how good your fairy godmother is, some of us just aren’t made to be princesses. My family was disappointed with my approach to my wedding. I wanted to run away to Las Vegas to get married. I thought a destination wedding to Jamaica would be perfect. Instead, I had a traditional wedding.
We were conservative with our budget. We paid for almost everything in cash. The guest list was limited to 70 people. We didn’t have a honeymoon. I wasn’t a bridezilla about anything.
I only wanted lots of food and cake. I wanted mojitos and champagne. I let the restaurant pick the dinner menu. I let my florist design the flowers. I had no idea what my bouquet would look like until I got to the church that morning.
The only real decision I had to make was choosing the wedding dress. I’ve avoided being girly most of my life. I despise shopping. I hated the thought of spending hours looking at dresses. Mojitos are much more fun.
But I had to have a dress. I thought I might like something simple. Something appropriate for my body type. Something pretty. Something neat. The owner of the bridal shop and my sisters indulged me as I picked out dresses. They tried to steer me towards lace and pearls while I looked for the cheapest dress that might look flattering on me.
Eventually the owner said, “You pick the first two dresses. I’ll pick the third.”
I tried on the first dress. It looked like a white sundress. I tried on the second dress. It looked like a pretty white dress for a cocktail party. Nice, but not spectacular.
Then the owner emerged with his pick. His dress was horrific. Ivory tulle with pink roses and a 10-foot train.
“No way,” I said.
“Put it on,” he said. He wasn’t smiling.
If you have never gone wedding dress shopping, I hope you can avoid this terror. They shove you into the dress in a fitting room sans mirror. The shop owner’s henchmen are usually two little ladies from the old country. You pick the country. While admonishing your American fattiness, they zip and cinch and tie you into a white puff ball. You can’t see yourself until you march out into the main store and onto a stage for all the other customers to see.
You try to keep your cleavage from falling out of the top of the dress. You try not to trip on the excessive fabric. You try not to be irritated by the teenager from Buckhead whose cotillion dress will cost more than your wedding dress. You try to smile at the pageant kids who are dress shopping in the flower girl section. You try not to think about Vegas and the soft-sand beaches in Negril.
You step on the stage. Put on a fake smile and open your eyes. And then every person in the store burst into tears.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw a princess. Tulle and fluff and cleavage and mini-roses. There was a train and a veil. I felt pretty. I felt shocked. And I loved it. Then I took a closer look at the dress, and it looked like a wedding dress a pirate wench might wear. I loved it even more.
Maybe I needed the chance to be a princess after all.
Now I’ve got three little princesses of my own. And a little prince. They are each very different.
One is like me. She won’t wear dresses. One likes skirts with mismatched knee socks. The boy likes blue jeans all the time. Even for soccer.
Then there’s the baby princess.
She put on a fluffy pink dress to go see the movie “Cinderella.” She is four years old. She calls any fancy dress her “wedding dress,” but she refused to wear anything resembling glass slippers on her feet. She wore combat boots. She looks dainty at first glance, then you realize that if you give her half a chance she’ll stomp the crap out of you.
There is power in dressing up. I spent my college years in combat boots. When you lace up your boots you feel strong, you feel different.
I spent my younger life fearing princess dresses. I used to believe that beauty was the antithesis of intelligence. Femininity the opposite of power. I don’t feel that way anymore. The only thing I prize now is comfort. And I also value the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone every once in a while.
I didn’t dress up as a child, but as an adult I look for opportunities to play make-believe. I put on my cape. I feel super. I put on my combat boots. I enjoy a twirl in a pretty dress. I believe in magic and change.
Cinderella’s first choice for a dress was simple. She would have been happy at the ball in plain shoes and a hand-me-down dress. But she got so much more.
My fairy godmother was a grouchy guy on the other side of Atlanta. He might not have been smiling, but he knew how to make magic.
I wouldn’t change anything about my wedding day. My bouquet was perfect, red roses. I had a mojito. I had champagne. My prince did not have a sword or a horse, but he made up for it in jokes. We laughed all day. We smiled all night.
The only thing I might have changed about my wedding would be the shoes. Forget glass slippers. If I had to do it again, I’d be like my daughter. I’d be a princess in combat boots.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.