I now present to you the winning entry in my little Bad Bridesmaid contest, submitted by a lovely lady who prefers to be known simply as R. for reasons that will soon become obvious. Her story is below.
Fifteen years ago, my brother got married in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the time, I was studying at university in Paris and so my brother flew me to KL to be a bridesmaid. I had not met his fiancée. In fact, no one in my family had. But we knew from my brother’s letters that he was lovesick, and we were all thrilled for him.
After 18 hours of travel, I got off the plane in KL, hot, tired, and rumple, but excited about the exotic Eastern experiences I was so sure lay ahead of me. My brother hugged me. My sister-in-law-to-be forced a wan smile, said hello, then turned to my brother and said, “Thank God she’s prettier than your other sisters. I mean, if she’s going to be in my wedding party.” I was stunned when my brother didn’t react to her comment. Welcome to Malaysia, indeed.
On the drive to my brother’s place, suffering as I was in horribly humid, impossibly oppressive weather that I was not accustomed to, my brother’s fiancée fretted aloud about my size. The other bridesmaids were Asian and “tiny,” she stressed. I, at 5’10″ and 135 pounds, was apparently akin to Gargantua and/or Mama Cass Elliott. Would there be enough fabric in all of Asia to cover me at the wedding?
Unfortunately, there was. Had there not been, perhaps I would have been sent back to Paris. I could have been spared wearing the lilac — yes, lilac — poofy-sleeved, poofy-skirted monstrosity with the ginormous bow on the hips and the exactly matching shoes. Actually, the dress in itself was not such a problem. I was in my early 20s then, and didn’t look too silly in such a creation. But there were two problems, and being a bad bridesmaid, I was not quiet about them.
The first was that the bow on the dress landed squarely on my hips. My hips are the widest part of my body and don’t need attention drawn to them. (Putting a gaudy large bow on them is like sticking a corsage right on Raquel Welch’s chest.) So…I complained about the bow to the tailor in charge of the bridal party’s attire. Naturally, my future sister-in-law shot me the death rays. But being a maverick has its benefits, and as soon as I kvetched, two other bridesmaids piped in that they, too, didn’t much care for the bow. Pretty much all the bridesmaids wound up bow-less and a wee bit happier. The bride was ticked, but in private two of the bridesmaids thanked me for “speaking up.”
The second problem was the fitting for the shoes. I had terrible, painful bunions then (I have since had surgery on both feet), and was very self-conscious about appearing barefoot in front of others. At the shoemakers, with my future sister-in-law and the band of bridesmaids at hand, I was made to remove my shoes so the grizzled old Chinese obbler could measure them. I had asked in advance if I could have privacy. My brother suggested I was being unreasonable. He told me no one would even look at my feet, or if they did, they wouldn’t say anything. But as soon as my shoes were removed, two of the bridesmaids squealed. “Ooh, you’ve got really awful bunions. Why don’t you do something about them? Why don’t you have surgery? My mother has those. They’re so ugly.” Et cetera. I started crying.
And I kept crying all the way back to my brother’s place. He chewed me out the whole way — me in the back seat like a child, he and his fiancée up front, sanctimonious and angry. He said, in the dramatic manner that runs in my family, “If you ruin my wedding, I’ll never talk to you again.” How on earth could I ruin his wedding by crying a few days before, I wondered? Once back at his place, he ordered me out on the patio, so he and his fiancée could “talk about this privately.” Talk about what? Me? I was too tired to fight. I had no one in my corner anyway and no money of my own — certainly not enough to get a hotel room.
But I objected to going outside, because — and my brother knew this about me — I had (and have) lifelong arachnophobia. EXTREME arachnophobia. The kind of arachnophobia where one is rendered paralyzed by the sight of a millimetre-long octoped. And in Malaysia, when you’re not in an air-conditioned environment, spiders abound. Big, hairy, stripey, creepy ones. Nonetheless, I was banished to the outdoors, and found myself surrounded by the eight-legged. Beckoned back inside a half hour later, shaking from terror, my brother informed me that he had been speaking on the phone with two of the other bridesmaids (one who was a sister of the bride), and that they both agreed I was awful and childish and a horror to have around. I wondered if these were the same bitches who thanked me for improving the hideous bridesmaids’ dresses by speaking up.
On top of all of this, I was getting heat rash and sunburn. I was not used to the humidity and the soaring-above-100-degree temperatures. The entire bridal party was taking a trip to stay with the bride’s parents (who lived in the same village whence came Yul Brynner’s wife, I was breathlessly informed). My brother had promised me that I would have the one air-conditioned guestroom in the parents’ house, in order to keep spiders at bay, and in order to ease my itching heat rash. But once we arrived, I was told that he and his fiancée were getting the comfortable room. Being a bad bridesmaid, I complained…to deaf ears. “But you promised,” I whined. “I changed my mind,” my brother snapped.
So I stayed in the hot guestroom and had a nightmare. The nightmare was that I needed to pee, and a big hairy spider was attacking me. In the nightmare, I lost control and began to…you can guess, pee. Sure enough, I woke up wetting the bed AND with a big, icky spider walking across the mattress. (It was all very Brady Bunch in Hawaii.) I was too frightened and shocked to scream but, thankfully, managed to get my bladder control back. I grabbed a pillow (as armour against the arachno-beast), and ran down the hall to the bathroom (where there were lizards).
In the morning, embarrassed, mortified, and every other such adjective, I confessed to the bride’s mother about the mess in my room. My brother’s future mother-in-law was super-kind, the one bright spot in the week. I cried and cried and told her I was miserable. She arranged for me to call my sister. I begged my sister to send me money to leave. “Stick it out, please,” she told me. “Just get through the wedding.”
I did. And I must say, I looked really beautiful — if furious — even in that godforsaken dress. In spite of what my sister-in-law dissed as my huge size, I looked far better than the puny, little local bridesmaids. Sadly, my brother was so mad at me that he and his wife never sent me any wedding pictures. I have (but for one fuzzy picture), no proof of how good I looked, night-of-the-spider notwithstanding. Even more sadly, my brother and I did not speak for some time after that. He probably thought I should have been a more mature bridesmaid, which I probably should have been, and I thought he and his now-wife should have been more sympathetic to their young, visiting bridesmaid, which they most definitely should have been.
To end on a happy note, I can honestly say we are all close now — though (or maybe because), we have never since talked about our common saga.
Scary, no? Thanks everyone for your submissions. I really enjoyed reading them, giving thanks all the while that none of my engaged pals have asked me to stand beside them during their nuptials!