Jennifer Moses

The Mother-of-the-Bride Dress

Illustrative: ‘Jewish Wedding’ by Marco Marcuola of Venice, painted around 1780. (Wikimedia commons/ CC SA 4.0/ Moise Nedjar)

Nu? I was going to write about the nurses, nursing assistants, and health aids who took care of me with infinite gentleness in the wake of my left hip replacement last week. I was going to call the piece “Angels of the Night” and point out that night after night and day after day a rotating staff of health-care workers deal with vomit and pain and pee-pee and poop, with blood pressure and groans and overall misery, and they do it with uncommon grace despite low wages and long hours. And also that, at least at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, no one bothered with the uber-sensitive language of the language police: sometimes I was addressed as “Mrs. Green” (my married name,) but just as often I was “honey,” “sweetie,” “mamma,” and “lamb.”  The vocabulary of the heart. Spoken while arranging a bed pan under my tuchis.

Okay! Enough! Who needs to know about my wee-wee issues? Especially now, during the Age of Awful, when there are so many more pressing issues. Such as: my dress. Or rather, my dresses: two of them, one for each of my twins’ weddings. Or as we referred to them thirty years ago when they were in utero, Twin A and Twin B, a non-matched set of one girl and one boy who as of June and last week, respectively, grew up to be a bride and a groom. Making me a mother-in-law x 3, (their older brother was married some years ago,) very happy, and most of all, not as young as I used to be. For example, not as young as when I myself was a bride. And also, a hip replacement? Actually, two. I had my right hip replaced ten years ago. Both hips replaced? Isn’t that the kind of thing that applies to the seriously non-young?

Speaking of being non-young. A few weeks before our daughter’s chuppah, her first cousin—my niece—was married. Siman tov and mazel tov. But that’s not the point.  The point is  that my niece’s wedding was packed to the rafters with twenty-and-thirty-somethings looking young and vibrant and gorgeous, as if the whole world belonged to them. Dressed in various to-die-for dresses, with all kinds of die-for killer high heels, or in retro-slim suits and two-day-old stubble, they were like: ha ha—remember when?

Ah, the romance of youth! And there it was, on display, in all its cocky, happy, and happily selfish self-regard! The future spilling open like a ripped bag of your favorite candy on the kitchen counter. And all for them, those lucky, heedless, gorgeous young people who, en masse, reminded me of exactly who I was before I became a person of extreme post-youth. Because, you know, though I planned to live a very long life, the idea was that I would never actually become older. Let alone post-middle-age. Or old.

Long  story short, as we were making our way from the wedding ceremony to the tent-of-nosh, I remarked to the husband of another of my nieces that I realized that somehow, and just like that, my husband and I had traversed the invisible wall that separates the young-and-stared-at to the cute-older-couple-who-are-holding hands-at-their-age. And you know what my niece’s husband said? He said: “You got that right.”

My daughter’s wedding was a few weeks later and for months, all I did was obsess about my mother-of-the-bride dress. Given that what I wanted was your basic party/cocktail dress, albeit retrofitted for a woman of a certain age, you wouldn’t think I would have struggled. On-line shopping. In person shopping. Everything I tried on was wrong. Oh, so so wrong! Finally I found this pink figure-eight raw silk number that falls below the knees and both sufficiently covered me up and showed off what’s left of my figure, and even my daughter approved, and I was all set to go. Except of course for the shoes. The shoes! A nightmare to buy shoes. Correction: a nightmare to buy slinky strappy summer shoes that go with a figure-eight figure-hugging dress if you happen, like me, to have had a pre-replaced bad hip plus you could never wear more than a half-inch heel, not even when you were young, they crippled you.

Got the shoes anyway and they crippled me. But my daughter ratified them. (And since you’re wondering, her husband is a total mensch and we all love him and the wedding itself was exactly what she’d been dreaming of since forever, and as they say in Texas, we were kvelling with nachos.) And then the pictures arrived. Thus, I beheld with my own eyes what I look like through the photographer’s lens.

And yes, I know! Of course I know! It’s a blessing to live long enough to see your children married, to add more and more years to your wedding anniversary, to accumulate enough decades to earn the right to kvetch about the swift passage of time and wrinkles. A story as old as the olden days, but at least when my own mother was the mother-of-the-bride, she wasn’t subjected to seeing herself on Facebook or Instagram.

Two months later, and it was our daughter’s twin brother’s turn. This time the fashion goal was more on the modest side, as my son and his bride are religious, and though they were clear that there was no dress code—that all of us were free to come as ourselves—I wasn’t going to wear a figure-hugging figure-eight sleeveless dress with (I forgot to mention) a significant if not plunging V-neck. Once again the hunt was on but this time it was a breeze. Because instead of trying on countless dresses and falling into fashion-despair, I actually found a dress I loved at the Outlet Stores at Lake George. Briefly, the backstory: my husband and I spend our summers in the Adirondacks and this year the weather was lousy. Rain rain rain.  So one day, bored, we tried our luck at the Outlet Stores at Lake George and voila! A for-real designer dress—Ralph Lauren thank you very much—marked way the heck down and though it didn’t scream “mother-of-the-groom” it ticked off all my own personal boxes, including: can I wear it again? Heck, YES, I can wear it again!

And then the wedding came and suffice to say that compared to many of the other women, I was dressed fairly non-schmancy. With non-schmancy, low-heeled, just-before-hip-replacement shoes. And you know what doesn’t help? Silver hair. Of which I have lots of. And that’s because I never wanted to dye it and in fact really like it. But there I am, in those dang photos, with my silver hair and low-heeled shoes, looking most def like the proud parent of the groom and most def not like a bride or even a bridesmaid or someone’s much older sister. (Since you’re wondering, our new daughter-in-law is a peach and a love-head and we all love her, and the wedding itself was beyond joyful.)

Wrap it up, lady! Where are you going with this? The point already? No point, really, other than, as my friend Dale remarked when she made a post-surgery visit (and brought dinner to boot): you have to be a certain age to earn the right to be old enough to watch your family grow. My husband and I have three children, all of them married to the best people ever, and now we are eight.

About the Author
Jennifer Anne Moses is the author of seven books of fiction and non fiction, including The Man Who Loved His Wife, short stories in the Yiddish tradition. Her journalistic and opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Newark Star Ledger, USA Today, Salon, The Jerusalem Report, Commentary, Moment, and many other publications. She is also a painter.
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