I'm not engaged. In fact, at present, I'm not actually dating anyone. Actually, if I'm being really honest, I'm not even talking to anyone, unless you count talking back to my TV when those kids on Stranger Things faced down the Demagorgen. Most Friday nights, you can find me and my bae red wine snuggled up on the couch, watching Netflix and definitely chilling. In other words, I'm single AF, as the kids these days might say.
I'm (almost) 26 and not in any hurry to snag a man. Sure, it'd be nice to have someone to reach the stuff on the tall shelves and commiserate over Eleven's sacrifice, but I'm not falling asleep to wedding bells or salivating over engagement rings. Honestly, I've never been the girl to dream about my wedding. I always assumed I'd get married, but I never really thought much about it. I just figured I'd meet the right person and get married, just like my parents, and that was sort of the end of it. It just wasn't something I spent a lot of time or brain power thinking about.
"I'm single AF, as the kids these days might say. So how did I end up planning to spend a weekend in a bridal shop in Richmond trying on miles of white tulle?"
So how did I end up planning to spend a November weekend in a bridal shop in Richmond, with a fake engagement ring on a very important finger, trying on miles of white tulle? Well, here's the kicker. My mom has cancer.
Not just any cancer. Advanced, only-has-a-few-months-left cancer. The kind where they tell you your diet no longer matters, and warn the children to spend as much time with their loved one as possible. And since my inherent singleness means I won't be taking my long walk to remember a la early 2000's Mandy Moore (RIP Jamie) anytime soon, it's unlikely my mom will get to see me promise myself to another human being for all eternity.
But when I do meet someone who (miraculously) wants to put up with me 'til death do us part (and isn't put off by my emotional baggage or unusually high number of guy friends), I know I'm going to wish like hell that Mom was there. Not just to tell me that I need to pare down the guest list and that funding my honeymoon instead of signing up for a traditional registry is something I'll regret, but for all the sentimental moments.
At first, it seemed unfathomable that my mom would never get to see me get married. I mean, she's my mom. You never expect your mom not to be at your wedding. If anyone should get to witness me promising to spend my life with someone else, it's her. If and when it happens, it'll be a testament to her tutelage -- and the incredible relationship between her and my dad. (Granted, she probably expected I'd nail down this whole life partner thing a little sooner than my late 20s, but what can I say? I've always been a little headstrong).
So when we got the news that after nearly 6 years of battling cancer, the end was imminent, my lack of prospective husbands weighed heavily. I ended a serious relationship a while back, and at the time congratulated myself and my ex on a mature break-up, mutually agreed upon for the reason that we didn't see ourselves marrying each other. But the 3-6-months-left diagnosis suddenly had me considering throwing myself at his feet and begging for a reconsideration (and a ring). I even went through my list of guy friends mentally to see if there were any I could convince to marry me in the span of 2 months.
I should point out that 5 years ago, newly graduated from college and dealing with Mom's diagnosis of metastasized cancer, I hit the dating scene hard. I joined Match.com, downloaded Tinder, talked up guys in bars and attached myself heart and soul to any guy who showed interest in dating me. I quickly discovered that - emotional baggage aside - this was not the way I wanted to date. It was upsetting and emotionally exhausting, not to mention that I don't know many guys at 22 who don't run when you want to be their girlfriend after 2 dates.
"I talked up guys in bars and attached myself heart and soul to any guy who showed interest in dating me. I don't know many guys at 22 who don't run when you want to be their girlfriend after 2 dates."
After too many nights waiting for the phone to ring and sad about people I didn't really care about, I decided it was better to start living my life than continue searching for a life partner. To truly enjoy as much of life as I could, to soak up experiences, have adventures, and collect as memories as possible. So I stopped looking for a husband and started to say yes to things I wanted to do, to try, to experience. And I haven't looked back.
Until now. Why didn't I try harder to make things work with my ex? How could I have let someone who lived with me for a year, who had seen me at my worst - and loved me anyways - slip through my fingers? Never mind that neither of us wanted to marry the other, and that we have stayed friends. Or, for that matter, why didn't I have feelings for my best friend who might be persuaded to marry me (who, by the way, doesn't have feelings for me - logic was not at the forefront of my thoughts)? Why hadn't I tried harder to snag a man? Why was I so damn stubborn and independent? Why had my parents told me that was okay?
Eventually, after the desire to go find a desperate loon who would marry me on the spot subsided, logic prevailed. Just because I didn't have a man didn't mean I couldn't share some of the experiences with Mom, cataloging away the memories until I find a willing victim. A while ago, I read about a dying mom who took her teenaged daughter up in Kleinfeld's in New York to go wedding dress shopping. Her daughter was maybe 14, too young to even think about getting married, but her mom wanted her to have the memory. I read the article, had a good cry (dying mothers get me every time), and dismissed it. But now, facing down mortality and time, I couldn't stop thinking about that story. I wanted those memories too.
I wasn't, however, sure how my mom would feel about the proposal. Would she cry? Would it make her feel worse? Would it only remind her of what she'll be missing? I mulled it over and tried to put it out of my mind. Scenes like this only happens in books and movies anyways. But I couldn't get the thought out of my mind. So a few days after the bombshell news, I carefully, tactfully breached the subject. "Would you want to go wedding dress shopping with me?"
Turns out, a friend of my mom's who also has cancer had suggested the same thing. My mom wasn't sure how I would feel about the idea, so she hadn't said anything. Guess we're more alike than I thought. So we picked a weekend that worked with my schedule (and miraculously, Mom's as well - she carries a busier social calendar than I do), and I called a few of my best friends to see if they'd come with us. After all, I'll need someone to help stuff me into all that white, and to document the memories. Plus, my best friend has known me and my mom for 21 years. Who better to come with us and drive the getaway car when it slips to the bridal shop that I'm not actually engaged?
So here we are. In a month, I'll be trying on all shades and styles of ecru, cream and eggshell. I'm hoping to document the journey on film - both photographical and videographical (if that's not a word, I'm making it one). As I'm not actually engaged, nor have I ever investigated wedding dress possibilities, any and all tips and suggestions are welcome. We're looking to go somewhere in Richmond, so if anyone knows of good shops, please send them my way! Additionally, if anyone has suggestions for recording my experience, let me know! Somehow, I think the bridal shop might veto me wearing a GoPro while trying on dresses, and I'm not sure S wants to film the whole thing on her iPhone.
Since tulle and white aren't really my thing, wish me luck -- and lots of tissues. Luckily, mom has a fancy new scooter to speed around on, with plenty of space for tissue boxes.
P.S. Wedding presents can be sent to my parents house. I'm partial to red wine, stemless glasses and plain china.
P.P.S. I'm hesitant to talk to my little sister about this project. This whole process has been hard on her, and I'm not sure how she'll take it. (Thankfully, she doesn't read this blog!) But I hope she'll come with us, even if she won't try on dresses herself. That way, she can be my mom's voice when I do this thing for real.