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For four years, I worked as a salesgirl in Beverly Hills. Sorry. I worked as a Bridal Gown Consultant (my employer’s preferred, less mercenary term) in Beverly Hills.
It was the job I took right after college, in an effort to offset the costs of my MFA and support myself – which was fairly easy to do, since I shared a house with five other girls and was into boxed mac and cheese for dinner. I outfitted myself for the position at Forever21, scouring the racks for anything that fit the two criteria: black and expensive looking. When my brides would ask me, “Oh my God, is that Chanel?” I would breezily say, “Of course.”
Stretching the truth was a necessary part of the job—particularly since our base pay was minimal, leaving us desperate for sales and the commissions that came with them. Every bride, whether she was spending $1,000 or $30,000 on her gown, wanted to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she had found “the one.” I was there to tell her that she had.
My own search for the “One” was not going so smoothly. During my undergrad, I had met a guy named Mark at my Nature of Math class. Mark immediately caught my eye because, without fail, he was always late and would sit in the back of the class, a black hoodie pulled up over his head. As a born and raised “good girl,” Mark’s innocuous signs of rebellion caught my attention and I was sold. Or so I thought.
Mark was my first everything—boyfriend, kiss, all of that. And I think that was the problem. I was convinced it wasn’t supposed to happen so easily and quickly. Didn’t you have to get your heart broken to really love?
Mark talked about a future with a house and children and books and Netflix and trips to San Diego to visit breweries. It was all perfect. Too perfect. Too happy. Too good to be true.
So after two years, I ended it with my flip-phone pressed to my ear, sitting in my parent’s Corolla, and crying hysterically
Soon after, I took the job in Beverly Hills, where it was impossible to forget about my love life. Brides always asked me, “Are you married?” the minute we entered the dressing room together.
Surrounded by the couture beauty of our gowns, it was easy to fall into the fantasy land that is weddings today. As my brides cried, argued, and rejoiced their way to their perfect gowns, I watched closely.
At first, I was intrigued by the wealth. My brides strode across our marble floors in Louboutins, oftentimes flaunting the best bodies Beverly Hills money could buy. Entranced by the youthful faces of my brides’ mothers, I would ask about their skin regime. The answers, almost without fail, included skin creams, routine facials and Botox (“If you just get it in very small places, no one can even tell,” another mother confided).
A lot of my brides were kind to me, often giving me tips and gifts. Some were not, including bride who demanded I carry her purse and follow behind her as we looked at the gowns. Eventually, I got used to the designer labels, fake boobs, and insane demands and started focusing on something else. Every single bride I worked with was part of a love story.
With my own in turmoil, I would listen carefully. After all, each of these women had said “yes” to some type of “forever” with their partner. Every now and then, when I had a particularly chatty bride, I would ask,
“How did you know he was the one?” The answers varied.
He was always there for me.
I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
It’s just the right time.
Their answers rarely satisfied me. Instead, I was looking for some mythic moment or sign from the universe that Mark was the right one. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had become my brides. They all wanted some magical moment that told them they had found their gown. In fact, I had brides, standing in an absolutely exquisite dresses say, “There isn’t a single thing I would change about it. I love everything about it. But it isn’t the one. I don’t have the feeling.”
Others said, “I’m supposed to cry, right? Why am I not crying? It can’t be the one.”
These brides annoyed me to no end. After all, I had done my job. I had found them the best gown for their body, wedding, style, and budget, oftentimes spending hours and multiple appointments with them. But no matter how many pieces of the puzzle I supplied them, it still wasn’t enough.
During this time, I thought about Mark constantly. Following our breakup, I dated several other guys, trying to shake the ghost of Mark from my mind with assorted Patricks, Jeremys and Adams. It didn’t work.
I told myself, over and over again, that there isn’t just one “soul mate” per person, that there wasn’t any reason to be drawn back to Mark. There would be easier choices, guys who didn’t have the baggage I had brought to our relationship with my constant questioning of Mark. But it was like telling my brides that “any dress” would do. It simply wasn’t true and it boggled my conception of how the world worked. I was too anxious to be a romantic and much too pessimistic to believe love was good and easy.
In a twist of geographical fate, Mark got a full-tuition scholarship at Pepperdine Law School, which would place him in Malibu, just 30 minutes from my work in Beverly Hills.
Before Mark started the semester, I asked to see him. We hadn’t been together for a long time. I stared at him in a detached way, wondering about this man who had, without his knowledge, taken over my thoughts. I didn’t feel much, just contentment at the way his hand felt in mine.
Despite how wishy-washy I had been in our previous relationship, he was willing to begin again, rebuilding on the crumbly, unstable foundation of what we had before. He just wanted to know if I wanted it.
Basically, he wanted to know if he was “the one.”
And that was the question that had tormented me.
In the end, I never got my magical sign. I never had a “this it!” moment that lasted. But things become clear in different ways. There wasn’t one great confirmation that Mark was the one. Instead, there was the simple facts that I couldn’t let him go, that no one made me happier than him, and that he loved me no matter what. The simple answers my brides gave now fulfilled me and silenced my anxieties.
I wasn’t like my brides who burst into tears once they saw themselves wearing the gown of their dreams. But then—what is that even? It’s a carefully calculated result, crafted by watching lots of "Say Yes to the Dress" and a salesgirl that whips out tissues at the hint of tears and immediately starts saying,
“This is it! You’ve found it! You are the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen.”
It would be nice if such things were always created in life. If there was always a salesgirl trying to facilitate the right emotional reactions. The funny things is, I’ve had plenty of brides cry and say a gown is “it” only to come back a few days later, begging for a refund, which, due to the custom nature of the gowns, cannot be offered.
One year later, Mark pulled a rose-gold and aquamarine ring out of his dresser drawer. We were at Pepperdine and had just paused a movie to go make out in his room. Some may think it was a terribly unromantic proposal but, after hearing every proposal money could buy from my brides (re: scavenger hunt around the world) it was everything I wanted.
Did I still have anxieties about choosing forever with Mark? Yes. But, in the end, those fears weren’t that important and haven’t been. We were married a year and a half later and have been happy ever since.
So, I don’t know if there is ever a 100% way of knowing when you’ve found the one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t say yes.