You are here, deep breath, for a dress.
On your way by the herd of perfume counters, be sure to spray something on your wrist. The dressing room sharks can smell fear, and they can also smell bar soap. Given the bandana on your head, the 11 year old loafers on your feet, and the way you have to keep pushing your glasses up every two minutes, this perfume gesture is a little bit like putting lipstick on a pig. But, hey, you've given it a little bit of effort.
You may have to ask for directions. The store has an organizing principle that you don't understand. Aside from the shoes being with the shoes and the perfume being with the perfume, there seem to be groupings of clothing that, other than being divided by gender, make no sense. If you stand in one place and just stare blankly, someone will help you.
"You look like you have a question."
"I have two, actually. I need a restroom and a fancy dress."
She will find this sweetly pathetic, and point you to the restroom like a lost child and then say, as you back into the entrance flanked by potted evergreens, "evening gowns are down the escalator to the right."
The restroom is larger than your apartment and the sound of your peeing echoes. The handsoap is divine.
The evening gown section will be right where she said it was. It glitters. Dressing room sharks named Tiffany and Amber descend upon you within minutes. Gaze over their heads at the clearance rack. Resist. This is, after all, your wedding dress. If everything goes as planned, you will only ever get to wear one of them.
Tiffany and Amber immediately bring you two white dresses, a few golds and ivories. They start a fitting room. The fitting room is somewhere mysterious. They keep disappearing with every dress you pick up.
The more expensive an item of clothing, the less important it is that the thing fit, apparently. So try on dresses sized between 2 and 12, mentally adding a tailor to the list of people you must pay to be married. Tiffany and Amber alternate knocking on the fitting room door to ask if you need anything. They will always knock when you are bent over trying to step into something, causing a fresh jolt of panic every time. Bonus: there are mirrors to reflect back to you, at angles you hope to never see again, every inch of your reaction.
"What size shoe do you wear?"
Wonder why, suddenly, the sharks are making conversation through the slats of the dressing room door.
You can't comprehend, for the life of you, why this information is important.
Like magic, a pair of gleaming heels appears outside the door. A shark says, "I left some heels outside the door." You realize that you are supposed to wear heels with this thing. Stick your arm out of the door and snatch them in quickly before one of the sharks peeks in and tries to influence your opinion of the current dress. They are laid in a box, peeking out from tissue paper. They are sharp, dangerous, frightening. Put them on the floor in front of you, press your hands to the walls, and try to balance in them. Stand in them, precariously, in one dress for about thirty seconds. Put them, carefully, back in the box and leave.
Sigh heavily in the food court.
Enter with caution the only Bridal store with a capital B. The teenaged sales girl is on the phone, chewing gum. Pick up the most extravagant, gigantic, almost too heavy to lift, white monstrosity off the rack. She says, "Okay I gotta go. Call you later."
She puts the thing in a fitting room. Inside, totally surrounded by mirrors, you step into this complicated morass of lace and satin and strings. Pull it up, stare at yourself, squint even. Drop it back down to your feet, step out of it, and leave.
Stop at a sporting goods store and, with some reverence, touch a few sneakers. You are good at sneakers.
Arrive, finally, at the other end of the mall and the last giant, shiny department store. On the clearance rack there is one dress, a crazy patterned thing without any straps. Figure that you might as well try on one dress you actually like, even if it isn't a wedding dress. Tiffany and Amber are nowhere in sight. Ask a tiny old woman in a purple sweater if you can have a dressing room. She says only, "There ya go," and wanders back to whatever she was doing.
Perfect. Alone, at last, kick off those beloved loafers and step into the dress. It's fun. It's spicy. Decide that you want, more than anything, to be having dinner and a drink somewhere, done with this shopping trip. Look in the mirror. Picture flowers, a haircut, maybe some makeup. Decide, suddenly empowered, that white, and really any solid color, is just not going to work - this is The Dress.
You have to carry it way above your head or it will drag on the ground. The cashier whisks it over the counter and zips it into a garment bag. You present your credit card, which boasts a lovely mountain scene and lets everyone know that you support some nature conservancy organization. The store, of course, will not take Visa.
Leave the store to find an ATM. Extract more cash than you needed to purchase your first car. Bring it back, more determined than ever, to be done with this transaction.
At dinner in a mall restaurant, pull the chair on which you have draped the dress close to the table. Protect it like it's a baby. Be suddenly terrified that something will happen to it. Grow, ridiculously, attached to this material thing. Register the silliness of it all, but involuntarily flinch every time a waiter passes with something spillable on a tray.
On the way home the car smells like the perfume you put on earlier. Go ahead and be somehow annoyed by this.
In your living room later that night, put the dress back on. Stare and stare and stare at yourself in the mirror. Admit, to no one but yourself and the internet, that at that moment, alone in your living room, in a very expensive dress, your little grinch heart swells a bit, and you have an inordinate amount of fun.