This is me in January 1999 at The House of Botticelli in Bronxville, NY. I had recently become engaged to my husband John, and it was time for me to go look at wedding gowns with my family. As I walked downstairs, I looked down to see hundreds of magnificent dresses. Every girl who hopes to get married imagines this day with extremely high expectations, not truly knowing what to expect. For me, Botticelli’s did not disappoint. While not all were necessarily my taste, the gowns were breathtaking. In fact, the appearance of their silky texture was so enticing I found myself slowly walking past each one, running my finger down the row of dresses, feeling a new sense of textile pleasure.
As I selected a few to try on, I became very self-conscious. After all, not only did I not like seeing the vision of my one finger alongside any dress, my forearms are slightly bowed and also shorter than the norm. To me, reflecting at that moment on my girlish fantasy of what someone is supposed to look like in her wedding gown, I thought I looked quite hideous with my arms and hands so visible. The only temporary relief was to hide my arms behind my back as I gazed in the three-way mirror. If only for that moment could I feel beautiful, even picture perfect. Soon after my grandmother snapped this photo from behind, I asked the attendant whether she had any dresses with long sleeves. I explained to her that our wedding was planned for the end of October, and I anticipated being chilly. “Not many, but I’ll check,” she replied. I didn’t even bother asking her about dresses with “3/4 sleeve” because they always hit my arm in the wrong place, somewhere around my wrist, resting awkwardly on my arm.
With maturity and hindsight, I regret not choosing the wedding gown I loved the most, a sleek, strapless beauty. Instead, I selected the one that would cover my arms the most. It was certainly pretty, with embroidery stitched all over white silk, but it was not my top pick. Despite the unconditional support from my husband-to-be, as I prepared to take the biggest step in my adult life, I still had a long way to go toward my personal road of self-acceptance.