So my friend Jonathan wants to revive my dead fish of a novel. In a nutshell, I expelled a great deal of blood and sweat working a harrowing full-time job in Chicago while simultaneously maintaining a life and writing an entire novel. Three hundred and fifty pages, if you must know (okay, double spaced, get off me).
It’s about an overweight woman and her overbearing mother (not the slightest bit autobiographical). The editors who looked at it told me my book “wasn’t right for their house”- they felt that these characters were too “pathetic” and “mean.” I don’t know, to me, they were simply real.
Anyway, my agent couldn’t sell the puppy so I shoved it in a drawer and drank myself silly (four sips of cheap Merlot and one McDonald’s milkshake a day) to forget about it. Since then, I’ve accepted its demise and moved on to start a second novel and, frankly, a whole new life.
Until, that is, my very skilled and publishing-savvy friend Jonathan suggested he’d read it, provide input, and help me refine it so it’d appeal to his high-powered New York agent–a woman with, apparently, all the right editorial contacts. Not to mention a great sales record and a clear eye for talent.
With Jonathan behind me, it’s clear I’m on the road to a three-book deal, a large advance, great prosperity, thin knees, an entirely new handbag collection, apologies from all those who’ve scorned me, and worldwide acclaim. Even though all he said was, “Give it to me. I’ll see what I can do.” But hey, this writer’s optimistic! (Not really.)
Last week, I went for my first fitting and my best friend Lorrie came with me for moral support. (What if the dress, after all these months, was too small? Looked bad? Wasn’t as I remembered it?) The good news is the dress was too big. The bad news is it made me look like I was about to run in a picnic race.
I went into the dressing room to put it on, shouting through the curtain at Lorrie, “Don’t look.”
“I’m not looking.”
“Wait until I have it all on.” Putting on a wedding dress is a little like putting on community theater. It takes some time and, typically, an amateur is running things. “Are you ready?”
“Been waiting 40 years. C’mon out.”
I waddle out, lifting the skirts up over my ankles and standing on my tippy toes to slip into my Baby Phat silver crystal wedge sandals. “Well?” I’m holding back tears.
She says nothing.
“It looks bad, right? Like where’s my partner and the potatoes, right?”
Silence. Then finally, “It’s bad.”
“Okay, but Jill, that’s why you’re here. To meet with the seamstress.”
We walk into the back room where Anna is waiting for us. She takes one look at me and shakes her head. “Okay, well, you lost weight, that I can see.”
“Yes, but look.” I am frowning.
“Okay, okay,” she says in a thick Eastern European accent, beckoning for me to stand on a platform in front of a three-way mirror. “Don’t look ahead, don’t look up, don’t look down, and don’t look to the right or to the left. Close your eyes and don’t move until I tell you to.”
“O-kay. Please, don’t hurt me.” I’m thinking pin pricks.
Lorrie bursts out laughing. “What’s she gonna do to you that that dress isn’t already doing?”
“Okay, honey, relax,” Anna says. Her voice is soothing, like a perfect white tee shirt.
I stand still with my eyes closed for 10 minutes while Anna performs her magic. And when I open them, I am transformed from bag lady to blushing bride, a combination of silk and taffeta clinging to my body like skin on a newborn child.
The room is silent. I start to cry. Anna smiles. Lorrie tells me I look like a model. But I am lost in my own image. Something I never thought I’d get to see–me in a wedding dress–at least while I was hyperconscious.