The Wedding Dress Problem

I have had two big problems needing solving since last November–November 17th, 2013, to be exact. On that day I experienced two panic attacks and such serious anxiety that I went out of my mind and off a platform at a powerlifting meet instead of competing as I was scheduled to do. Also on that day Kyle found himself proposing to me, impromptu, cradling my shuddering, crying form on a couch after a long, ugly trip home from Dubuque away from the meet and all the people who had watched me unravel. I don’t know how he originally was thinking about proposing, but things don’t always go as planned, and they went way off course as far as plans go in this instance. I remember sobbing, telling him there was no way he could ever want to truly be with someone who was as screwed up as I was–how could he ever willingly commit himself to such a liability? And I told him I was afraid of losing him, wanting him forever but believing my fears and my flaws rendered me undeserving of anyone’s commitment, of that fabled unconditional love. That day flayed me bare, stripping my pride down to the deepest reaches of what I loathed for years, what I starved and mentally flogged myself for. A conviction that something, some nameless intrinsic defect was what I would always be apologizing and punished for. I cracked on the platform in the name of this nameless thing about myself that was not enough and I cried into my partner’s chest for fear of it barring me from ever truly having him. And he told me it wouldn’t and he asked me if I wanted him to ask me to marry him and then he asked me to marry him.

This is why I don’t really have an engagement story to offer when people ask for it. I tell them he proposed to me on a couch, impromptu, kind of like a conversation that just went that way. Because that’s what happened, out of context of anything more than what might constitute stage directions. There is no quick, neatly-packaged way of saying it was a truly pivotal point in my education of what it means to love and receive love. There were no theatrics–no scripted movements. Our engagement was a formality in a bond that had been forged without a need for labels or declarations to anyone else. As we often say to each other, we are de facto already married. The time has come to honor what we have together with people who are important to us and who value us for what we have to offer to each other and to the people in our lives. We are having a traditional wedding, and it is going down on April 25th of this year.

Now, of the two problems that arose in the wake of the events of November 17th, one has been solved. I overcame the massive issues with anxiety that caused me to crumble that day when a little less than a year later I got back on the platform for a full meet and went 9 for 9, totaling 766 in the raw unwrapped 132 lb weight class.  The other problem–the fact that now that I was engaged, I needed to get myself a wedding dress and feel ok about wearing it–has not been so neatly resolved.

Yet. See, once I was engaged on November 17th of last year, the reality of needing to do all the wedding stuff, including finding a dress, hit. I found a dress quickly, more quickly than I expected. I tried it on at nearly the heaviest weight I have ever hit, looking puffy and bloated when I saw myself in mirrors and in pictures from that day. It wasn’t good. Since that time I have lost a solid 10 plus pounds, but the discomfort I felt in that dress and the anxiety and dread I have felt about the actual wedding day in the dress have remained. I worked from the month of trying on that dress to this day to get my weight down but slowed and then stalled my progress when training presented something of a conflict of interests with being “wedding-skinny.” Even after dropping weight, the crippling fear of looking horrendous in the dress remained. The fact that I have larger shoulders and arms due to lifting didn’t help my misgivings either–I remember trying on the dress and thinking how incongruous the picture looked. I knew I wouldn’t feel truly comfortable in any dress, that even to my eye, an eye that was supposed to be the champion of women carrying muscle, my muscular upper body did not look right in anything so feminine. I’m not proud of this. It’s not how I’m supposed to think.

Yep, my arms are freaking huge. This was taken the day after my meet, I'm pretty sure. Stuff that into a wedding dress, bro.
Yep, my arms are freaking huge. This was taken the day after my meet, I’m pretty sure. Stuff that into a wedding dress, bro.

But to be completely honest, my arms and chest and back do look incongruous to me when literally placed in the context of the dress I will be wearing that day. It’s like two aesthetics at war, the stronger of the two winning and making the whole image look like a farce. Not being stage-lean hasn’t helped. Originally, I had figured that if I just got my body fat percentage down to an extremely low point–like maybe a few weeks away from being able to compete on a figure stage–I’d somehow look ok in the dress.

The problem with this is that I am not a figure competitor. There’s a point where bringing my body fat levels down will challenge if not entirely tank my strength. Training for maximal strength is not an arena for being super lean. Sure, some people achieve it–albeit through means that may or may not be clean-testing on your average drug test panel–but for a lot of us, particularly a lot of us women, trying to train optimally for powerlifting means being super lean all the time is not possible. I’m not even going to go into the science of all this shit. Seriously, no, not even going to do it. Also, it’s worth noting here that what is one person’s “lean” is another person’s “whoa, this is my ‘before’ picture.” While I brought my weight down and am maintaining it/possibly slightly losing a bit more bodyfat, I’m at the point where seeing my training progress gives me far more than being “wedding SKINNAY, BITCHES” would give me.

I DID drop weight, but I’m kind of done doing that now, k? Let’s just stay here.

My powerlifting interests, then, are in direct conflict with my “I don’t want to look like shit on my wedding day” interests. The idea that my family will quietly look at me on that day and think how “bulky” I look runs endlessly through my head when the topic comes up for me mentally. It’s this push and pull, this discrepancy, that is torturous.

So I think I’m writing this post to signify the beginning of the resolution of this issue. I’ve been starting to crack in the last few weeks–making decisions and stalling my weight loss so I’ll maintain instead of dropping over and over. I’ve done it semi-consciously driven by the subconscious conviction that enough is enough. Here is my declaration: if anyone thinks I look like shit on my wedding day, in my dress, fuck them. I am done with this shit. This is the size my body is at this moment in my life. I do not really plan on bringing it down any further. I have totaled elite in three different weight classes with this body. I been nationally ranked in two weight classes and whenever this meet’s results are posted I will be nationally ranked in a third. My deadlift is 369.3 pounds at 128 lbs bodyweight. I bench nearly thirty pounds more than I weigh. My squat is increasing by leaps. The body that will occupy the dress I am wearing on my wedding day is so much more than a mass of cells walking down an aisle. And no one is going to make me feel like shit for how it looks. No one has the right.

Screen shot 2014-10-18 at 2.48.36 PM
Demonic deadlift party don’t stop. This is me a few weeks before this recent meet.

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