That’s right, I have an embarrassing secret: I am addicted to a ridiculous TV show.
I’m not watching any of the Real Housewives from somewhere or other. It’s not The Bachelor, doling out roses to the girls he wants to keep stringing along. I’ve never watched Donald Trump dare potential Apprentices not to laugh at his comb over. I’m not keeping up with any Kardashians, whatever it is that they do. What I watch is possibly even worse than any of those:
It’s Say Yes to the Dress.
I’m going to take a moment to blame my mother (Hi, Mom!). I’d never watched the show until I went home to visit my parents. One night, the kids were asleep and The Daddy and my own dad were watching football, so my mother and I holed up in her room and watched back-to-back episodes on demand.
Each show features several brides searching for a wedding dress at Kleinfeld’s bridal shop in New York City, and then one bride who is in the final fitting stages. While some reality shows have to script some drama to make the show interesting, there are UNLIMITED OPPORTUNITIES for unscripted drama when someone is looking for a wedding dress:
*The budget is “low,” (meaning $1500! dollars) but the bride really really really wants to look like Beyonce. They always say, “I want that WOW factor.” The wow factor is really expensive, you guys. I had no idea.
*The bride wants a sexy mermaid-style dress to show off the fake maracas someone paid thousands of dollars for, and Grandma wants her instead to wear full sleeves and a (lace) turtleneck. Who cares what Grandma wants, right? Well, see, it matters because Grandma is paying, and she’s not shelling out her vodka money for some slutty dress so her granddaughter can be the talk of the beauty shop gossips in Melvina, Kentucky. No siree.
*The bride has no idea what she wants, can’t narrow it down, and won’t listen to anyone’s advice, good or bad. She won’t even listen to Randy, the fabulous flamboyant stylist who works there and who ALWAYS knows what’s right. (Here, I will confess that I once pointed at the TV like some crazed sports fan and shouted, “LISTEN TO RANDY! LISTEN TO HIM RIGHT NOW! UGH!”)
*An indecisive bride brings 14 people with her, each with their own bossypants opinion. It seems to be even worse when the 14 people are the bride’s sorority sisters. They cruelly make fun of everything she comes out in and continue to make fun of her even after she’s returned to the dressing room. The bride is conflicted because these are her “best friends in the whole world” and “I know they only want what’s best for me.” Occasionally the bride finds a spine and chooses something that she loves, but usually she cries and goes home with nothing.
*The bride recently lost 100 pounds and has such a distorted body image that she feels frumpy in absolutely everything. No amount of reassurance or murmured compliments can change her mind. Randy pats her hand and suggests counseling. Sometimes she is able to silence her inner critic; sometimes she cries and goes home with nothing.
*The bride has tried on no less than 100 dresses at other stores and has never liked anything. Once the sales consultant hears this and manages to wipe the look of horror off her face, she comes at it from one of two directions: 1) She instantly decides the appointment is doomed to certain failure, or 2) With dogged determination, she decides she’ll be the one to find this whack-a-do a dress because she is going to WIN WIN WIN!!!!
*The bride recently overcame cancer/a stroke/an abusive first marriage/a disfiguring accident. They always give these brides a huge tragedy discount. (I would too.) On one recent episode, a gorgeous cancer survivor nearly rejected her dream dress because it was $500 over budget, and her amazing friends decided to kick in the difference. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my cheeks; thank God I was home alone.
*Someone tells the bride that her favorite “fashion-forward” dress with a befeathered skirt makes her look like a deranged chicken. She sobs in the fitting room and her best friend comes to console her and encourages her to forget what everyone else thinks – it’s her day, after all. But she never buys the chicken dress after that. Usually she cries and goes home with nothing.
*The bride brings the fiance who doesn’t really want to be there, but lodges half-hearted opinions anyway. It never goes well, especially if her mother is there too, shooting him icy looks from the corner of a disapproving eye. The bride tries to force a solid opinion from him, but he ain’t no fool. Randy shakes his head sadly behind the scenes, reminding the viewer that a groom just doesn’t belong in a bridal shop. You could cut the pent-up tension with a knife, and I always wonder if these people eventually just call the wedding off. Sometimes the bride ends up buying something she doesn’t love, which leads us to the final scenario:
*The bride, at her next-to-final fitting, decides that she was talked into the dress by one or more people in her entourage, is finally able to admit that she hates it, and OH MY GOD SHE NEEDS A NEW DRESS RIGHT NOW. This always happens when the wedding is less than a month away. Obviously, the staff goes berserk and says the last minute switcheroo will never happen, not in a million kabillion years. Magically, they always pull it off, at the expense of some teary-eyed, overworked alterations gal who pulls several brutal all nighters.
In the end, the majority of the brides leave the store having found their “perfect” dress, the one that makes them feel “like a princess.” That’s what most of them say – they want to feel like a princess. Whatever that means?
I’m really not sure why I find the show so fascinating. Maybe it’s because I’ll never get married again and have the singular shopping experience of finding a wedding dress. Maybe it’s because I love watching the brides’ faces light up when they really love the way they look in a gown. Maybe I love watching other people spend a lot of money. Maybe I love Randy.
And maybe I love it because it makes me think of time spent laughing with my mom. I miss you, Mom! I’ll keep a few episodes on TiVo for next time we’re together, especially if there’s one with a chicken dress.