The only plan for the day was to get married. Our six o’clock appointment with Elvis was set. I had laid out our wedding clothes the night before to be sure we were set. Each of us had blue suede shoes to fill. What had been a joke of a dream would today be a reality. We would say I do, again, before God and Elvis.
The temperature was 103 degrees. The dry heat seemed nothing to the humid air we were accustomed. A short walk to a hat shop just after breakfast seemed a pleasant jaunt. I had found the perfect fascinator with a birdcage veil the day before. I wanted to sleep on the decision of purchasing. First thought of the morning is that it was perfection and I wanted it to be a part of our day. It would go perfectly with my cream lace sheath with belled sleeves. The finishing touch.
I sat and curled my hair with the ion infused steamed sponge rollers I had used since college. Each bouncy curl created in hope that the dry heat would not destroy them. Falling in perfect placement, and framed just as I hoped by the new veil.
I took my time to carefully paint my face, wanting the unassuming drama that getting married by Elvis would require. I glued on the long eyelashes carefully placing them on my lids. I attempted the simple contouring Molly had tutored me on in the weeks before. As I looked in the mirror I was pleased with my face looking very much like me with the tinges of drama and glamour I generally avoid. Slipping on my dress, Jonesy zipped it up, cuddling me as we looked in the mirror. We both were pleased. We were excited to renew the vows of marriage.
I felt beautiful. He made me feel beautiful. In his cream linen shirt, khaki pants and blue suede loafers, we created the perfect picture of forty-somethings going to the chapel. We, in that moment, were giddy.
For six weeks leading up to our departure to Vegas I had been on an epic search for the perfect dress. My form had altered due to bad choices, but also a growing tumor in my abdomen. I had never taken much stock in valuing my appearance. Growing up I was referred to as the smart one. A broad nose, round belly, disproportioned torso, and Flinstone feet have been as much a part of my being as my eyes that change color and freckles. I never minded not being classically beautiful. I valued strength and intellect far more as attractive in others and myself. I was content in my own skin and felt secure.
But trying on dresses was taking its toll. I had a vision of what I wanted our pictures to look like. And as I faced my image in the mirror over and over in dresses that were not meant to fit a body like mine, but the body in the picture of my mind, I began to lose confidence. It felt like insecurity was a fast growing cancer that originated in my deformed abdomen but was spreading into my brain. I found myself, a week before the wedding, in the floor of the Belk’s dressing room crying, my girls just outside the door. I had to have this breakdown without them knowing. It needed to be short. I could not let them begin to question their own image by being in distress by mine. All the magazines said so. So I allowed myself five minutes of self hatred and refreshed my makeup with a smile. “None of these are THE DRESS.” Macy searched my face, knowingly, but in her kindness she said nothing.
Three days before we left, I found a dress that I liked. It was not THE dress, but I had adjusted my big girl panties and was feeling more realistic. More than anything, I was so excited about six days alone with Jonesy.
As we walked through the casino hotel to meet our Uber driver, I felt all eyes on us. Smiling faces wished us well. My shoes were complimented. We were giddy with what was coming. Our Uber driver was talkative and loved we were celebrating our twentieth anniversary this way. She dropped us off at the chapel, which looked like a place where we were more likely to get mugged than married. She wished us luck and we hand in hand walked toward the unexpected behind the fully tinted doors.
Our Elvis was breathtaking. He was young and energetic. He had the spirit of Elvis if not the face and his Gold Lame suit could spin your imagination. He took us into the chapel and explained the plan for our ceremony. He loved our shoes and relished our story. Everything about him and this chapel was what we hoped for. It was perfectly tacky!! He place Jonesy at the silk flower and rope-light decorated altar and took me back to the front room. He handed me a bunch of silk flowers to carry and he walked me down the aisle singing “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” It was utter perfection. My eyes fixed on Jonesy, I knew that even in the midst of the ridiculousness of this ceremony, I was as serious about vowing myself to him with Elvis as I was twenty years before in front of our friends and family. As Jonesy read his vows to me I cried the tears of happiness and love. I blubbered out my own vows and we danced to Viva Las Vegas. My face hurt from the laughter. My heart was full of the joy of loving well this man who gave me an Elvis Wedding. This was the perfect moment.
And then all of it crashed down.
Image by image.
As the photographer set the images she had taken from the event in the fluorescent lighting and the horrible angles, all the joy was replaced by the feelings of sitting in tears in the dressing room. This was not what we were supposed to look like. That body was not the one that was cuddled in front of the mirror just an hour before. In the 100 images she had taken the images of my heart were distorted. I found myself fighting the insecurities that lead to self loathing. We smiled, paid, got into our Uber and I sat quietly, no longer amused by this most amazing experience, but instead inside my head, seething in anger at myself for my bad choices both leading to those images, but also in that moment. I was allowing my joy to be snuffed by vanity.
Our night continued with amazing celebrations. We enjoyed an exquisite meal and each other. Slowly, but steadfastly, I found my image back in Jonesy’s eyes. Eyes that find me intriguing and beautiful.
I have never gone back and looked at the images or videos. In my heart those moments were so beautiful. There was no man more handsome than my Jonesy. The love we shared in that fun, silly hour with Elvis was breathtaking. I, in declaring my unending love for this man who has shared the best and worst of me, was the most beautiful I had ever been. I felt it. Jonesy told me so. Living life in the four-dimensions of reality was the truth. The two dimensional images were the lie.
I have come to believe that the two dimensional images that are so prevalent in our world are part of the deterioration of our collective self image. On one of the most amazing nights of my life, paper images had power to steal my joy. I allowed them to have that power. I have work to do on securing a healthy self image. I have better choices to make. But the greatest work I have is trusting the memories of my heart to hold the joys of my life, not Instagram.