Because I find a blue embroidery tulle wedding dress at the thrift store and can’t tell whether it is hideous or magnificent, and because it fits me so lovingly, and because, more than any of it, I suppose, I am just the right amount of me, I end up at a dinner party hosted by the entrepreneur rather uniquely adorned.
“Oh wow,” he says, but not exactly enthusiastically, as I enter.
It is only he and I and another man in the kitchen, and he staggers through an introduction.
“Liam, this is my girlfriend.” He stalls here a moment, pained for a way to continue. “Wearing a very special outfit.”
I smile sweetly. Lightly touch Liam’s arm. “Tenpin bought me this dress in San Francisco,” I tell him. “He asked me to make sure I wore it the first time I met you.”
Both men are without reaction. Less nonplussed than just altogether blank.
My son enters then; he’s been invited, too. He sees me and shakes his head, gives the entrepreneur a small head nod, and then just continues through to mingle with people more aligned than his mother with the standards of social convention.
He is good at it, my son. Social convention. It’s a curious thing, to recognize that he hungers for a certain facade of highbred normalcy. My collegiate-looking son, less likely to get his freak on, but a worthy cohort nonetheless. His magnanimity with me and his hilarious quick wit give him a pass.
I move to the basement, where the entrepreneur stockpiles the alcohol.
“That’s a lovely dress,” a young woman, whom I take to be the babysitter, tells me, as we pass in the hall.
“Thank you. I made it myself,” I tell her.
In the basement, I crack open a can of Guinness and down almost all of it in one swallow. Despite appearances, wearing a wedding dress, however casual, to a dinner party is no easy feat. It takes guts. And alcohol. Those two. In spades.
The entrepreneur’s gorgeous young sons are in the living room when I climb back up the stairs and run to greet me. “Is that your special outfit?” they ask, letting me know the word must be out.
“This?” I smile, pointing to my dress. “No, this is not it. The special outfit requires a costume change, which will come in about an hour.”
They look at the dress, then back at my face, uncertain. While I know without hesitation that they like me, I also sense that a certain fear lives somewhere in there, too.
When I perceive it, in their pure and innocent faces, that fear, there is a part of me that feels afraid, too.
What happens to a helium-based woman incapable of containing herself?
“She finds an exoskeleton in your father,” I think to myself, pushing aside the notion that surely he has his limits for tolerating my particular brand of crazy, too.
His dinner guests are all seated around a table on the heated patio. I join them, seeing an empty seat next to him that must surely be reserved for me.
“Hello, love, we were waiting for you,” he allows.
“I’ve been down in the basement shotgunning beers,” I consider explaining, but refrain.
“I’m Vanessa,” a woman from across the table announces. Vanessa being a woman I’ve never met but relentlessly ridiculed for the last several months, just for kicks, and maybe owing to a tinge of jealousy.
Vanessa stands and begins circling the table to greet me.
“Are we going to embrace?” I query, momentarily blindsided.
And in fact that is what happens.
She then returns to her seat next to my son, and speaks to him affectionately in a foreign language. I feel, for a moment, a little out of my element. Then remember that I am wearing a wedding dress, and that the entire framework of my existence, at the current moment, is designed to intentionally propel me not only out of my own element, but anyone’s.
“That’s quite a dress,” the entrepreneur mentions, as he pulls out a chair for me.
“Thank you,” I respond. “It was bequeathed to me by my great-grandmother. She was jilted at her wedding so I pull it out once a year on the anniversary. It’s a family tradition.”
My son actually laughs out loud; he’s such a good sport.
“I don’t believe that for a fucking second,” the entrepreneur says, pushing me back in.
“Your son was telling us about your college trip this spring,” Vanessa says. Why she would be an advocate of mine I’ve no idea.
“He’s not my son,” I say. Perhaps what I mean is that I can’t take credit for his magnificence, but now lies are just cascading out of my mouth like they’re orphans looking for a home.
“Did you find him in a basket floating down the river?” the babysitter, who is apparently not the babysitter, asks. She is sitting beside me now.
“I did,” I say, turning to her, wondering how the entrepreneur knows this person and whose idea it was to put her next to me.
Later she’ll regale us with an outlandishly innocent story of the first time she got drunk and jumped on the bed with her girlfriend.
“Do you mean into bed?” I posit, trying to be helpful in much the way she was for me.
Exempting that, I forego verbal participation, until Vanessa rolls out an end-of-night, “So, what is everyone doing tomorrow?” as she’s helping to carry in dishes.
“I’m going to be very busy scrapbooking,” I idly respond.
“Scrapbooking! HA!” she screams, as she moves through the screen door, laughing.
Despite myself, I smile, too, and lean back in my chair to watch her walking away.