When I found out that my husband cheated on me, I did what anyone would do in that situation: I lost my mind. I cried, I broke things, I puked my brains out, turned to revenge and got rid of everything in my life that was a reminder of our relationship. Had I had it my way, my wedding dress would have gone in the trash with all the rest of it, but since it was at my parents’ house, my mother decided to hide it. She wasn’t going to let a dress that had cost thousands of dollars be dumped in the garbage. She also thought I’d want it someday when the rage and sadness had finally disappeared.
During a recent visit to my parents’ house and after a bottle of expensive champagne, I made my mother dig the wedding dress out of its hiding place. As I stared at it, I remembered how I felt a year ago when I knew, without a doubt, I’d never be able to look at it again. But I apparently I was wrong. I pulled the dress from the clear travel bag it’d been hanging in since my wedding and put the damn thing on. I watched Jaws in it, fell asleep in it, and wore the entire next day. My mother was right — I would want it someday, but not for the reasons she’d thought.
Here’s what I learned after wearing my wedding dress for a whopping 24 hours, some of which took place in public, a year after my marriage came to an end.
- Facing the past is freeing. As I waltzed around in that dress (and, boy, did I waltz), I was staring my past down fearlessly. I was recognizing the person I was the day I married my ex, what I felt when I kissed him, danced with him, celebrated our love for each other with friends and family, and even the way the damp ground felt beneath my bare feet when I had given up on my heels. And guess what? I wasn’t sad. Not a single tear was shed — not even when I realized the grocery store didn’t have ice cream cake.
- You have to own the present. The day I got married, I wore bright blue Jimmy Choo heels — shoes that have since been dramatically thrown out a window in the Lower East Side. But when I wore my wedding dress the other day, I rocked it with my beat-up black high-top Chucks that I’ve had for years, long before I even met the man that I would marry. I may have been a Jimmy Choo girl the day I got married, but every other day, I pair those awesomely disgusting things with just about everything. Sitting on a curb, in the middle of summer, sucking on an iced coffee, in Chucks is me. It didn’t matter that my wedding dress was my outfit. In that moment, I was me to my core, owning it all. I was completely cognizant of what had brought me to that point in my life and I’d never felt more comfortable in my skin.
- What a difference a year makes. When I was tearing all the things out of my life that had even the slightest chance of being affiliated with my husband in the future, I honestly never thought I’d recover from the betrayal. I firmly believed in the hours, days, weeks and months that followed that I would never bounce back. But there I was, 3PM on a Saturday, asking the woman at the grocery store bakery to write “Congratulations, Amanda,” on a cake because I have no more f*cks to give.
- You can’t put too much importance on tangible stuff. When I threw out all that stuff that, at least as I saw it, represented my relationship, I thought I was taking a step forward. I wasn’t. I was just angrily throwing stuff out. Whether it’s a stack of photos, a sweater he gave me for my birthday or my wedding dress, these things don’t matter. They’re just things that become part of the relationship; they don’t represent or define the relationship. Because of that, I shouldn’t fear them. Especially not enough to dramatically destroy them, as if in doing so, my pain will be magically erased. That’s not how life work.
- Being absurd is sometimes necessary. I subscribe to Anatole France’s thoughts on human nature: “It is human nature to think wisely and act in an absurd fashion.” I had to be absurd after what I’d gone through in the past year. I felt this overwhelming need to make fun of the relationship that was no longer. I needed to be ridiculous and have myself a laugh about it. Why? Because it’s funny. All of it. Life is funny and weird and fantastic and gorgeous and stupid and a billion other things tied into a single lifetime that’s so fleeting that to not have a laugh about this chapter of my life would have been wrong. I would have learned nothing from the experience, if I didn’t stand in a parking lot in New Hampshire pleading with my mother to take my photo so I could never forget just how absurd it all is.
- The dress fits me better now. When I wore the dress the day I got married, I fit into it great. But now the dress fits me better. In fact, because of that, I look better in it, feel better in it, and love myself better in it than I did the day I got married. I don’t have to conform to get into that dress now; it conforms to me. And just for the record, I don’t see myself conforming to anything else anytime soon.