Among the many things that bugged me about Pittsburgh when we moved here in 2001 is that it’s nearly impossible to find your way around unless you were born in it. For instance, the way a Pittsburgher gives directions is to use landmarks that no longer exist (Turn right where the Isaly’s used to be), or names for roads that don’t actually appear on any signs (Yinz are gonna wanna take the Pahkway dahntahn). Major thoroughfares (I’m talking about you, Forbes) inexplicably turn into one-way streets, the wrong way. The city pretends that it is divided up into named towns (Squirrel Hill; Bloomfield; East Liberty) that exist not on maps but in the city’s collective memory of the ethnic groupings of its neighborhoods (Jews; Italians; Blacks). Worse, even GPS technology tends to fail within the city limits; once, mine actually directed me to drive down a flight of stairs at the end of a road (and, because I am a rule-follower, I very nearly did).
One theory for why it’s so screwy here is that as Pittsburgh was being built up, the smog from the steel factories was so dense that the city engineers (who were maybe also often drunk) designed streets based on what they could see (which wasn’t much), sometimes forgetting that there tended to be a river where they wanted to put a road. So they ordered the construction of highways and byways that made no sense (example: the exit onto 376 [a.k.a. “the parkway”] that involves coming to a complete stop, then playing chicken across three lanes of traffic that are all trying to exit to avoid the Squirrel Hill tunnel, which is probably closed), or changed the name of a street in the middle of the street, because it was too smoggy to see that it was still the same street (example: Forward Avenue, which becomes, descriptively but confoundedly for the GPS, Serpentine Road).
What does this have to do with buying a wedding dress, you ask?
I don’t think I like your tone.
Contrary to what I think you’re suggesting, I am NOT just trying to drag this topic out for as long as I possibly can, to build up what we in the writing business call “suspense” (or, as you in the reading business call it, “irritation”). I am simply trying to explain why it is that my Pittsburgh shopping trips have been limited to places I can walk to, or to places that I have driven to and returned from without having to call a friend or pull over to weep.
(Okay, that’s a lie: I often have to call a friend or pull over to weep. But not always because I’m lost.)
Thus, having exhausted all the walking-to possibilities (the pink-haired lady’s boutique), as well as all the walking-to possibilities we wouldn’t be caught dead walking to (the boutique where they were bitchy to me eleven years ago), those of us who are still hunting for the not-quite perfect wedding dress are now left with only a couple of choices: the newly opened Bakery Square shopping center (which is where the Cachina Drapery Factory used to be) and the Ross Park Mall, which you get to by going out Bigelow and then exiting on 6th St. dahntahn, then taking a left turn onto a street that ends where the Melon Arena used to be, getting in the leftmost lane to turn onto the part of the Vet’s bridge that they never completed, to go back over Bigelow and onto, umm, I think 279. Take the McNight Road exit and get into a traffic jam that should last about forty-five minutes, unless it’s raining, and then don’t take the Ross Park Mall entrance that’s marked “Ross Park Mall Entrance,” since that will actually wind around a road and then not bother to tell you to take a right, and you’ll end up back on McNight. Instead, take the unmarked entrance across the street from where the Goodwill used to be, and Bob’s your Uncle.
Oh, you didn’t want an uncle? You wanted a dress?
Then it’s settled: we’ll drive five hours to Philly, to the King of Prussia Mall, instead!
And because it’s your fiance’s birthday, and his family lives in Philly, why not take him and a handful of those helpful teenagers one finds in one’s house these days (let’s call them “Daniel,” “Maddie,” and “Sami,” whether or not these are actually their names. If they start to get all twisty, we will also call them “Serpentine”).
Yay, this is gonna be so much fun! Did everyone remember to pee?
I don’t care if you don’t think you need to. And no, you can’t have shotgun.
Now hurry up and pee, or we’re never going to finish this blog in time.
Tomorrow: is Friday. Maybe we’ll find out about the blue dress on Friday.
I can’t help but feel that I’ve let you down. By now, you’ve probably found yourself a wedding outfit that not only suits, but also fits you; with my luck, it even makes you feel good about yourself.
But listen: in case there’s a ghost of a chance* that you could still screw it up, I’d like to be the one to help make that happen. Think of me as your virtual matron of honor, sitting outside the dressing room with a bottle of gluten-free vodka, singing the alto part of “Going to the Chapel” while the other customers go to call security.
But first: a quick recap. You’re old-ish, you’re getting married, and you can wear pretty much anything you want (except an actual wedding gown). You’ve done the self-evaluation, and you are now armed with a fairly accurate understanding of your own body-type. And let’s say, for the purposes of not filling me with rage, that you are, in fact, not tall (and by “not tall” I mean that there are certain amusement park rides that you’re still not allowed on without an adult).
I should add that even though you’ve been running three miles a day for more than four years now, you’re still in Pittsburgh**, and you’re over fifty, and your body is never going to be what it was when you were 49.
So the first thing you need to do is choose an appropriate style icon/role model for your wedding-day look. Given the self-evaluation above, might I suggest that a good choice for you would be someone petite, yet curvy, yet classy, like, say, Salma Hayek?
NO! I might not! That was a trick suggestion. Did I say that you were classy? I did not.
No, you want to look like someone petite, yet curvy, yet crazy, like, say, Helena Bonham Carter.
This should narrow your choices nicely: you’re going to want to find a boutique that sells lady-pirate clothes. Or maybe peasant-girl clothes. Or outfits for bargirls in the Wild Wild West.
Google all those terms, and narrow the search locally until you find the expensive boutique that is across the street from the even more expensive boutique where they were bitchy to you eleven years ago.
Go to the non-bitchy boutique. Tell the boutique-store owner with the pink hair that you’re looking for a dress for a wedding, then giggle and say, “Well, for my wedding.” It’s okay: everyone else in the boutique, if there is anyone else in the boutique, is, by definition, a little bit tragic and pathetic, too.
Try on all the size Small or Extra Small dresses in the store (there should be about seven). Turn sideways in the three-way mirrors, and squint. Gather up all the extra material at your shoulders and pull the dress up to your ears, which is where the laced-up bodice should actually end. Appreciate the effort the pink-haired boutique-store owner is making when she mentions that the dress is supposed to have a dropped waist, “though maybe not quite so dropped.”
Put back on the one dress that almost fits, and study your reflection carefully. Ask yourself some tough questions: Does the color of the dress (yellow) flatter you? Does the color of the dress (yellow) flatter anyone? Does the color of the dress (yellow) flatter anyone who is sort of pasty and blue-eyed and middle-aged? Are you comfortable knowing that the sheer panels at the bodice reveal not so much your cleavage, but your c-section scars? Do the sleeves run past your hands to approximately your knees, if you don’t roll them up? Did you mean, if you don’t roll your knees up? If not, then why did you use the pronoun “them” after the word “knees,” and not the word “sleeves”? Do you look hot in this dress, or are you having a flash? Do you look like a buxom, frizzy-haired, age-spotted lady-pirate whose clothes don’t fit her, and if so, will your fiancé really want to marry that?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, do you remember which ones they were?
Are you sure it’s a good idea to have another shot of my vodka?
At this point, it is my duty as your virtual matron of honor to tell the pink-haired boutique-owner that you love the dress and would like her to hold it for you so you can check with your fiancé about the color (yellow), and ask her to hold it under the name “Mariah,” hoping that she doesn’t know that this is not your name but what you call the wind when you want to maintain its privacy.
Tomorrow: We buy a blue*** dress.
*But not a really scary ghost.
**Hint: stop running in circles, idiot.
***But not a green dress. That’s cruel.
I bought a bottle of coconut aminos today. I know what you’re thinking (because I scored 32 out of 36 on that “Understanding People’s Emotions” quiz that blazed through my news feed yesterday): you’re thinking: Amigos? Could she have meant coconut amigos, like in that episode of Friends where flashback Rachel had a lesbian moment with sorority sister Winona Ryder that involved knocking the bras of their island costumes together?
No, I did not mean “coconut amigos.” I meant coconut aminos, and, like you, I have no idea what they are. But someone suggested them in a recipe for gluten-free meatloaf, and because my life as I know it has completely ceased making sense since I hit mid-life (or thereabouts), I bought them.
And a can of coconut four.
And a jar of coconut manna, and even a bottle of coconut nectar, because like an idiot I went and fell in love and was suddenly covered under health insurance. Thanks a lot, Republicans: you were so busy shutting down the government that you forgot that poor people could also just go ahead and get married and then have coverage!
So now, of course, I’m sick.
And not just any sick: I am weirdly, midlife-ishly, menopausically sick.
In fact, this is why this blog has been on hold for the last week and a half: because I was working myself up to tell you all about how losing weight had caused me to have to keep finding a new wedding dress, when I realized that not only would you, my dear readers, think I’m just being a braggeddy-ass bitch, but uh oh what if the weight loss turns out to be because of something like, you know, cancer, and then I’ll just look really pathetic and sad and, I guess, eventually dead.
So I went and had a bunch of tests. A BUNCH of tests.
And it isn’t cancer!
But it also isn’t any fun. It turns out I had one thing that caused another thing that caused this particular thing that made me have to buy the coconut aminos in order to make a food I don’t even like–and that I’ll have to keep eating foods like it for the rest of my life, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not great.
You may not know this about me yet, dear reader, but if you stick with me long enough, you’re bound to discover that I’m something of a priss (look for telltale signs like the use of the word “suffice”). So suffice it to say that I’m not going to go into any gory details here. What I will tell you is that I took some antibiotics back in May, and then took some different antibiotics that same week (because it turned out I’d taken the wrong ones first), and that caused me to come down with an awful syndrome called “C. Diff.” And while I eventually got over the C. Diff, it, in turn, spurred the development of a condition called “Microscopic Colitis,” which was swiftly accompanied by the onset of Celiac Disease (the original gluten-free diet craze).
The part that really gets me, though, is that when I go to look up why this particular chain of medical events occurred, I discover that it’s a phenomenon that primarily afflicts middle-aged women. According to the website of an arguably fine doctor (seriously, his name is “Dr. Fine”), “microscopic colitis appears to be in the family of autoimmune syndromes, all of which are more common in women. It is likely that the proinfllammatory effects of estrogen are responsible for this predisposition. For this reason, I have theorized [that] one of the reasons microscopic colitis is becoming more common (which I believe to be true) and that it doesn’t affect women until later in life is that the use of high dose estrogens (and NSAID’s) has become more common.” Dr. Fine goes on to address the issue of why Celiac disease tends to co-occur, suggesting that “the genes causing microscopic colitis are also programmed to react with gluten if they are triggered to do so. This is why people can go their whole lives without apparent gluten sensitivity and then suddenly become gluten intolerant.”
Look, I’m not a medical science person (except by marriage), and I don’t doubt for a moment that Dr. Fine is a fine doctor (because it would be ironic if he weren’t, and irony is so passé), but I don’t think it takes more than a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (in Fiction) to figure out what’s really going on around here.
It’s Crone’s Disease.
No, not “Crohn’s Disease”; Crone’s Disease, a GI, gluten-based disorder designed specifically to do what Nature had always intended (and used to achieve quite successfully, before the introductions of pilates, botox, lasers, and lipo): to render middle-aged women unattractive enough that they stop competing for mates with gals who can actually perpetuate the species.
Sure, all those 40- and 50-something celebrities like Julianne Moore and Halle Berry and Sandra Bullock (and even, for that matter, Jennifer Aniston and Winona Ryder—how you like them coconut aminos?) might look hot, but if they have to go to the bathroom all the time and then ruin every dinner out by asking, plaintively, whether a dish has gluten in it, ten I’ll give you one some fertile 20- or 30-something’s going to start looking a whole lot better than she did just a couple of hours ago, all un-toned and un-plumped there, at the end of the bar.
Mark my words, dear reader (though not with a red pen, because that makes me feel insecure): the days of men preferring the experienced, AARP-card-carrying hottie to the callow, birth-control-device-requiring nottie are numbered.
Put that in your bottle of coconut aminos and smoke it.
Or, whatever it is you do with coconut aminos.
Probably not smoke it. But then again, I’m making meatloaf. There will probably be fire.
(Editor’s note: We here at Meanopause would like to issue a special shout-out to the excellent writer Melanie Bishop, who actually noticed our recent spate of bloglessness. We’ll be sending her a special batch of gluten-free meatloaf that turned out not to be entirely gluten-free, because oh for God’s sake why would KETCHUP have gluten in it??)