Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hair-do Hell

After having talked to many friends about wedding horror stories--many from the point of view of women in the wedding party, I have concluded that at least one thing is certain: "bridesmaid abuse" has been a huge source of wedding traumas.

Many young women initially believe it is an honor to be a part of the wedding party. In fact, some are offended when they are not chosen to be a bridesmaid.

Women in their late twenties and thirties, however, sing a different tune (often, a celebratory one when NOT chosen to be in a wedding). It seems that after a woman goes through her first stint as a bridesmaid, she is relieved to never be asked to do it again. Why? Is there a reason that this age-old tradition of having bridesmaids has become particularly stressful and/or annoying to the women the bride deems worthy to select?

There are several reasons that being a bridesmaid gets such a bad rap--unfortunately, the reasons stem directly from the way that these close friends/family members have been treated. And women talk.

Take, for example, BFP (or, the Bride Fashion Police). I never understood why brides forget that choosing a great bridesmaid's dress does NOT justify regulation of the way that each individual wears it!

Word has it that brides choose best friends, sisters, or their closest cousin to be there for them on the special day. It makes NO sense to me why women don't want their bridesmaids to be themselves, rather than a cookie cutter, carbon copy version of what brides would choose to look like.

Take, for example, this picture. It represents what my friend Sarah believes to be the most ridiculous hairdo. Ever. It took a lot of prodding, but Sarah sent me her close-up, so to speak, from when she was a bridesmaid in a wedding that took place at a resort in North Carolina. A true New York City girl who loves going to the hottest bars by night and Met exhibits by day, Sarah was less than thrilled about her well, very un-Manhattanlike hairstyle.

Apparently, the bride sent her and the rest of the bridal party an email a few weeks before the wedding about what she was thinking in terms of how best to dress their tresses:

"I was talking with the photographer and looking at some photos, and I was thinking it might look nice if we all wear our hair in an updo. If anyone doesn't want to wear their hair up, of course that's totally fine."

While Sarah appreciated the attempt to make her feel as if she had the option, what choice did she really have? If she were one of seven women who was wearing her hair down, straight, and natural (which is the way she always wears it), would the bride, Jen, really be that approving? Although one of her closest friends, Sarah couldn't imagine Jen being very happy with that arrangement. Even if she were cool with it, did she give them any choice to feel comfortable with their decision to stray from the pack? Sarah put it this way: "Although I probably shouldn't have cared, I figured that if I were one out of eight to look different, more eyes would be on me--walking down the aisle and not tripping was enough pressure!"

Sarah then told me that in retrospect, she did more than go along--what the hell, she figured--Sarah decided to fully indulge in Jen's fantasy, and make her updo look as ridiculous as possible. Namely, she let the Southern hairdresser do what she wanted to do - instead of deciding upon a simple bun, she followed the example of the other girls--Sarah's stylist created tons of kinks and curls and lacquered her with enough hairspray to make an ample dent in the ozone layer. As you can tell from the picture, the hairdresser pulled out all the stops. As Sarah describes it: "I ended up with what looked like a pineapple on my head."

Not only did it take Sarah twenty-five minutes--literally--to pull the sixty bobby pins out of her hair at the end of the evening, but her “updo” fully prevented her from doing much of, well, anything. Sarah's hair appointment was at 10 a.m. the day of the wedding, and although you would think that the curls were glued to her head, any outdoor activity (i.e. tennis, golf, or even a quiet walk on the grounds of the resort) was out of the question. "There was no way I could move without a curl somehow falling into the wrong section of my head. My neck actually started becoming tense from the sheer weight of what I was dealing with. I couldn’t lie down and risk smushing all of that work in one fell swoop. So, I literally sat in my suite from noon until 4:30 p.m. reading Memoirs of a Geisha. Thank goodness it turned out to be a kick-ass book that I couldnĂ‚’t put down! Not that I had much of a choice if I had wanted to."

I think the lesson to be learned from Sarah's experience is that while in theory, your choices may seem like good ones (surely to you and your mother, or whomever is helping you plan out each and every detail, like hairstyles and jewelry), we need to feel comfortable in our own skin and open-toed shoes (even if you preferred a close-toe heel). While I'm not saying it's outlandish or irrational to expect your bridesmaids to show up looking classy and bridesmaid-ready, I think it's taking it a little too far to have rules and regulations that restrict the personal style, or even their personal comfort, of each and every woman in the bridal party. Why not let each girl wear her hair as she wants? I'm certainly not advocating a style free-for-all (with Mohawks, buzz cuts, and bleach blonde hair, oh my!), but setting limits within limits not only makes you more unattractive to those who are in your wedding party, but having someone apply makeup differently or wear hair in an updo” (when they aren't used to that) won't make us look any better either.

Your friends, sister, and favorite cousin probably know what looks best on them. If they've never worn an updo, there’s probably a reason. YOU saw Sarah's picture. I don’t think there'’s any arguing with that.

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