Back in high school, Saturday nights usually found me squished side-by-side with my best friend Erin on a twin mattress.
When I complained about the lack of space, she would remind me that she’d had the exact same bed since birth. Her entire room, with its lavender walls and high ceilings, were a testament to her childhood. Looking back, it’s easy to see that the newer additions, like the vanity desk littered with drugstore makeup at the foot of her bed and the desktop computer tucked into a far corner, hinted at the woman she would grow into.
We spent hours talking about the boys we liked and the ones we desperately wished would like us back…
A few months ago, Erin told me that she was getting married, and she asked me to be her bridesmaid.
And of course, I accepted.
My high school best friend is getting married and I’m going to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.
I find myself repeating that sentence every few weeks, and a sense of nervousness bubbles up at the back of my throat each time.
My high school best friend is getting married… and I’m going to be the only black, plus-size girl in her wedding party.
I’m no stranger to being the only person of color in a room. I grew up in a predominantly white, suburban town in New York. Even now in my mid-twenties, many of my closest friends are white.
But something about this wedding situation still feels like uncharted territory for me.
I met the rest of the bridal court at a dinner back in April. We went to a restaurant in the city with a 4-star yelp rating; it was a fancy place where they served us food on skewers and on slabs of marbled rock instead of on plates. I was immediately intimidated by the other girls; they were all bubbly and incredibly outgoing.
I have a pesky habit of shutting down when someone shows me too much of their personality at once. I curl protectively into myself. Like a pillbug.
As the conversation eventually made its way to potential bridesmaid dresses, I felt “Othered” in a very specific way.
I looked at the other women, who were thin, white, and blonde, and I felt invisible and hyper-visible at the same time. Because, for me, it wasn’t just about being nervous that I would hate my bridesmaid dress. It was about finding one that fit my different body well in the first place. And it wasn’t about feeling a little dorky with a posh updo. It was about finding a style that wouldn’t stretch, break, or damage my coarse natural hair.
Suddenly, I was forced to consider all of the things that had never occurred to me when I first accepted Erin’s offer.
If I’m being honest, it terrified me.
In its purest form, I love the idea of marriage and a wedding. It’s about two awesome people pledging to love, care, and respect one another forever and then getting to affirm and celebrate those vows in a room filled with their favorite people. But, so much of that deeper and more spiritual meaning gets overshadowed by the concept of appearances. Shows like Bridezilla and Say Yes to the Dress have aided in the creation of a capitalist wedding culture.
Brides are expected to be flawless and the wedding itself is expected to be the most lavish event of the season. These kinds of expectations place an inevitable amount of stress and pressure upon the engaged couple, their families, and those they choose to be in their wedding parties.
It’s the same pressure that has highlighted my own insecurities.
As a perpetually anxious person, I live a lot of my life in fear of attracting attention for the wrong reasons. I have nightmares of walking into the reception hall and hearing a record skip before every single wedding guest turns to look at me in horror.
It’s like a grown-up version of the “accidentally showing up to school naked and surrounded by your classmates” dream.
The rational side of me understands that this is ridiculous. The wedding is still months away, I have more than enough time to prepare.
But part of having anxiety is acknowledging that your anxiety does not give a single fuck about rationality.
Sometimes, the best way of dealing with it is, to be honest with my self and to ride out all of this anticipatory dread and jitters.
Erin and I have conquered high school, college and all of the awkwardness in between. I couldn’t imagine not being there as she enters another exciting phase in her life.
At the end of the day, weddings are about love. Love for your future spouse and love for your guests.
And – nervousness aside – I am truly honored and humbled that she has chosen to spend her special day with me.