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(Why I Need to) Say No to the Dress

January 30, 2013

“Okay,” some of you may be sighing with a visible eye-roll as accompaniment, “just what the hell is your problem with Say Yes to the Dress? Really, how is it any worse than Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, or any of the other human sewage filtration on television?”

Good question. After all, in spite of the fact that the show is even more likely than eHarmony commercials to make me invent new obscenities to lob at the television, I can’t turn away. It’s like watching a train wreck, a car spinning out on an icy highway, or Karl Rove opening his mouth on Election Night.

I know it’s bad for me. I know I will get nothing beneficial from it, and that the effects on my heart rate and blood pressure from indulging will earn a stern lecture from my doctor. In that sense, it bears a striking resemblance to eating Wendy’s or, in my cynical worldview, dating.

I also know there are some eyeballs that are now rolling audibly. “Get over yourself,” my imaginary antagonists are clucking. “So there are women who are willing to spend four digits on a clothing item that they’ll only wear once in fulfillment of Disney-induced childhood fantasies. Didn’t you do something similar when you went to prom?”

No, actually. I had to buy a dress for a New Year’s cruise I took with my family when I was sixteen. Shopping was a miserable process, but I consoled myself with the fact that I could use the damn thing on future fancy occasions. Apparently I missed the point, however: when I proudly told one of my female classmates that I didn’t have to go shopping for a dress since I had one in my closet already, she knocked me so hard across the shoulders that my glasses went flying as she roared, “Dress shopping is the best part of prom!”

I was too busy scrambling for my spectacles to retort, “So you’re saying prom’s going to suck, then?” Or to point out that I was saving money, unlike the featured bridezillas-to-be on Say Yes to the Dress. Even if I had only worn my prom dress once, I still wasn’t spending money to the tune of, to paraphrase one supposedly lucky lady, “three thousand, but if it’s four thousand, my mom’ll help me out.”

Sneer all you want. Yes, I have waxed nearly poetic over the love I have for my 56″ television. And money will always trump love in my mind, no matter how good-looking and well-endowed the dude in question might be. At least the former will guarantee food and a warm place to sleep.

So it’s not the sheer excess of capitalism that gets my goat. As my friend and relationshit counselor mentioned to me last week, we all have money-draining weaknesses that would seem pointless to others. It took a while to find mine (anything ski-related can be written off as contributing to my growth as a ski instructor, any books or computer-related items enhance my skills as a writer), but finally, I grudgingly admitted that I would like to fly to Tanzania and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro someday.

“Aha! What kind of long-term benefit would that bring your life?” he (and, I imagine, some of my critics) shouted triumphantly.

I had no good answer: I could take photos, I could gain a different cultural perspective from spending time in Tanzania before and after the hike, I could bond with my first ex-husband since I’ve just about convinced him to come along for the ride. But weddings also generate photos, introduce different traditions if you’ve got family members from other parts of the world, and create special moments between you and those closest to you.

So why would I not blink an eye at spending three, maybe four thousand dollars to fly to Tanzania for two weeks but balk at dishing out that same amount of money on a dress?

I suppose part of the big-picture problem for me is that I see marriage as a bad investment to begin with. The goal of the wedding is supposed to be (or so the traditionalists tell me) setting the foundation for a long and healthy partnership. I’m such a loner by choice that I couldn’t envision anything long-lasting or mentally enriching about such a partnership. For me, spending that kind of money on any aspect of a wedding would be about as wise as contacting Bernie Madoff in his prison cell and entrusting him with it. At least with Kilimanjaro, if I get sick or otherwise fail to accomplish my goal of summiting, I can go home and forget about the whole affair.

Part of the small-picture issue is the idea that the 3 or 4K isn’t for the whole wedding. IT’S FOR THE DRESS. For the amount of money I could spend on a two-week vacation, a prospective bride could spend on a piece of clothing that’s only supposed to be worn for one day. This is also a sum of money that could buy a decent used car. For what a young woman could spend to shine as she declares herself to the love of her life in the sight of the state, all 500 of the couple’s extended family members, and any religious authorities that may be involved, she could have a nice nest egg for a honeymoon, home goods, or even a contribution to the down payment on the house. I suspect even Bernie Madoff would shake his head at the shortsightedness of that investment!

I understand that this is a matter of opinion and perspective. Many people do value the kind of companionship that a stable marriage can bring, and especially for those who want to have families someday and honor that notion by celebrating their union with the family members who are already here on earth, a wedding with an audience is a necessity rather than a frivolity. But I still fail to understand how spending thousands of dollars on a dress is an essential part of that equation. Isn’t the point saying yes to the family of the past, present, and future? Does it really matter that much what you’re saying yes in, as long as you agree with what you’re saying yes to?

It must, or the show would’ve been canceled by now. Since I’m clearly missing something, maybe I’ll switch over to the Travel Channel. Right about the same time I stop eating fast food and making fun of former Bush administration bigwigs and other wealthy crooks.


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  1. See your point completely although I can’t stop watching that d*mn show and if I ever meet a man that I would actually consider marrying (the concept is cray to me as well)… I’d spend tons of money on the biggest celebration ever! A miracle would have truly taken place… you gotta celebrate that sh*t in style!

    • It’s an addictive show. I’ll be able to stop watching it the day I can vow never to eat another Wendy’s Double-Bacon Cheeseburger, which will be on the 12th of Never. For your wedding, though, I’d say that’s less of a miracle than simply finding a man with good taste! And while I’m all for wild celebrations, but my guests would be lucky if I dug through my closet to find something other than jeans and hiking boots for the occasion.

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