There is so much I wanted to tell you, my friend, when you texted me from the dressing room.
Everything I wanted to say was way more than my phone could hold, it turns out, and more than I could at the time because I happened to be in a meeting that was way less important than you are.
I wanted to tell you that bridesmaid dresses are instruments of torture in a rainbow of colors and that their sizes are lies. I'd add that spaghetti straps are pointless and possibly even worse than strapless in some cases, and I'd like to have a word with whoever decided these are strong design choices for most of us, anyway. Really, I mean this especially on marathon days of dancing and drinking and endless photos, climbing into and out of limos we almost never ride in otherwise and standing in awkward positions defying physics to help our best friends go to the ladies room in complicated formal wear.
I would like to tell you that I consider wearing one of these get-ups and also telling someone that she doesn't have to and can stand up for you on one of the most important days of your life in a garment of her choosing to be equal and opposite acts of love.
And I want you to know that I know that no amount of telling you this may matter when the 14 won't zip, when you think like you do and like I do, too. Positive reinforcement and empathy do little to contend with a roll of fat at the waist or one that pokes out from where sleeves would normally be. And yes, the numbers suck, these inflated sizes ingrained in our mind as assessments of self-worth rather than seemingly random measurements made by some pre-fab mass-producers. It was not a banner day for me when -- at my most solid 14 at all other stores in the universe -- I had to pay 20 extra dollars for an 18 dress in bridesmaid land.
Most of these dresses aren't really made for you.
They surely aren't made for me.
I don't know who they are made for -- in terms of personal style and cost alone -- but in size, too.
And even though I know it may not have mattered at the moment you texted, it's just true that where you see flaws, I only see one of the best people I know. Someone who would tell me the same things, someone for whom I want self-forgiveness almost as much as I want it for myself. The parts of your sum are what they are, and you will rip them to shreds as many of us have learned to do -- but I won't, because I can't, and because I won't. That's not why I'm here. It's my job as your friend to do the opposite of that, and it turns out that that job is really easy.
It's not like I can lie, though. Back fat is real. Rolls are real, sure. I look at my arms sideways in sleeveless things and you'd think I'd committed a felony, the trash I talk about myself in my head. We are the sizes we are for whatever confluence of genetics and lifestyle we represent. Sometimes it's upsetting if it doesn't match up with our expectations or the woman standing next to us or the pretty dress we really hoped would fit (especially if there is a bridal store saleswoman or a friend-of-a-friend or an in-law outside the door asking, maddeningly, "How does it look?") but instead, unfortunately, does not. And there are worse problems, yes. I'm under no illusion that this is a life-or-death situation, the ticking up of a size or three in ridiculous formal wear anything less than a first-world problem, but the self-loathing it can cause is insidious and saying that it shouldn't exist doesn't make it any less real. When it relates to the body we carry with us every day, it's really damaging, and I don't want that for you. I don't want it for me. I don't want it for any well-meaning woman trying nothing more than to do the right things.
I especially don't want it because it circles back to the beauty and the curse in the design that you can technically do what you want to in response. Control is implied. Diet. Eat with abandon. Exercise. Drink. End up where a lot of us do who have been on this train for many years and find no sense of balance or moderation between deprivation and overindulgence, self-righteousness and self-hatred. But at some point you have to decide -- for the hundredth or maybe even the final time -- what you can take in order to look like you think you may want to look.
How much it's worth to fit into this or that dress.
And I'll support you in that, too, as long as you aren't hurting yourself, because I can't support that at all. Not when what I really hope, what I really want is at some point for you to stop kicking your own ass, because I know how much it hurts, what a misuse of energy it is.
And this is why we need each other, why we need friends, because left to our own devices we face a lifetime of being alone in small, harshly-lit rooms with too many hangers and three-way mirrors and also our most raging insecurities and self-hatred. In the dressing room, we feel it more than we feel it in most places. We should never have to be in places like that alone. We should always have someone there, just outside, anyway, who loves us, who will tell us the truth, who knows that spaghetti straps can be really, really wrong and that strapless -- on many of us -- makes no sense.
That is why the next time -- any time -- you are in there, more than anything it's important that you know that you can call me or text me and tell me it sucks all over again, if you're having that kind of experience. And I won't think you're crazy or neurotic (well, maybe a little, but who can help it?) or vain, because I know you're (mostly) not, and I understand. Because I've been in there, too.
Really all that's important I tell you in the end is the usual: I love you, you're great and real, true things should matter most. And in this case, size isn't one of those things even when it sucks when clothes don't fit. And regardless of numbers, when the time comes to put whatever on that you choose or is chosen for you, you will be beautiful. Because you always are, no matter what anyone thinks. Especially you.
Laurie White writes at LaurieWrites. Her photos are on Flickr