An Open Letter to Abby Ellin, Re: Alexa Day’s Fantasy Wedding

She's probably put a great deal of thought into this dress. And that's okay.

She’s probably put a great deal of thought into this dress. And that’s okay.

Dear Ms. Ellin:

Just the other day, I read your article in The New York Times, in which you take women to task for planning their weddings long before they’re engaged — in some cases when they aren’t even dating. I have some concerns about your position, but before I get to that, I want to share a little personal background.

A few months ago, I made an important business decision. I had one book (Illicit Impulse) out at the time, and I was just finishing work on “Turnabout Day,” and I had my hands full with promotion and career planning and actually writing something else. I was barely making time for my day job. Something had to give.

So I stopped dating.

I was absolutely devastated by the decision at first. It felt a bit like I was cosigning the worst of the worst case scenarios single women must banish: the one that says you’re never going to find anyone because you put your career first. But as time healed the self-inflicted wound, it was easier for me to see the truth. I didn’t have time to manage a day job, a writing career, and a relationship. I still don’t. More importantly, dating had become so uninteresting that I didn’t miss it all that much. Faced with the choice between dating and writing, it was really easy to choose writing.

This was my mindset when I read your article.

At the outset, I was really disappointed to find that you apparently only spoke to two such women and that they were both in their 20’s. I was the most cynical (and most single) 20something I’ve ever met, and even I had my wedding planned.

More disappointing, though, is the suggestion that there’s something frivolous about the great wedding daydream. When Oscar de la Renta said a woman’s wedding dress was the most important thing she’d ever wear, you said, “[h]e probably wasn’t considering what a woman would wear, say, as she accepted a Nobel Peace Prize, or was being sworn in as the president of the United States.”

And you missed the point. You missed it by a mile.

When I was a little girl, the only fancy dress I daydreamed of was the one I’d wear on my way to a very different Oscar. By the time I graduated from high school, I had probably written fifty different versions of my Academy Award acceptance speech. What you’ve failed to appreciate here is that when I accept my Oscar or take the oath of office, that dress will be the least important part of that experience. I had an ever-changing list of possible Oscar presenters (Pierce Brosnan is still at the top of the list); the most important part of that daydream, for me, is wondering who will give me that congratulatory smooch on the cheek. Isn’t it likely that we’ll wonder who will be Chief Justice that wintry morning? And since I’m pretty sure the Nobel Prize committee calls you on the phone first thing in the morning, my guess is that I’ll be dressed kind of casually when I accept. Shame on you, Ms. Ellin; that detail was easy to find.

(By the way, if the world changes so dramatically that I’m in the running for the Nobel Prize or the presidency, you might want to make sure you’re right with God.)

A woman’s wedding is no less important to her than any of those events, although statistically, it is the event she is most likely to actually participate in. This is not an observation on the state of my gender or politics or whatever. It’s about numbers. If you look at the number of presidents and Nobel laureates put together, next to the number of women who get married every year in this country, I think you might agree that it makes sound logical sense for a woman to at least consider planning her wedding.

If the world considers my very imaginary wedding that unimportant anyway, I think we must ask ourselves some challenging questions.

1. Is my wedding less important because it is personal to me and does little to serve the world at large? Is it wrong for me to fantasize about my personal desires when I could be thinking of what I’ll wear when I eradicate hunger? And what gives you or anyone else the right to make that decision for me?

2. Is there any reason at all that I can’t daydream about my wedding day *and* the super-stylish winter ensemble I’ll be wearing when I take the oath of office? Does choosing one preclude the other? And again, what gives you or anyone else the right to make that decision for me?

Finally, I’d ask you to consider one last thing.

When I last made serious imaginary plans for my wedding, I was in a long-term, serious relationship with a man who, unbeknownst to me, had no interest in marrying me. I’d gone so far as to pick the music, and he took special delight in belittling me for doing that before we broke up. That made a real impression on me way back then, but when I started dating again, guess what happened?

I started thinking of my wedding again. I dared to daydream. And this time, all the details were different. I was a different woman with a different man, and I dreamed of a different dress with different music and different food.

But all my imaginary ceremonies have one thing in common: I’m happier than I dare to daydream about, and I’m with someone who truly loves me.

That’s okay to think about. I don’t even have to sacrifice daydreaming about the Oscar to make that happen. In fact, the imaginary wedding has helped me realize that my reality isn’t making enough room for that relationship right now.

I didn’t get that from Disney, Ms. Ellin. I got that from years of hard time in the dating pool.

So I’m really sorry to hear that you don’t think I should be wasting my time on my imaginary wedding when I could be thinking about something you think is more important. Mostly I’m sorry for you.

See, I’m okay with the idea of planning my imaginary wedding to an equally imaginary man because I know I can do that and go about my hectic everyday life, too.

I guess I’m just worried that you can’t.

Best of luck,

Alexa Day

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6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Abby Ellin, Re: Alexa Day’s Fantasy Wedding

  1. I don’t blame you one bit for daydreaming about your wedding day! Even though I used to daydream about just the opposite–my elopement. When I was young, I imagined my beloved and I would be in such a hurry to get married that we’d just go to the justice of the peace and tie the knot right then and there. And all the imaginary characters in my head did the same–okay, I was twelve, I didn’t know about pre-marital sex back then. Anyway, when the time came, guess what? My beloved and I went straight to the justice of the peace, dragging our “attendants” out of the pool (I bet I’m the only woman you know whose attendants wore cut-offs) and for ten bucks, we did the deed. I didn’t tell my parents until months later (we’d sort of planned to have a real wedding later, but neither of us were interested). And we’re still happily married after all these years. Go ahead and dream, and hopefully one day it will come true, Oscar de la Renta and all.

    • The abundance of variables is part of what makes the wedding fantasy such a blast. Big church wedding fantasy. Big beach wedding fantasy. Tiny candlelit wedding fantasy. Long dress with train. Minidress with beads. Non-white dress. But I never thought of cut-offs. 🙂

      Who knows what lies ahead? Statistically, there is a really good chance I’ll be in one of those dresses one day. I do certainly love looking at all the pretty pictures.

      Best to your DH!

  2. I don’t blame you either, Alexa! It’s that once-in-a-lifetime princess moment for most of us. We imagine walking down that aisle (or beach, or whatever) wearing that perfect gown, watching for that spark of awe in the eyes of our hubby-to-be as we near him. It’s magic. Keep on making and day-dreaming your own.

    • You know, I’ve started to give away some of my fantasy weddings to characters. Grace from Illicit Impulse got the minidress I briefly considered. Chloe in “Turnabout Day” is probably going to get one of those really lacy ones since Jamaica is so hot. I just finished writing an engaged couple; she seems like a conservative bride. Oddly, I never write the weddings (well, except for one, which the hero of the story interrupts at the start of the book). I guess I figure all these wild ideas should be paying for something. 🙂

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