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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Kook Dress

By: Joy Policar

My husband, Ray, of 18 years walked into my study and inquired, “What’s the kook dress doing out?” My 17-year- old son, Kyle, followed him in and asked, “Is that your wedding dress? Wow, it’s prettier than in the pictures, but it’s still weird for a wedding dress.” Although I bought the not wedding dress at Nordstrom, I truly believe this magical garment was destined for me to wear at our wedding ceremony on January 4, 1992. As I glance at it, informally draped over the top of its silver box, it strikes me that I have never seen any garment like this one before or since. Kook is a term of endearment used in our family to signify amusement and the appreciation of originality. It really is a kook dress!

This floor length straight white shift bedecked with pearls and iridescent white beads in vertical lines starting below the bust to the floor; and rhinestones, gold and silver sequence form patterns accentuating the bust, V neck, and gold fringed puffed sleeves-- do not speak wedding dress. This form fitting dress hugged my hour glass figure in all the right places. Although it may sound gaudy, it truly spoke elegance, sophistication, and refinement. The dress mirrored my soul.

I was 35 when I married the 39-year-old Ray—a second marriage for me and a first for him. When I left my first marriage of five years, I vowed that I would never settle again. I wanted a man that I was head over heels in love with. That was a tall order because for five years I had been divorced and was living in a beautiful condo I owned, enjoying my teaching career, and relishing the social life I had created. I did not have children, so my biological clock was ticking loudly. Yet I was holding out for a man who I was magnetically attracted to—namely, tall, dark, and handsome. Razor sharp intelligence, a quick wit, and social graces were also part of the criteria. I dated oodles of guys because I had discovered my power as a woman in my early to mid-thirties. I had come into my beauty—able to reel in 20 something guys, plus I had enough life experience and confidence to hold my own with men in their 30s and 40s. So I kissed lots of frogs and had a good time doing it, but reconciled myself to being single.

On Thursday night, April 11, 1991, after a long day of teaching my eleventh grade English classes, I went out for cocktails with a girlfriend at a popular singles bar in Sacramento. As I walked to the bar to get a drink, I struck up a conversation with Ray. Not only was I physically attracted to him; but also as we talked and laughed, I could not believe that he was measuring up to the standards from which I was unwilling to bend. I was bursting with excitement when he invited me to his house for dinner that Saturday night.

There was a drawback. Regardless of the fact that I held high standards, I did not believe that I deserved a man that could fit this criteria. Who wouldn’t want a man like this, and who was I to demand one? What’s worse, how was I going to deal with my insecurities if the man of my dreams was attracted to me? It was easy to date guys that did not measure up because I didn’t believe I did either. I was just a gal from across the tracks. I was the first in my family to get a Bachelor’s degree, and as a teacher, I was the star of my family of origin and extended family. I had pulled myself up, but felt I lacked refinement.

Ray was a successful attorney, and he was smart. He went straight through law school and had been an established attorney for 14 years. He had a beautiful home in Carmichael and a vacation home in Lake Tahoe. My insecurities were surfacing with a vengeance. I grew up in South Sacramento living in a 1,100 square foot home. College educations were not encouraged in my family, but in his family professional careers requiring graduate level degrees were an expectation. Ray’s mother made it clear to me that “Ray was not the marrying kind.” Although his family wanted him to wed, his family admired him for holding out. He was protecting the family’s assets while waiting for that special woman, and I couldn’t believe he had chosen me.
I have always loved clothes and for my wedding day, I wanted to wear a dress that reflected my depth and complexity. I could not bring myself to wear a traditional, demure gown—one his family might picture his bride wearing. Weddings always mark transition in a woman’s life, but I knew I was making a radical change. I embraced my new role as wife with enthusiasm, but I still wanted to hang on to my independence, and the place I had earned in the professional world. It was as if overnight my social class identity shifted, and along with this change, I might lose a cherished part of myself. My working-class roots are a part of my essence, a piece of my core that keeps me grounded and ignites my drive. The hand work that created the intricate sequenced and jeweled patterns on the dress told the story of the initiatory journey I was undergoing. When I slipped it on, it whispered, “You are brave and you wear me proudly—you are enough. I am honored to be on your body, so I can mirror to the world your bold elegance that defies convention. You go girl; I was made for you and you alone. I tell your story.”

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