Always a bridesmaid for.., p.1

Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire), page 1

 

Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire)
 


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Always a Bridesmaid (for Hire)


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  Contents

  Epigraph

  Author’s Note

  prologue

  I “Uggghhh” Weddings

  one

  A Familiar Kind of Love

  two

  You Can Always Come Back Home

  { interlude }

  A Brief History of My Life After Graduation

  three

  Will You Be My Bras-Maid?

  four

  For the Love of JDate

  five

  All of My Friends Got Engaged

  six

  Bridesmaid Is Just Another Name for a Warrior in a Taffeta Dress

  seven

  The Curious Case of the Serial Bouquet Catcher

  eight

  Women Seeking Women—Professional Bridesmaid

  nine

  Bridesmaid for Hire—Crazy or Genius?

  ten

  The Strange Thing about Strangers

  eleven

  The Perfect Match

  twelve

  A Time and a Square to Say I DO

  thirteen

  Famous Last Words

  fourteen

  What Ray Says, Goes

  fifteen

  Oh, You’ll Totally Wear It Again (Twenty Things You Can Really Do with an Old Bridesmaid Dress)

  sixteen

  Those Who Will Remain Nameless

  seventeen

  Stand-Up Comedy School Dropout

  eighteen

  Ghosts of a Bridesmaid’s Past

  nineteen

  Ask a Professional Bridesmaid (Real Questions from Real Girls)

  twenty

  Eggs Sunny-Side Frozen

  twenty-one

  DTW to AWOL

  twenty-two

  Good-Bye, Cold Feet

  twenty-three

  Thirty Wedding Songs I Never Want to Dance To Again

  twenty-four

  Love Always Perseveres

  Photographs

  Acknowledgments

  About Jen Glantz

  For those who told me to give up on being a writer, on being a professional bridesmaid, on being exactly who I am—which is equal parts stubborn and equal parts peculiar:

  I’m really glad I never listened.

  And for Laurie, Lloyd, and Jason Glantz, who always told me that I should, would, and without a doubt could:

  You were right. My goodness, you were right all along.

  I am going to do something, and I have a strange feeling it is going to be phantasmagorically different.

  —Paul Zindel, author of I Never Loved Your Mind

  You are terrifying and strange and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.

  —Warsan Shire, poet

  Jennifer, marry a dentist. They’ll be able to replace your teeth, for free, when they start falling out.

  —My eighty-three-year-old great-aunt Rita

  Author’s Note

  I changed most names and some identifying details of people, places, and things throughout the book. Of course I did. The characters who gave a heartbeat to these stories are friends, and strangers who turned into friends. Oh, and guys who had the courage to take me on a date. I changed their names as a way of saying: Thank you, I’m sorry, I love you. Now go off and be well.

  Prologue

  I “Uggghhh” Weddings

  When you live in New York City, it’s almost expected that people will see you at your very, very worst, very, very often. It’s built into the price you pay to live here, because you will at some point fall into the trap of believing that every block, every subway car, every splinter-ridden park bench is your own personal territory for having a full-blown mental breakdown.

  I pinky-promise you that eventually you’ll stop thinking twice about walking down Third Avenue in the morning to buy a large cup of coffee, with your hair in a spider web of tangles and your bra everywhere but where it should be—which is on you. And you’ll stop noticing that everyone is staring at you as you publicly break up with the person who has had an iron grip on your heart. After all, if there isn’t a crowd of at least five total strangers watching, can you say it even really happened?

  The comforting thing is that even when you’re at your worst, there’s always someone else one-upping you one block over. That’s why you don’t need to bat an eye when tourists turn their chunky DSLRs away from the Empire State Building and zoom in on your face, mid-ugly-cry.

  I, however, am the kind of person who tries to keep my humiliations private. Like the time I had to be rescued from the bottom of my own closet.

  “Hello?” I whispered in a delicate panic to the kind soul at the other end of the line at 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday. I had been organizing my long-neglected closet, only to be rewarded with every shelf collapsing on top of me, along with an avalanche of forgotten clothes that should’ve been donated to Goodwill years ago. The only parts of my body that hadn’t been temporarily paralyzed were my face and a single outstretched arm that had managed to reach my phone. I had dialed the only person I knew would pick up at that hour: my building’s on-call maintenance man.

  “What’s the problem?” he asked, pushing a giant rock of phlegm up and down the bumpy lining of his esophagus.

  “It’s an emergency,” I said, attempting to wiggle my toes beneath a pile of platform shoes that my friends and I had worn when we dressed up as the Spice Girls for Halloween. “My shelves collapsed, and now I’m trapped at the bottom of my closet.”

  “Can’t you call someone else?” he asked, annoyed, clearly regretting giving me his personal cell phone number when I moved in.

  “Well, I don’t have a—”

  “A what? A boyfriend? A best friend? The ability to dial 911?”

  I took a deep breath and imagined what would happen if I called 911 and they transferred me to the NYPD’s Seventeenth Precinct at 9:00 p.m. on a Sunday. I imagined what it would feel like to utter the words, “Help me! I’m trapped in my own mess of polyester and sequins,” to the city’s’ finest; how I’d have to beg and plead for them to stop handcuffing the guy trying to break into a non-twenty-four-hour CVS, or quit patrolling Fifth Avenue to come to the twenty-sixth floor of my apartment in Murray Hill just to rescue me from a pile of T-shirts I had bought seven years ago.

  “Please don’t make me do that,” I whispered. “If you come, I’ll give you your Christmas bonus early.”

  Those turned out to be the magical words. He arrived just a few minutes later in his bathrobe, my knight in fuzzy armor. I smiled because I knew he’d seen worse. Much worse.

  “How did this happen?” he asked, peeling back layer after layer of clothing.

  “Well, I read that it’s going to be fifty-five degrees tomorrow, so I was trying to grab a sweater from the top shelf when—”

  “No,” he cut me off. “Not that. This!”

  I craned my neck to see that he was holding in his wide-palmed hands not one, not two, not four, but nine bridesmaid dresses.

  “It’s not what it looks like,” I said, worried that his judgment would crush me faster than the contents of my closet. “Trust me, I don’t even like weddings.”

  I wasn’t totally lying to him either. When I was a little kid, the idea of my own wedding didn’t take up much real estate in my mind. Whenever I found myself scoring an invitation to a sleepover or to a lunch table in
middle school, the girls would giggle over the cuts of their future rings, the colors of their future flowers, and the flavors of their future cakes, while I’d be off in the corner of someone’s bedroom or at the end of a table, crafting paper airplanes from expired love letters I was too afraid to send.

  “You hate weddings?” my friend Samantha once asked me incredulously at her sleepover party, every syllable loaded with attitude. I watched as she brushed her Barbie doll’s bleach-blonde hair, her fish-like lips pursed in sour disapproval.

  “I don’t hate them,” I said. Hate was a very strong word that my mom put in the same bucket as curse words; I was never allowed to use it. Whenever I had a staring contest with a plate of broccoli or a pile of homework, I would say I “uggghhhed” them instead.

  “But don’t you want the flowers and the dress and the giant shiny ring?”

  “Not really,” I said, thinking for a second and realizing I had never thought about it before. I was seven years old, and the only thing that regularly crossed my mind was which toy I’d score in my McDonald’s Happy Meal, or how I desperately wished I could sleep through the next lesson in long division.

  All the other girls at Samantha’s sleepover talked about how they wanted this flavor cake and that color rose. How their dress would be a cascading waterfall of lace and they’d spend all night twirling around in it. They never mentioned the ooey-gooey love part. They never mentioned the person who would be standing beside them in the photos, at the altar, for the rest of their lives. Maybe that’s because back then, boys still had a major case of cooties.

  “Look at her lopsided bangs,” one of the girls said about me as their tittering laughs ricocheted off the walls, hitting me right in the face.

  “She’ll never get married,” another girl said as she slid into her Beauty and the Beast sleeping bag.

  “You know what I think,” I said, as my cheeks flushed magenta and my voice sounded as if someone was shaking me uncontrollably, though nobody was. “I think if you find your forever person, you two should just do whatever you want.”

  At that time, my forever person’s name was Lucas, and we had never spoken more than ten words to each other. Amy was his forever person, and she was sitting across the room from me right now, painting her nails with a coat of glitter and plotting the coordinates of their wedding in some exotic place, like the Amalfi Coast.

  I wouldn’t say I was always averse to weddings—more like confused by them. I was three when I went to my first one. I was a junior flower girl, and my diaper matched my dress. My blanket, Mr. Blankenstein, was my plus-one. My mom had to bribe me with a caramel-flavored lollipop to stop sucking my thumb for a couple of minutes so I could use both hands to toss teardrop-shaped rose petals as I tiptoed in my Keds down the aisle.

  I remember how the fragrance from the flowers tickled the edges of my nose, and when my uncle said, “I do,” I sneezed so loud that the rabbi had to make my aunt and uncle repeat their promise that they would always stick by each other’s side, no matter whose waistline expanded first.

  I remember wondering why I was at a mini-circus, where everyone was drinking liquid that looked a little like pee and wearing fancy outfits that they could hardly move in, even though they had to spend the majority of the night moving around. I remember my dad cutting my food into tiny pieces and I remember sleeping a lot, passed out in my stroller beside someone’s ninety-three-year-old grandpa and a cousin who was slurring his words, which I later learned meant that he was sloshed. Weddings then seemed like fancy schmancy birthday parties where everyone walked around looking like they had a wedgie. I wondered if I’d ever be able to understand the point.

  Now I’m twenty-eight, and all of my assets are tied up in bridesmaid dresses. My passport has stamps only from bachelorette party destinations like Cancun and four of the seven Sandals resorts. Every scar on my body is from getting dragged into mosh pits while trying to wrap my arms around a tossed bouquet. I repeat marriage vows in my head the same way people sing lyrics from a catchy song they’ve heard on the radio. And I know never, and I mean never, to let a bride have a Diet Coke before she’s about to walk down the aisle unless it’s through a straw and there’s a blanket splayed over her dress.

  “So how did this happen?” the maintenance guy asked me once more, shaking a handful of chiffon.

  “All of my friends got married,” I said, miserably.

  “Always a bridesmaid,” he said, dropping the dress, grabbing both of my hands, and pulling me up from rock-bottom, sedentary state. “Never the bride.”

  He had no idea.

  chapter one

  A Familiar Kind of Love

  My parents got married when they were twenty-six years old, so on my twenty-sixth birthday, while I was locked in a staring contest with a flotilla of skinny candles on my Carvel Fudgie the Whale cake, my mom asked if she could blow out the final flame that was stubbornly wiggling its fiery wick right in my face.

  I agreed, and when it was over, I asked her what she had wished for. She just winked at me repeatedly, as if she had something stuck in her eyelid. She made sure the twinkle of her engagement ring, fused together with her white-gold wedding band, hit me right in the eye.

  “I just want you to find a guy who makes you happy,” she said, cutting the cake into three pieces: two miniature slivers for us and one extra-large slice with the most icing on top for my father. “But please, Jennifer,” she went on, “try to do so while I’m still young enough to dance the electric slide with both of my original hips.”

  I mentally bristled. There are a lot of guys who make me happy, I thought to myself while running through an inventory of potential prospects.

  There was my doorman, who always reminded me to go back upstairs to grab a heavier sweater and a knit hat when the chill in the air began to fog up the windows.

  There was the guy who owned the rat-infested pizza shop across the street who always warmed up an extra slice for me, on the house, whenever I dragged my four-inch-stiletto-shod feet (courtesy of the Macy’s clearance rack, of course) into the restaurant—which was usually after a cringe-worthy date. Those dates always ended with me knocking over a mostly full glass of Cabernet Sauvignon onto the guy’s finely pressed Ralph Lauren button-down shirt, or him turning a friendly good-bye hug into an attempt to french my cochlea.

  There was even the homeless guy who had built himself a tiny fort out of beat-up Home Depot cardboard boxes and marked his territory outside the Bank of America ATM machine on Third Avenue. He could often be found shaking his Starbucks cup full of change to the tune of a Ying Yang Twins song, and he always remembered to lift up his Yankees’ cap to tell me that I was 57 percent more beautiful when I smiled.

  I told my mom she had nothing to worry about as she whispered some ancient-sounding prayer in Hebrew before digging the tines of her silver fork into my birthday cake.

  Even before I was in a training bra, and back when I was still on training wheels, I thought I would have absolutely no problem falling in love. I fell a little bit in love with every single person I met, and sometimes I even had trouble letting them go. Literally. The librarian at the after-school day care had to call my mom to pick me up early one evening because I latched onto her calf and wouldn’t stop hugging it after she read us Charlotte’s Web. The same exact thing happened with the mailman, a McDonald’s employee monitoring the ball pit, and Mickey Mouse—all in the same week.

  But I truly fell in love for the very first time when I was four years old. He had shaggy, tree-bark-colored hair, and a dresser full of well-fitting OshKosh B’gosh jean shorts. His name was Scott, and his eyes looked like the fabric buttons on Mr. Brown, my teddy bear.

  Scott and I were the head of our preschool class’s lines, and we took our job very seriously. We wondered if this was what it felt like to be the president and the first lady. If so, we were ready to take over the universe.

  One afternoon, when Mrs. Kay shook us awake after nap time, Scott and I went behi
nd a homemade rocket ship that was set up in the middle of our classroom. We pretended to be astronauts who had just successfully navigated their way to the farthermost spot on Pluto. We took our plastic cups of semifrozen, snack-time apple juice and clinked them together, a quick cheers to all we managed to accomplish before 2:00 p.m.

  The next thing I knew, Scott’s pillowy lips were planted smack on the middle of my right cheek. Look at this, I thought to myself. Look how lucky I am to have found love at such a young age, and with such a handsome, motivated, future astronaut!

  But right as I went to kiss him back, to let Scott know that I had the same heart-bursting feelings for him that he had for me, he turned to his left and planted his lips on the cheek of some floozy named Melissa. Talk about a mood killer.

  That week, Mrs. Kay had taught us the importance of sharing. Rumor around our preschool class was that if we didn’t understand how to do it, if we didn’t give in and hand over our favorite Barbie to our best friend when she came over for a play date, or split our last Oreo when someone asked us nicely during lunchtime, we wouldn’t be allowed to move on to kindergarten. We’d be held back for a year as punishment.

  But I knew that love wasn’t meant to be shared the way Scott had shared his precious lips with both me and that mini-bimbo Melissa. I was pretty sure of that.

  When a guy finally gave me the undivided attention I longed for, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I was in fourth grade and working overtime to make myself invisible so the other kids wouldn’t make fun of me for being so painfully shy that I couldn’t even utter my own name without breaking into hives and trembles. Jean was a transfer student from Nice, France, the new boy at my private school in the southwest corner of Boca Raton, Florida. He reminded me of someone out of a history book—Napoleon, perhaps. His shoulders always pointed back, his chin up, and his hands remained planted on his hips, as if he were about to make a profound declaration.

  On his first day of school, Jean stopped me in the middle of the purple-speckled hallway carpet and asked me which way the bathroom was. I extended my arm to the left, hoping he wouldn’t ask me anything else so I could go back to reading Harry Potter and developing my own invisibility cloak—a fleece sweater draped over my head, where I was determined to hide until it was time to graduate from elementary school.

 
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