It’s always a big deal to meet your girlfriend’s family. I have been waiting for this moment for a few months now so I should be excited to have been invited to the wedding as Kelly’s date. Unfortunately, I have not a single thing to wear to the event. I know how petty and juvenile and shallow that complaint sounds, but first impressions are everything. I want my first in-person meeting with Kelly’s family to be a positive one. They say parents can single-handedly ruin a relationship, and I’m dimwitted enough to believe this tale as gospel.
Anyway, I know this whole gig is very formal. It actually said formalwear on the “plus one” invitation that Kelly gave to me. I accepted out of excitement. There wasn’t a moment even spared to consider what it would cost to dress for the wedding. Sure, I’m not going to wearing a huge gown or anything similar. It is a summer wedding. I can easily do a simple cocktail dress. Minimalist seems to be my choice of fashion anyway.
Unfortunately again, I don’t make enough to justify that large of a purchase. Even working in a dress shop with a ten percent discount doesn’t bring the price of a decent dress down enough for me to buy. Kelly is excited and has been texting me pictures every morning this week. She can’t choose between these three pastel‑colored dresses. One is yellow with a low cut front – and oh goodness, the things I would do to her when we got home. The other two are variations of light green. The first is a long bohemian style dress that has a high waist and no straps, and the second is more a romper than a dress and shapes her behind in a way I can’t even describe.
Basically, all I’m getting at with these details about how beautiful each of her options are is the fact that my options are invisible or naked. I can’t go in anything and even compare to what Kelly will look like at any point in time. I’ll look dressed down in comparison with my muted brunette hair and not-quite-golden skin. Everything about me is dull…
“I need someone to work a late shift tonight. Helen is bringing an exclusive brand before close and I need someone to help me with the floor set for the new product.” My boss offers midway through my silent reflection. There are two other gals at the counter refreshing the jewelry display while I swap window clings with the updated logos.
Neither of the two girls exchanged looks. This meant they were hoping that nobody would say anything and she’d just pick one. None of us like staying late on any other night, mostly because we love going home to our various social activities, but tonight none of us seem to care. It’s a Thursday night. Everyone’s plans would have been yesterday or tomorrow, I’ve figured.
I have the wedding tomorrow – maybe if I stay tonight late…
Maybe Kelly will let me off the hook on attending?
Do I really believe that?
“Nina, you’ll stay. You didn’t open the store.” Well, I don’t even have the chance to turn the offer down or even take the offer to avoid responsibilities. I smile and accept the order happily. I make sure to text Kelly immediately about me working late: Going to have to make dinner plans for next week. We didn’t have concrete plans to begin with, but this lets her know that I care that I can’t see her tonight while being indifferent about the extra hours.
The rest of the day goes as it usual does. Two groups of bridesmaids come in with their bridezillas to pick out literally the ugliest dresses they can find. Of course, there’s always compromise. A beautiful dress in an ugly color for the first group, and the ugliest mermaid style dress we offer in the loveliest shade of pink known to man. I get all of the orders entered in the computers just as the manager closes our register.
And simultaneously with that, Helen arrives. She sets down a cup carrier filled with four mystery‑flavored espressos. Helen looks around with a hardened expression, which is really not out of the ordinary. Running eight stores over four counties, it can get exhausting I’d bet. Kind as she is as a business owner, Helen is a bit frightening when she is frustrated; “Where’s the second one?”
My manager smiles and shrugs her shoulders, murmuring that she isn’t quite sure. Helen shrugs in exactly the same fashion and asks for help carrying the boxes while I undress our mannequins and clear the displays. I am moderately curious if perhaps a manager from another location was meant to come help, maybe to see what needed to be done in the other stores. I don’t even think about it twice about her asking about “the second one.”
Ten to twenty minutes passed quickly as I filled containers. I barely notice the phone vibrating in my pocket. It’s a message from Kelly. She was alerting me that she’s decided on the yellow dress. Following that text is a selfie of her outside in the dress. In fact, the picture is at the store. My store.
It takes no time at all to get to parking lot and locate Helen, my manager, and Kelly. They’re all chatting outside – where Kelly is sporting her yellow dress in all the bliss that she will tomorrow afternoon when she arrives at the wedding without me. I huge Kelly as soon as I reach the group, asking what has brought her all the way out here when she has to get up early and get her nails done with her sister. Because, why the hell would she be here – realistically? I mean, I haven’t asked her to buy me an outfit at all. She doesn’t even know I don’t have one. Or at least that is what I chose to believe. The world is too busy that not even the person closest to me could possibly have noticed my status as “poor and struggling lesbian.”
As usual – I am wrong. Kelly chimes in and proves me to be both selfless and selfish all at once, “I saw Helen at my mother’s brunch on Monday. She was talking about how she had an exclusive contract to sell for an up-and-coming designer. It was specifically created for the aura of the summer formal. That’s when I asked her if it was being sold at your location – that I may or may not have a date for this big wedding whom hadn’t chosen a dress yet.”
My manager explains that they were looking to showcase some of the attire at a few events; that Helen wanted to give out two free dresses at each location. My manager, whom I have never called by her first name because it makes me feel like I’m working for my evil little sister, then shared with Helen that I was attending a wedding.
A fairly large wedding, in fact…
“I know Kelly’s sister. Amelia has always been a socialite. There’ll be over a hundred people at her wedding. You’ll be getting quite a bit of attention as the only unmarried daughter, will you not, Kelly?” Helen is never purely charitable. There’s opportunity in everything. Lately she has certainly been more giving, but I believe sincerely that she is offering me this dress because she knows Kelly is introducing me to the family. It is without a doubt that all eyes will be on Kelly, and therefore me. It’ll be a hell of a first impression, if I’m being fair. This helps us both out and even if her gratitude isn’t purely not-for-profit, I know mine is.
Helen runs me through the importance of people seeing me in this “little number.” As she does this she starts handing boxes off to both Kelly and me. My manager and Helen grab the remaining boxes and carry them inside. Things are quiet at first as we pull away lids, but eventually Helen slides a box to me.
“That’s the number.” Kelly starts clapping with excitement. It has me convinced that she may have picked it out. The fabric is pristinely folded underneath silver tissue paper. As I pull it from the package I realize that the dress is a sleek slate gray. There’s even a shimmer in the material. Once I flip the dress and lay it over my torso I can see that the dress is full length, but tapers marginally so that very little will actually touch the ground.
Up each thigh has an angled slit. For so long I’ve talked up the side slits for the benefit of showing off one’s leg that I actually start narrating the figure flattering nonsense to my well-versed audience…
“It slims the body with this angle. From the side when walking it can give the impression of longer legs, or a larger rear. It depends on the viewer, really.” I don’t need longer legs because I’m already quite a bit taller than most of my family. As for my rear, well, who doesn’t want a better butt?
Kelly urges me to try it on while she does my share of the work. She’s worked retail, so it couldn’t possible be too difficult to figure out, could it? My job isn’t as easy as she makes it sound but something tells me it easier than talking myself out of this completely free dress.
The only catch, apparently, is that I post about it heavily with a ton of pictures. Fortunately, for once, I think I can make that deal.
And for my selfish need to be Kelly’s date at the wedding.
And who knows – maybe I’ll catch the bouquet with all this luck I’ve acquired.