When I first started this blog, about five years ago, I did so with a post about why I thought I would never marry again. Today, I am the ecstatic participant of a peaceful and loving partnership, and the happy owner of a wedding dress.
My dream was to walk into a shop, find a dress that fit me perfectly and was the color I wanted (green or blue), and in my price range. Magically, that’s exactly what happened.
Jade Park and I were in NYC doing research for our new novels, and that meant we ate and shopped a lot. We were fresh from a flirtatious and happy brunch at the Grey Dog on Carmine (where we witnessed a “sausage dance”– which involved fake striptease and the shaking of salt on chest– by a bus boy we had shamelessly teased) and were on a search for a TOPSHOP. We stopped at a ghetto ice store, where I salivated over the accessories (you will read more about my new accessory addiction in the future). I bought ice and other things and we proceeded to the vicinity of the TOPSHOP, which was supposed to be on 34th street.
That’s when I saw the store. Sexy and outrageous gowns stood in the window. “They probably don’t have my size,” I said, but Ms. Park demanded I find out. I poked my head in and asked the white-haired Arab-looking man inside, “Do you have plus sizes?” He nodded wearily.
Literally 2 minutes later, Ms. Park held a gorgeous blue chiffon dress out. “What do you think?” she said. I thought it was perfect- the dress I had indeed been picturing. Could it be? I was convinced it wouldn’t fit. Ms. Park scolded me to try it on anyway.
I squeezed into the minuscule dressing “room” with two other dresses, and tried the blue one on first. I didn’t unzip it, just slipped it over my head, and– like magic– it fit perfectly. I looked at the price tag: $600. I Ms. Park in Hebrew if she spoke Hebrew, hoping she had taken some classes when she was converting to Judaism. I wanted to complain to her that it was a bit out of my budget, but when I looked at her over the door, she looked back in confusion. It turned out the shopkeeper knew Hebrew. “How does she know Hebrew?” the man asked, and Jade Park told him I was Palestinian-Egyptian and had studied it.
There was no mirror so I stepped out. Oooohs and Aaaaahs greeted me.
In the mirror, I saw my hourglass figure further hourglassed and supersexified. Was it really going to be that easy? I asked the shopkeeper where he was from. “Iran,” he said. He was a Jewish Iranian.
I took the dress off in the room, hung it up, and proceeded to look for flaws. I knew the man would speak my language. It was bargaining time.
I brought the dress out and faked a sullen face. “It has flaws,” I said, and the man hung it up. “Here,” I said, pointing at some worn sewing. “And here,” I said, pointing at a piece of lint on the flutter sleeve.
Jade Park stepped away. She knew we were doing that thing we do.
The man said he’d give me 30 % off. I pouted and scrunched my face and gave the dress a dirty look. I remained silent.
“I give it to you for $400,” he said.
“I agreed, and as he wrote up the receipt and reached for my credit card, I demanded that it be “$400 including the tax.”
He pretended to think about it, then nodded.
“You did a mitzva today,” said Ms. Park to the shopkeeper, and he laughed.
I floated out of the store, the dress in a zippered dry cleaning bag over my shoulder. We went to the NY Public Library afterwards, to see the Yaddo exhibit. The dress came with us. Then we discovered that TOPSHOP didn’t even exist. We were meant to stop at that store.
Later, the dress took a ride to Washington Heights, and sat in a Dominican restaurant which was recommended by Junot Diaz. It took a packed subway ride back downtown. It walked along the park, visited a liquor store, and went to Union Square. Later, it would go to Laguardia and ride an airplane West. The dress would travel.
I hung it up two days later in my closet in Michigan. “You are an immigrant,” I told it. It has another trip, this one to Texas, in its future.