Nerd Wedding

Originally published in Milwaukee Journal, Lifestyle Section, June 7, 1992

Isn’t the dress a woman wears on her wedding day something that she keeps and treasures throughout her life? Isn’t it taken out of the box every decade or so when memories are rekindled, and a few tears are shed? Not so for me.

Although the husband associated with it was long gone, I wasn’t even aware I’d lost track of that dress until I saw the picture. My niece, Julie, was looking high and low and in a box of my old clothes stored in her parent’s basement, she’d found perfection. The picture was proof: my 17-year-old niece, wearing the dress I was married in. She’d worn it to school for Nerd Day!

I hadn’t thought about that dress for a long time and wasn’t even aware I still possessed it. Second, I couldn’t believe how memories flooded back of the day I’d worn it. Just when you think you have things all sorted out, it comes back and slaps you right in the face.

Although not the traditional wedding dress, it was really nice. A sun dress, plain and simple in style, it was white with bunches of little flowers—red, yellow and purple flowers—sleeveless, featuring a sash that tied in the front. It was very short and stylish for its time. That was spring, 1975.

I remember having such high hopes. We’d stopped at the clerk’s office for the license on our way to visit Helen and Jack in Minneapolis. We’d never mentioned anything until the night before.

“We’re getting married tomorrow, have a noon appointment with a judge at the courthouse. Would you be our witnesses?” All this secrecy prevented any planning that surely would have resulted in a fuss being made.

Heaven forbid that a fuss should be made. He was the epitome of the reluctant groom, a child of the 60’s, insisting we didn’t need a piece of paper. My ultimatum had paid off. Or so I thought.

The next day, as we waited outside the judge’s chambers, Helen took me aside and whispered “do you really want to do this?” What does she know that I don’t, I naively wondered. Much later I’d realize the secrecy was just the start of a cruel pattern to preserve his playboy reputation. At the time, I looked into Helen’s eyes and thought, but did not say: “oh well, if it doesn’t work I can always get a divorce.” What a beginning!

We stood before the judge during noon recess in his court. The whole thing took ten minutes. And now I wonder. Is it poetic justice that my wedding dress had its greatest day being worn by a high school senior to Nerd Day? What does it all mean?

maybe it means that life is just a joke or that we need to laugh at the past and learn from it. And I have done both of those things. The marriage was never good, but I sure learned a lot. And on a good day I can even say I have no regrets.

Or maybe it means that nothing is as serious as we first think. Marriages and many other things come and go. We adjust the best we can and go on. I’ve learned over the years, from the marriage and relationships since, that there are no guarantees, and worrying doesn’t make things turn our differently.

Or maybe it means beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My niece thought that dress was beautiful because it was nerdy. I thought it was beautiful but for different reasons. That husband I thought was right for me I now know was a poor choice. Interesting how, over time, our view of beauty changes.

So, my wedding dress became for a brief moment that day, a symbol of my past and also of the progress I’ve made in my life. Or maybe it meant nothing at all.

I can’t help but wonder where that dress is now. I’m sure Julie discarded it after that day. It probably ended up in a box designated for Salvation Army. From there, who knows? Perhaps, it was snatched up by a young girl with limited funds, proudly worn to an interview for her first real job. Or maybe it was used to fashion a colorful square for a new baby’s treasured quilt. I can only hope and imagine it has gone on to a new and better life. As have I.

We had lots of fun that afternoon talking and laughing about Nerd Day. I smile when I recall Julie’s face, beaming and proud of her ability to create an impressive nerd look. I feel proud too.

see the whole thing in its proper perspective and feel all the feelings usually involved in such an event.            But most importantly, I know I’ll be able to navigate whatever potholes lie ahead and make the best of whatever comes my way. That is life, after all.


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