Carolyn Hax: Self-conscious about being a bridesmaid

Carolyn Hax
Columnist July 19, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My brother is five years younger than I am, and he is getting married. His fiance asked me to be one of five bridesmaids. We are not particularly close, but I think she extended the bridesmaid invite as a social grace that I certainly appreciate.

I have 4-year-old and 9-month-old children and am having trouble losing weight. All of the bridesmaids are young, mid-20s, and have cute bodies. I am hesitant to accept the bridesmaid invitation because I do not want to stick out as the Fat Old Bridesmaid.

If we were close, I would suck it up and go anyway. But we are not, and it seems like I would be putting myself through unnecessary self-conscious behavior. What do you think about this?


Self-Conscious

I see where you’re coming from, but this also saddens me. If you hide yourself because you think your body isn’t “cute” enough, then you might be avoiding “unnecessary self-conscious behavior,” yes — but won’t you also be aware throughout that you would have stood up there with her if you liked yourself more? And won’t that also reinforce the corrosive self-hatred you’re harboring?

You are you and you have inherent beauty, and any pounds plus or minus, here or there, are just life mileage. Life mileage used to be valued before the nitpickers and narcissists took over the machinery of popular images. Do what you want regarding the wedding, but please do consider striking a one-woman blow against the tyranny of superficial values.

Carolyn:

You are right and intellectually I agree with you. But I am having a hard time feeling excited to wear a pink strapless gown with a bunch of really cute younger women. My husband thinks this is no big deal — but men are generally improved by tuxes and the same can’t be said about bridesmaid’s dresses. What you said is right, I am just having a hard time getting behind it.

Self-Conscious again

Pink strapless, that’s unfortunate. Would the bride give you license to wear something that you believe is more flattering, be it a dress in the same fabric but different cut, or a jacket or shawl to help you feel more comfortable?

This is not to say that a woman who’s carrying a few extra pounds can’t look pretty in a pink strapless gown. It’s really about your skin tone, posture and the shape of your neck and shoulders; a curvy woman can look smashing and a svelte one ghastly. It’s just that both pink and strapless are choices that flatter a narrower selection of body types than some other choices, and so are often unkind to impose on others.

If the bride doesn’t grant you any leeway (please, brides, grant leeway), then Option 2 is a skilled tailor and a fabulous necklace, if you want to accept her invitation.

I meant to add this to my original answer but got off on a rant: You can also volunteer to serve in the wedding in some other capacity, like a reader or flower-girl-and-ring-bearer wrangler, or something else. Still, do that if it sounds like a lot more fun than standing in a row (sure does to me), not because you have baby-pooch.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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