The Right Costume

As a young girl I was never one to dream of getting married. When I got engaged I was more shocked than anyone. I don’t remember much about the wedding planning except for being told very often that I couldn’t do whatever my latest hairbrained idea was. I finally decided since it probably didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, I would just do whatever everyone else told me to and rest easy knowing I would be married and it would all be OK.

For all of my mother’s work teaching me beautiful, European manners and all of my love for beautiful china, flowers, food, and clothes, I am not much into “girlie” parties. An invitation to a tea or shower brings on a small panic attack.

I saw a meme the other day that people like me go back and forth between wondering why we aren’t invited to things and how to get out of events when we are invited! If I show up for your tea or shower, I must REALLY love you!! (And if I don’t show up, I probably still love you!)

The psychology of why I am like this is not what I want to write about today. My weirdness would fill volumes and probably warrants me needing to read a bunch of self help books, not write one!

When my son Jon told me he was going to propose, I immediately ordered two etiquette books. My husband Tim laughed at me but I am used to that and proceeded to read the information that I felt I needed. Even though I don’t like rules for the sake of rules, in situations like a wedding, knowing the proper etiquette saves lots of hurt feelings and awkward missteps.

One thing I have always joked about is that an event or trip really isn’t going to happen unless I have bought a new outfit. A new costume helps get me ready to face an event. This occasion seemed to call for two new outfits so I began to look around thinking it would be hard to find anything. As much as I like clothes, especially party dresses, I should have known I would love lots of dresses right off the bat.

I broke down and ordered one even though the rules dictate that I wait. When the dress arrived I tried it on and low and behold it actually fit my stick figure- that rarely happens these days. The problem came in the length of the skirt.

To make the dress work the way I wanted meant hemming nearly 12 inches. I am not short by any means, so I questioned exactly who this dress had been made for. I don’t think LeBron would look good in this particular design- no offense to Mr. James.

I put on my highest heels and it still needed 7-8 inches taken off which would cut all of the beautiful flowers painted around the bottom. It didn’t take long for me to see the dress had to go back. And it did.

I will wait like I am supposed to for a myriad of reasons- to be polite and to wait on Fall and Winter clothes among others.

While talking to my friend, who also happens to style my hair as well as Jon and Tim’s, I droned on and on about the dress and what I really want to find. I talked about what we could do with my hair even though it is super short and really doesn’t lend itself to many options for doing anything different or fun for events like this.

As I talked on and on as I am prone to do, I told my friend that I know clothes and hairdos aren’t the most important thing and that I am not the star of this particular show. I told her that even though I had been told that what I wore didn’t matter, I felt this need to do something that showed who I am and made a statement about how happy I was to be at my only child’s wedding.

I guess my years in the theatre have made me think of everything I wear as a costume- it is a way to express myself, show the world who I am, what I am feeling that day and how I want my character to be perceived. While my friend washed my hair, I wondered if maybe I actually was being as silly as the members of my male dominated household have made me feel about all of this.

It was about then that my friend said something that hit me right between the eyes. She casually said that what I wore that day, what I chose to show to the world that day would be photographed from every angle all day long. For someone who detests pictures of myself, I began to feel the panic well up inside of me. And then she said, “There will be generations- your great grand children perhaps- who may only know you one day through those pictures.”

And I knew that she was exactly right. I only met my Puerto Rican grandparents 3 times in my life, when I was one year old, when I was 6 years old and when I was 12. I don’t remember the first time, when I was one. I barely remember the couple of days with them when I was six as we stopped in while on a cruise and then a longer visit when I was 12. The memory I have most in my mind of them are pictures, most of them from my parent’s wedding.

When I play a character onstage, putting on that costume, that final layer, is when I feel the character come to life. Knowing that someday all that could be left for my future family members will be pictures, which are rare (see above-don’t like pictures of myself) makes me know that what I put on that day not only shows my child and his bride how important I think they are and how special the occasion is to me, but will share who I am for decades and generations to come.

No pressure.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.