I watched eight episodes of "Say Yes To The Dress" recently, a TLC show about women coming into an upscale bridal boutique, shopping for a wedding gown. (I know eight episodes in one sitting is a little extreme. Let's not call it "wasting the entire day watching tv." Instead, let's call it "research for a writing project.")
The show is only average - the "problem" customers are, at the worst, annoyingly picky, and the salespeople helping the women are always polite, even when the brides ought to be kicked in the pants. The store featured on the show is all about the sales, and not about creating compelling reality tv. Who knew actual reality would be so uninteresting? Give me fake reality any day.
Of course, the lack of bridezillas knocking over racks of wedding dresses in a heated, bridal-induced rage didn't stop me from spending many hours watching the show. The one thing I walked away with was the concept of "The Perfect Dress." The Perfect Dress is that elusive object that will transform your average thirty-something woman into The Perfect Bride. Sure, you can get married in any ratty dress you find on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx, but that'll never make you The Perfect Bride. All that will do is make you married, and being married is so rarely the goal of The Perfect Wedding experience.
The way these brides agonize over the selection of their wedding dress, you'd think they were picking the dress they had to wear every single day for the rest of their lives, not a dress they wear once and then stuff into a box, never to be looked at again. All of these women spend thousands of dollars on their dress - one woman paid $10,000 because it was The Perfect Dress. I don't know if it's the old, jaded wife in me writing this, but I wanted to shake some of these women, the ones who have spent months trying on a hundred different dresses and still can't find The Perfect Dress. I want to tell them, Stop looking! If you need this kind of flawless perfection in an item of clothing, then how are you ever going to live with another human for the rest of your life?
There is no such thing as a Perfect Marriage. Even if you have the Perfect Dress, Perfect Cake, Perfect Flowers, Perfect Ratio of Bridesmaids to Groomsmen, there is no guarantee that the resulting marriage will be similarly Perfect. The problem comes with expectations of marital perfection. Even two Perfectly Compatible people will find, somewhere around Year Two (if they're lucky), that their Perfect Spouse is, in fact, imPerfect. No wonder divorce rates are so high - if you've shelled out $50,000 for a Perfect Wedding only to find out that the Perfect Groom is a lemon, well, the right answer is to trade him for a new model, right? And this time, better put in a little more effort on the Perfect Party Favors.
Fortunately for all of us imPerfect people, you don't have to have a Perfect Marriage. You can have a Fabulous, Great, Good, Average, Mediocre, So-So, or even an Iffy Marriage and still make it work. Most likely, a successful marriage is all of those things just on different days. The important thing is to have as a spouse someone who can be Great while you're being So-So, with the understanding that you'll return the favor, and hopefully you can meet up at Good every so often. The best spouse thinks you're Perfect no matter what dress you wear.