Like many who came of age in the late 1960s, I never marched down a rose petal-strewn church aisle in a drift of white lace and tulle. My wedding was more of a backyard, potluck affair in which my parents were relieved I wore a bra and shoes, let alone a ball gown. This may explain my fixation with the reality TV show Say Yes to the Dress, which allows me to vicariously have my long overdue Princess Bride moment.
Reality TV Brides
Even though I abhor reality TV and could care less what the Housewives of Kookamonga are up to, I can’t get enough of these brides shopping for the one dress that makes them burst into tears. Even though the program airs more re-runs than Law & Order and its taste level regularly runs off the rails. (Oh, look, a detachable skirt so you can wear it to go bowling!) What keeps me glued to this parade of dewy-eyed brides is the fantasy that underlies the premise. All anxieties, fears, and disappointments will vanish. Not when you find the right mate or right career, but when you find the right dress.
I watch, mesmerized, as women of all ages, shapes, and sizes try on gowns the size of Thanksgiving floats. It all builds to a dramatic moment when they gaze at their reflection and gasp, “I’m a bride”. They hand over their credit card in exchange for ten yards of synthetic satin and lace; made in a factory in China. I admit I am titillated by the price tags. Who are these TwentySomethings who spend up to ten thousand for a dress they will wear only once? I mean, I know the economy has recovered but damn.
Guilty TV Pleasure
Meanwhile, my home looks like it was tossed by the FBI. Dishes marinate in the sink. Homeless socks migrate. There’s a layer of cat hair on the carpet so thick it moves. How can I be expected to vacuum or do laundry when a tattooed bride from Nebraska is trying on a black wedding gown?
At first, I was embarrassed about watching young women buy ridiculously expensive, hideous tulle and rhinestone gowns. It was something I did in private; like being a secret drinker. Then, one day, I blurted out my guilty pleasure to a friend.
“Oh, I love that show,” responded Jane. “The gowns are so vulgar and the prices! Who spends that kind of money?” Jane was secretly married during our sophomore year of college. She didn’t even tell her parents with whom she lived at the time, let alone march down an aisle.
That did it for me. I wasn’t the only highly educated professional, weaned on Vogue, who relished seeing women make major fashion faux pas on cable TV. Think about it. If the show featured brides in elegant, understated gowns that didn’t plunge down to there or set them adrift in a sea of feathers and Swarovski bling, who would watch? No one. The same goes for the outrageous prices which convince gullible teenage girls across the country that if Mommy and Daddy really love them, they’ll happily shell out as much for a wedding gown as for a new car.
Plus, it allows me, as a divorced senior, to imagine what I would wear if I were to remarry. Certainly not acres of white satin that cost as much as a yacht. No, I envision myself prancing down the aisle of a church (or supermarket) in a beaded flapper dress to the tune of Anything Goes. Or maybe wearing a batik sarong with a flower in my hair. Which just happens to be what I wore for my first wedding.
Reality TV Escapism
Ultimately, Say Yes to the Dress is escapism at its best. It takes me away from the daily assault of grab-your-pearls news. The Barbarians are at the gates! California is burning! Cheerios contain arsenic! The predictable storyline lowers my anxiety and IQ to a blissful slush the consistency of a slurpy.
From the comfort of my sofa, my cerebral cortex miraculously disengages as I watch a never-ending assortment of brides-to-be project all their childhood hopes and dreams onto the One Dress that will change their life forever. If I had such a magical dress, I might actually get off my sofa and tackle this mess.
Stacia Friedman is a widely published humorist whose column appears in PurpleClover.com, FunnyTimes.com, Newsworks.org, and GetInTheGroove.com. Her novel “Tender is the Brisket” is available on Amazon.
Stacia Friedman, 215-617-7305
PO Box 4356, Philadelphia, PA 19118