83: “It’s truly a blessing”

Bernie liked shopping. She did not like shopping with her mother. That made shopping for a wedding dress something of a challenge. Ultimately, she and her mother were too similar. Bernie didn’t know many people who wanted to be exactly like their mothers and she was no exception. She went out of her way to be as opposite to her mother as possible, which usually meant that she was contrary about dumb, meaningless things. This was the exact reason she got DJ Tanner bangs in the mid-2000s. Her mother had suggested she get a nice side bang, like Rachel Bilson from The O.C., but in an effort to be uselessly rebellious, Bernie had steadfastly demanded that the stylist give her DJ Tanner bangs. She ended up looking about a decade out of date and her mother has the satisfaction of being right yet again.

Bernie invited Lawrence’s mother, Alice Wu, to come along as well. This pleased her mother because she and Alice were best friends. Bernie had come to the realization that hers and Lawrence’s entire relationship was in fact just another thing her mother had been right about. She’d spent years trying to get Bernie and Lawrence together. In retrospect, Bernie recognized that the primary reason it took so long to turn into something was because she was so opposed to doing what her mother wanted her to do. She wasn’t sure how she felt about this, except that it definitely wasn’t great, so she was choosing not to reflect on it too much. This was near impossible with her mother taking every available opportunity to gush to Alice about how great it was that her grand plan for Bernie and Lawrence had finally worked out.

Bernie also invited her bridesmaids along to help her choose a dress. She mostly just wanted them to be a part of it, but she could admit that she had also invited them as a buffer between her and her mother. As she told Priscilla, who she had asked to be her maid of honour, their first task as bridesmaids was to make sure that both she and her mother made it to the wedding day.

“So we’re to prevent you from murdering your mother in a bridal store fitting room,” Priscilla summarized.

“At least until she’s paid for the dress,” Tallulah added, rolling her eyes.

Bernie had made appointments at three different bridal boutiques. Her mother and Alice drove into the city and picked up Bernie and her bridesmaids at hers and Lawrence’s place. Since none of Bernie’s friends owned cars, both her mother and Alice had to drive. Bernie went in her mother’s car along with Priscilla and Tallulah. That left Sybil, Jemima, and Iggy with Alice in her nice, clean, black SUV. Bernie’s mother still drove a minivan. Bernie had no idea why her parents had even owned a minivan in the first place, given that they were a family of three. It probably would’ve made more sense for more people to go in the minivan rather than the SUV, but Alice had promised that they would be able to listen to whatever radio station they wanted. As Bernie’s mother would undoubtedly be listening to a talk radio show about gardening, Bernie didn’t exactly blame Jemima, Sybil, and Iggy for wishing to ride with Alice.

The first store they went to was quaint and bright. The saleswoman was a very helpful woman named Debra, who kept trying to convince Bernie that she would look amazing in a full-skirted ball gown. The bigger, the better was Debra’s motto. She said it applied to a lot of different things, a statement she followed with a particularly crude wink. Tallulah found this hilarious. She spent the rest of the appointment winking lewdly at anyone who would look her way, including Alice and Bernie’s mother. Alice told Bernie she had such lively friends. Bernie wasn’t convinced that was the right word for it.

Bernie learned a lot about herself during that first appointment. Primarily she learned that she didn’t have a lot of patience. At one point, while her mother and Alice were off perusing the showroom floor with Debra, in search of yet another hideously pouffy dress Bernie had yet to try on, Bernie took the opportunity to complain to her friends about her current situation.

“First of all, this is only the first appointment,” Sybil pointed out unhelpfully. “Secondly, please consider this karma for all those times you forced us to help you dress yourself.”

She looked quite smug. She looked significantly less so by the time they reached their third appointment and third bridal boutique of the day without having had much success. Bernie’s mother had taken Debra’s ball gown idea and run with it. She wanted Bernie to wear something with a massively large skirt. Bernie kept saying that Lawrence wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near her if the skirt was so big, but her mother wasn’t having any of it. Alice, bless her, was attempting to play peacekeeper. And Bernie’s friends were mostly just starving and bored and obviously trying not to be too vocal about both of those facts in front of the salespeople and Bernie’s mother alike.

The saleswoman at the third store was a woman named Yvonne. She had a heavy accent and a hook nose, but the most enviable cheekbones Bernie had ever seen. She was also quite a blunt woman. When Bernie’s mother first suggested the idea of a fluffy ball gown, Yvonne was quite blatantly horrified.

“A ball gown?” She repeated in outrage, pointing to Bernie. “On her? She’ll drown.”

Bernie decided Yvonne was her favourite.

Bernie had tried on thirteen dresses and pretty much lost the will to live as they approached the end of their appointment with Yvonne. She was no closer to finding a dress, though she was incredibly relieved that her mother had finally dropped the notion that she should wear a ball gown with the circumference of a size of a small circus tent.

“I guess we’ll have to try another day,” Bernie said to the group, slumping down into an available gold-painted chair, still wearing a partially done-up wedding dress. Sybil gave her a horrified look. Then, without warning, she got up and walked away. Bernie half-wondered if she had decided to leave of her own volition. But then she returned a couple minutes later with a dress in her hands. She thrust it at Bernie.

“Put this on,” she demanded. Yvonne looked unimpressed. Bernie’s mother looked unimpressed. Even Bernie felt unimpressed.

“It doesn’t hurt to try,” Alice said, ever the optimistic peacekeeper. Bernie sighed and stood up, taking the new dress into the fitting room to try. It was nothing she thought she’d wanted. She’d been looking at dresses with lace and beading and form-fitting skirts. That part was largely to spite her mother. She’d also tried on a plethora of ball gowns. The dress Sybil had given her had a narrow satin band around the waist and a skirt that fell in gentle drapes to the floor. There was a slit up one side. The neckline plunged, but there were fluttering cap sleeves. The entire thing was patterned with delicate ropes of beads. When she emerged from the fitting room, tentatively hopeful, her mother cried.

“You have a gift,” Yvonne told Sybil, but she didn’t seem happy about it. Neither did Sybil.

“It’s truly a blessing,” she agreed dryly.


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