My daughter’s upcoming wedding occupies a high place on the list of things I hate about getting old. Not up there with having a colonoscopy or finding myself outside in my bathrobe telling lies about my gas mileage to the guy next door, you understand, but still pretty high up. This has nothing to do with my feelings concerning my future son-in-law or with the fact that my nice grey suit seems to have shrunk another size since I last had it on. They just don’t make serge like they used to. Nor is it due to my wife’s occasional tearful exhortation that “our little girl is growing up.” Our little girl is twenty-five, is finishing her Master’s degree, and has been gone from the nest for seven years. We have had some previous warning that time is marching on.

wedding_dress_10No, my issue is much more mundane. If you are a female and planning to get married in the general vicinity of my wife, then you must have a wedding dress. And if you do have this need for a nuptial frock, then you must go shopping for it. And, if you are married to my wife, have helped produce my daughter, and get caught short on your reasons why you can’t go along, then you have to participate in that shopping trip.

“It’s time to go get the wedding dress,” my wife said as she handed me the car keys. I snatched my hand back like she was handing me a cottonmouth.

“I wish I could go,” I replied, “but I have some emergency raking to do.” I gestured toward the yard, hoping she could see my dilemma. “You two go on without me.” I figured that as long as my money was making the trip, my presence was optional, anyway.

“Her feelings will be hurt if you don’t come,” was my spouse’s reply. “We’ll be waiting in the car.” Apparently, I had figured wrong.

For those of you men out there who have never been to a fancy bridal boutique, my advice is to save yourself while you can. Some suitable alternatives to going to one of these dens of lace include leaping from a cliff onto many sharp rocks below, offering large cash incentives to your daughter to stay single, or buying your soon-to-be son-in-law a good stout ladder and a new road atlas. If none of these ideas is feasible in your situation, be creative and come up with something else. But whatever you do, don’t go inside the wedding dress store.

If you don’t know good advice when you hear it and enter anyway, you will need to undergo a paradigm shift if you expect to survive. Specifically, your conception of money and of how much of it constitutes a lot will have to change. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my daughter, and I want her to be happy. I mean, she was planned and everything. We sent her to camp when she was a little girl, and we took her to Disney World when she was twelve because that is a federal law. And I do want her to have a nice wedding. But I apparently don’t get to town often enough, so I was a bit out of touch with respect to what wedding accessories cost. Still, I was feeling pretty expansive when the Wedding Associate inquired as to my price range.

“And what is our budget for the bridal gown, Sir?” our Associate asked. His name was Estaban. He had mousse in his hair and wore no socks.

wedding-dresses“Nothing’s too good for my baby girl,” I boomed, and it was all true. This was going to be a first-class deal. “I might even go five or six hundred dollars if she really likes it.” A hush fell over the boutique. I beamed. Yes, I knew it was an exorbitant figure for a piece of cloth, but what are dads for? Everyone in that store was now in the presence of one the last of the big spenders. My wife elbowed me in the ribs.

“I wish you would let me take care of this,” she whispered.

“You made me come,” I whispered back.

“Mama, make Daddy go to the car,” whispered my daughter. There was so much whispering going on in there, it sounded like a bus tire was going flat.

“Well,” said Estaban. “Yes. Well. We will see what we can do.”

He led us towards the back of the store, and while there was not actually a sign hanging back there that said CHEAPSKATES ONLY—DECENT FOLKS KEEP CLEAR, it was obvious that we had crossed an invisible boundary somewhere around aisle six and that we were now in that part of the establishment reserved for the Great Unwashed, reserved for those poor girls who were orphans, foundlings, or just plain unloved by their fathers. They still offered refreshments to the patrons, but instead of little cucumber finger sandwiches served with wine coolers, we were given hoop cheese and cold beer. And instead of nice dressing rooms, they had the brides-to-be changing behind a blanket held up by two blind guys. Or at least, I think they were blind. They were wearing dark glasses, anyway. My wife looked angry, and my daughter looked embarrassed. I handed my wallet to them and looked for the door.

“I’ll be in the car,” I assured them.

“Maybe that would be best,” said Estaban. My wife and daughter began to drift towards the DAUGHTERS WHO ARE LOVED section. I sat there in the car and listened to the radio, which beat dress-shopping hands down. Three hours and thirty-two golden oldies later, we had a wedding dress. My daughter was ecstatic. My wife handed me the receipt, and I looked at it with tears in my eyes. I had seriously underestimated the cost of true love.

“We got it on sale!” she beamed as she hugged my neck.

“That’s great, Honey,” I replied. I winced as I felt a sharp pain in my right buttock, directly adjacent to my hip pocket. But in a way, I was relieved. At least now I knew the extent of the financial damage. The worst was over. And since I actually had enough in the bank to cover the check, I could afford to be magnanimous. “And that’s not a bad price, really,” I lied. “I know you will be beautiful in it.”

Actually, it was more than I had given for all but two of the cars I had owned during forty years of driving, but there was no use burdening her with that information on this happy occasion. And maybe we got the use of Estaban included for a couple of weekends at that price. I could put him to work mowing the yard or painting the house. Or perhaps the store manager would throw in some hoop cheese and beer for the reception.

“You know that we still have a fitting fee, shoes, undergarments, and a veil to go, right?” my wife asked. She patted my hand, assumably to soften the blow. The pain in my buttock intensified.

“Now, what kind of a hayseed would I be if I didn’t know that?” I replied, rolling my eyes.

Fitting fee? Veil? Shoes?

###
Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.