On my Birthday eve - yes, tomorrow is my Birthday, Happy Birthday to me - I reflect on a friend's recent description of a dress shopping experience from the weekend. On trying on multitudes of fluffy confections, I, in her words, struggled to free myself from a "prison of ivory organza." Indeed, one wonders why boutiques offer small dressing rooms for giant dress situations. A space smaller than a handicapped bathroom stall is expected to accomodate yards of tulle and train as a woman realizes that preparing for one of the most graceful moments in her life involves an absolute loss of grace, dignity and poise. A consultant may help alleviate the more confusing moments involving seventy zippers, lace up backs, crinoline underskirts and hidden snaps, but even then I realized that in those moments, she serves a similar capacity to a nurse at the doctor's office. You form a bond with some woman named Danielle because she sees you in your underwear and cues you on what's happening next. "I'm going to take your temperature now." "I'm going to smother you in yards of ugly taffeta." You wear a gown open in the back in front of several people so they can diagnose the situation. "That color looks really good against your skin." "That waistline is wierd." "Where did your bust go?" "Your butt looks good in that." But all of this is endured, for the rare, inevitable moment that makes the longsuffering infinitely endurable. The lights dim, the ivory cathedral length veil glimmers, and suddenly the heavy hospital gown feeling fades, cinderella emerging from the servanthood of oversized bows. It borders on miraculous, that sense that one is seeing in the mirror what echoes from childhood dreams and fancies, this vision of a woman's rite of passage preparing the soil of the soul for what will become. In an instant, the bedraggled shopper is caught by the image reflected back to her. She will be a bride. And a few - a very few - gowns remind her that they are all subservient to this reality. The best gown will magnify it the most clearly, the most simply, the most beautifully.
Recently I read an intriguing article in which the author suggested that dressing up actually prepares us for being like what we're dressing up as. When we try to "dress up" like Jesus, that actively begins to make us more like Jesus. We are practicing our new role, mimicking the words that shape a new season.
Poor fits, overabundant ruffles, and heavy skirts must be waded through. It is a burden women dream about having. "I want to wrestle through circus tent sized gowns only to find they look revolting on me." Because we know that, soon enough, a familiar looking woman will smile back at us in the mirror and we will catch a glimpse of what we will be. It is a glimpse worth waiting for.