I had my wedding dress on last weekend. Let me paint a picture for you; I'm squishing myself into it behind makeshift curtain change room in a basement, in a part of town I've never been in before.
There's a blunt Lebanese woman waiting for me to come out from behind the veil in the corner and I'm struggling to get the built in bra to sit right.
"You need help?" She asks me. She has a pretty and choppy accent.
I decide I've done what I can do with it so I come out a bit sheepishly, out of breath and a bit sweaty since I've been fighting with the layers of tool for five minutes.
"Turn around" she says to me. "You did this yourself?!" And then a pause as she's zipping an connection hooks.
"Un huh." She says
"You'd better be careful."
She didn't mean: "Be careful!"
For example I wasn't stepping too close to an edge. And I wasn't in danger of spilling something on the gown; I was however hovering on a precipice of turning around and snapping back at her. That she didn't need to tell me the dress was snug. I could feel it all on my own, thankyouverymuch.
And when she did me up and turned me around to face the mirror. It wasn't at all what I expected. There wasn't really a rush of the reactions you see on TV. The last time I had the dress on was January so it was hard to remember.
Maybe it was the dim yellow basement light. Or the bags of gaudy Italian prom-queen dresses hanging behind me. Or the recent thought that I wasn't an ideal weight at that moment in time.
But I felt decidedly un-beautiful.
And then the next hour that I've got the dress on, she leads me through a series of price options (Option a: "I can hem the dress for you in THIS way, but you MAY not like it and I'll make you sign a paper"; and option b: "I'll hem the dress properly for you.... FOR A COST" Guess which option I went with), all the while telling me stories of her life in Lebanon and where she learned to sew and how long she'd been living in Canada and how hard University students work these days.
"I don't understand it. You work so hard for 20 or more years of your life studying so hard and then what? You waste your life in school."
"Lebanon is a small country. All the Syrians come and offer to work for less. And there's no jobs for the Lebanese even. So much of the country - no work."
"20 years ago we fought them in a war, and now? They want to work for us. To take our jobs."
I'm still standing there looking at myself in the mirror as she's pinning and moving along the hem line. It's always awkward after you look at yourself in the mirror for a long time - your reflection becomes a bit jarring.
"That's not me," I thought. This whole scenario isn't really happening. I'm not really in a stranger's basement discussing the war in Syria.
And suddenly I'm questioning reality and having a bit of an existential crisis.
Luckily I'm good in a crisis situation.
"So you think this belt here, this will be nicer than the one on the dress?" I ask her.
(we're in the process of switching the two.)
"Oh yes," she says.
"This one here, is not very beautiful."
"This other one is VERY beautiful. We're going to make sure you look very beautiful."
Oh thank-goodness, I think.
I was beginning to worry about that a bit.