It's astonishing how regularly my life compass swings back to hover and twitch above the idea of Permission. (Clearly, with a capital P.) I mean, how many times must I relearn a sharp lesson, like how many shakes of red pepper is too many for the sauce or how this wannabe shortcut fails into a one way street or how the spindling seed of every liberating decision in the past 10 years has been to grant myself permission to be good and kind to myself? To honor my gifts. Pursue my dreams. Expect exceptional love. Splurge every now and again. Prune my inner circle of brush and thorns. Speak my truth, always. Be good and kind to me for no reason at all.
I've had the "Permission" conversation with myself to release the internal tension all these things have produced. For more than a decade, for instance, writing anything that hadn't been commissioned or wasn't being shaped expressly for the stage felt selfish and indulgent with so many emails to check, laundry to fold and PB&Js to make. My brain categorizes an evening of pampering my feet + DVR as "life balance" so the hours might remain somewhat guiltless. After my divorce, kicking the tires of potential "situation-ships" seemed more efficient than expecting a *snort* perfect romance. Thifting is my only anxiety-free shopping. Again and again, I negotiate and campaign with my own self for Permission to pursue bliss, without qualification.
This time it's about dresses. Well, one dress.
The Permission talk does work. I can testify to that. Focus on writing? My novel releases nationwide in May. ManiPedi Therapy? My fingers and toes pop with new colors every week. Holding out for a perfect romance? Well, I'll be bride again next summer.
We decided, right away, on a destination affair with our closest family and friends, which means much of the hard work is already done. There's still the business of invitations and a videographer, but everything else will be rather nontraditional. No wedding party. No centerpieces. No reverend. No garter toss. No housewares gift registry. Exquisitely unassuming, much like the two of us.
But that dress.
Even when a wedding was just a prospect for us, I pictured a simple, elegant silhouette. No lace. No tiny buttons. No long, opulent train. No losing my grown-up mind over a dress.
"I know it's silly," I told my then-boyfriend, "but I can't shake the idea that I've 'spent' that girly chit already. Y'know, we've both done this before and, y'know, we're not twenty-something. I know. Silly."
Now, a season later, my boyfriend has become my fiance. The confetti excitement over the ring and the proposal and the date and the colors are settling and, now, I've started thinking about the dress. Elegant. Simple. Flattering. Functional. Practical. Reasonable. Wait-a-minute...
I'm not interested in a couture ballgown to rival Cinderella's, but realized that I didn't want ... "functional," "practical" or "reasonable" as guiding filters for finding a wedding dress, either. Aside from an outrageous price tag, what is "too" fancy or "too" white or "too" youthful or "too" elaborate or "too" much when it comes to my own wedding? When it comes to giving myself what I want? When it comes to giving myself Permission to be a giddy bride-to-be?
"Babe, I bought a bridal magazine today," I told my fiance, hearing the yellow tape warning in my voice.
"I'd be surprised if you hadn't," he said.
"Well, I wasn't going to," I said. "We don't need them to help us plan but ... I've decided to go ahead and chick it out over this dress."
I could hear him smiling into the phone. "You should," he said. "You're going to be a bride, and you're going to be breathtaking."
I told him how lucky I was to find him and he told me he loved me, too, and then reminded me of my promise not to obsess over doilies. I confirmed, but reminded him that I reserved the right to fixate on at least one inexplicable, got-to-have-it accessory. "So far," I told him, "it's looking like the eco-friendly wish lanterns."
The agreement will be an easy one to keep. Neither the "small stuff" nor the pomp of tradition are of interest to either one of us this time around. We're more mature about our needs and less democratic with the outside world about what we want. We are intent on crafting a milestone more than producing an event. For what we have in mind, we won't need any doilies. Or place settings. Or raffia napkin holders. Or cake tastings. Or candelabras. Or Jordan almonds. Or shoe dye. Or suspenders. Just this dress.