With my mid-life wedding looming at the end of September, I woke one day in early August knowing that the cute little blue lace dress I’d bought for the ceremony was no longer going to fit. In the way of my people, however, I let at least a few weeks go by before I allowed myself to acknowledge this.
I know what you’re thinking (because I am a practicing, not to mention Board-Certified, Witch). You’re thinking: but Heather, didn’t you say you met your husband on JDate? How is Denial the way of the Jewish people?
Congratulations! They say there are no stupid questions, yet still you have managed to ask one!
De Nile is in Egypt.
Where de Jews were slaves.
But anyway, I wasn’t talking about my father’s people. I was talking about my mother’s, the Christian Scientists.
As I understand it, the way Christian Scientists handle that whole not-taking medication thing is to deny that they’re sick. And the reason this works for them, to the extent that it does work, is that if you wait long enough, you tend to get over stuff (except hemorrhages, maybe, or, like, cancer). This is why doctors tell you to take antibiotics for however many days they tell you to take them: because you’d probably get better by then, anyway. Same with physical therapy for things like pinched nerves and pulled muscles. You have to do it for a certain number of weeks. But if you don’t do it for that number of weeks? Odds are, your back’s going to stop hurting by the end of that time because that’s how long it took for the inflammation to go down. (Or your back will keep hurting, but you’ll have stopped noticing, because other stuff, like hemorrhages, maybe, will seem more pressing.)
How do I know this? The same way most crackpots (a field in which I am also Board-Certified) know things: because I have sifted through my personal experience to conclusively support my theories. Also, because I am married to a doctor who’s always saying things like “No, you don’t need antibiotics! Quit calling me while I’m on call!”
Thus, though I am a product of a mixed marriage, I have inherited Denial from both sides of my family. It’s not just important to me; it’s my goddamn heritage. Even its anagrams have been central to my life (for example, I spent my first honeymoon in Denali National Park, in Alaska [yeah, like you couldn’t see that divorce coming]; I named one of my children [though I won’t tell you which one, because of privacy issues] “Daniel”; another of my children’s names is also an anagram of Denial, plus “me”). Denial and I, we’re like this.
So when I tell you I woke up knowing that my dress no longer fit, I mean to say that I shuddered, briefly, recoiling as though from dreams of an old and terrifying talk-show host, considered trying on the dress to confirm my fears, rejected the idea, because I hadn’t yet showered, and got up and went about my day.
That night, as I was about to get ready for bed, I thought: oh, yeah. The dress. Try on the dress.
Then I thought: No, YOU try on the dress.
And then I thought: I said it FIRST!
And then—actually, you don’t need me to spell this all out for you. It’s that same conversation we all have with ourselves when we disassociate into a bunch of different people, some of whom are shouting. The upshot was that all of me went to bed without any of us trying on the dress.
The next morning, I woke up panicked about the dress again. Then I ate a nice little denial cake for breakfast and went about my day. Then blah blah blah, bedtime argument, midnight denial cake snack, Joan Rivers dream, panic, and repeat for at least two weeks more, during which time I lost yet another couple of pounds (because I was also using denial to treat my Collagenous Colitis [see: Sidebar: Medical Science]. And because denial cakes are not only surprisingly low in calories, but they are extremely high in fiber).
And then one day I got up and pulled on a pair of jeans without unzipping them, and thought: uh oh.
Then I thought: What’s wrong, Honey?
And then I thought: Since when did we start calling each other ‘Honey’?
And then—anyway, long, crackpot story short: I tried on the dress, and it didn’t fit.
Which is not to say that it was unwearable; I wasn’t going to walk down the aisle and have it fall off, or anything. But I also wasn’t going to walk down the aisle and have people go, Ooh, she looks so beautiful! (or whatever it is we hope people will say when we walk down an aisle) so much as they would say, maybe, Now that’s a nice color on her, that blue.
The dress, cut and darted for an hourglass figure, now just sort of reminded me of where my curves had been by standing out stiffly and emptily from those spaces, down at least two vas from its va va va voom. I looked a bit like a teenager wearing her mother’s dress. And also, tragically, her face.
Now, as a Board-Certified Witch, I not only know what you’re thinking, but what you’re about to think (which is, roughly: Oh big fucking deal, just swap it out for a smaller size!), so let me stop you right here, and not just because I’m the only one who’s allowed to swear on my blog.
I had bought the dress at the Neiman Marcus store at the King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia—a five-hour drive from Pittsburgh, which has no local Neiman Marcus. The wedding was now only five weeks away, and there was no room in the schedule for that kind of a trip. And if you’re about to think, as I just suddenly sensed you were, that I could have just called the store or gone online and ordered the smaller size, I’d like to simply ask: OH MY GOD, why didn’t you think this to me in August??
WHY DIDN’T ANYONE THINK THIS TO ME IN AUGUST??
Okay, I’m just going to rub the keyboard imprints from my forehead now, take a small nibble of denial cake, and soldier on through the rest of this now incredibly stupid story.
So, given an ill-fitting dress and a pressing deadline, as well as a problem-solving skill set that hadn’t advanced past the technology available in the late 1980s, I did the SECOND-most logical thing, and took the dress to a tailor to have it taken in.
We had a merry little exchange, the tailor and I, which mostly involved my speaking in English and his replying in Spanish, and the whole thing went so swimmingly, with him folding up the lacy shoulders of the dress and pinning them haphazardly, and scrunching up the back of the dress and pinning it haphazardly, and even more happiness and hazardliness happening at the hips, that you’d have had no idea that what it turned out he was saying was: I’m just gonna stitch it right here, just like this, and it’s okay with you that the lace gets all smooshed up and bundled up and stupid-looking like that, yes? To which I was replying, Exactly, and with many thanks, yes!
So here’s the thing about denial: when something is bad—like, really, really fucked-up-edly bad—it only works for a couple of minutes. It helps if you squint, and turn sideways, and run your fingers over your lumpy, miss-matched material for just the briefest of moments before you let them skitter away, while your brain goes: It’s okay. No, really, it’s probably okay. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as you think it is, right, Honey?
And then your thoughts start to hemorrhage. No, you think. We do NOT call each other ‘Honey.’
And this, this is—what this is here, is,
is something that is–
Oh holy shit, this is
Next Week: It’s really more of a taupe than a beige, I’d say.