A piece from – Butterfly Bride.
The Aunties Mareta and Amalia were too elderly to make the long trip home but they weren’t going to let that stop them from putting their stamp on the wedding. They’re our Dad’s elder sisters and true to form, they had a long standing feud with our mother who they couldn’t stand. This dress was their chance to stick it to her. “We will show that daughter of pigs what a real wedding dress is like…” Daughter of pigs being their favorite name for my faraway mother. Along with pigeon-eater, bush-dweller, and smoke-burnt eyes.
Because she labored under the illusion that everyone adored her and existed on this earth to provide for her happiness, Naomi had gratefully accepted their offer to buy her a dream wedding dress. It hadn’t occurred to her they had ulterior motives. #Clueless
The aunties had couriered hefty wedding catalogues to Samoa. Because they didn’t believe in the internet and online shopping. Oh no. My silly trusting little sister had chosen a stunning gown of epic simplicity. A strapless sheathe with chiffon overlay. No train, no bows or ruffles and only a single-layered veil. The kind of simplicity of design (with an alluring hint of sex) that only lots of money could buy. Naomi’s dream dress. The one she would wear for most of the time at the reception and have all her wedding photographs taken in, thus preserving her supermodel sylph self forever, as a bride with class, style and chic elegance. She would make sure this was the dress that ended up on the front page of the Samoa News, under the gigantic headline: Miss Samoa weds her Prince.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Dreams are free and oh-so-dangerous. Because When they got Naomi’s choice, the aunties were aghast at her selection. How could they possibly be associated with such a dress?
“What kind of dress is that?” said Mareta. Wrinkled face even more wrinkly with disgust. “It doesn’t even have a train.”
“Only poor people would wear that dress,” scoffed Amalia. “That family of pigs will spit on such a dress.”
And that was the final judgement passed on Naomi’s choice. Her dress was one that only a family with no sense, no money, no credit would buy. It was a dress that would not outshine the dress from ‘THAT WOMAN’S’ side of the family. No. Their niece would not be caught dead in such a dress.
Instead, they bought Naomi the most expensive, most abundant dress they could find in the catalogue. They were gleeful at the thought of how angry my mother would be when she saw it. How she would be rendered speechless at its glory and more importantly, its price tag. Yes, they crowed to each other, this dress would be a slap in the face reminder to their sister-in-law that she was nowhere near good enough for their family. That she would still be cooking bananas on an outdoor fire and shitting over a mangrove swamp long-drop – if it weren’t for their brother. Ha.
Family love at it’s finest.
And now here I am, dragging this monstrosity with me on my first trip home in six years. A home I had run away from with great relief I might add. A home I’d had no plans on returning to until I:
- Lost thirty pounds.
- Got my graduate degree in something amazing.
- Had a gorgeous, filthy rich, disgustingly clever boyfriend I could take with me.
I was nowhere near due for that return trip. Because I was:
- Not dieting or doing any exercise. (Beyond walking to the bakery where I worked.)
- Not at university studying for a grad degree in anything amazing. (Because, see #A. I work at a bakery.)
- Not dating anyone rich, gorgeous or clever. (Because I was dating nobody.)
So no, a trip back to Samoa had not been in the cards for me. Until now. Until my beautiful overachieving little sister announced she was gloriously in love.
When the invitations showed up in the mail, I was happy for Naomi. If I were living in Samoa I would offer to make her wedding cake – I told myself. But since I wasn’t there, I resolved to send her some money instead. (The ideal gift for any Samoan occasion.) Of course I wasn’t going to go to the wedding myself. Hell no. I had lots of very important things to do. The aged aunties needed me.
Except they didn’t.
“Don’t be stupid. Your sister is getting married. Of course you’ll go,” snapped Aunty Amalia. “And don’t give me any excuses about that old family trouble eh! It’s been many years now. Nobody will remember. Besides, they got plenty to talk about already, besides you. Too many other girls there doing silly things. Stop being a coward. You can’t hide here forever.”
For a doddery old woman who forgot to brush her teeth for weeks on end, Aunty Amalia could be sharp as a steel sapelu blade.
I tried to tell them the bakery needed me.
Except it didn’t. Aunty Mareta called my boss Rowena who assured her that of course the pastries would still go on without me, and I hadn’t taken any annual leave for ages, so “tell Scar she can take a nice long trip back to Saamowah…”. Traitor.
“You’re going. We will pay your fare,” said Amalia. “We’re buying Naomi’s wedding dress and someone has to take it to Samoa.”
One didn’t argue with one’s ancient great-aunts. Especially not when one is Samoan.
Then my mother called to tell me I was Naomi’s Maid of Honor so “make sure you get here two weeks before the wedding so you can help your sister…Tamarina is pregnant, due the month after the wedding so she can’t do much.”
I didn’t want to be Naomi’s bridesmaid. Just like I was sure she didn’t want me to be her Maid of Honor either. But in true Samoan style, we didn’t have a choice in the matter. Parents and other assorted elders were the Mafia bosses of weddings and woe betide any who tried to defy them. I was stuck mentally scrambling for something to tell mum why I couldn’t be in the line.
Tell her you broke your leg. Tell her weddings make you feel sick and you might puke on Naomi at the altar. Tell her you’ve got rapidly accelerating cataracts and can’t see your way down the aisle. Tell her you’re pregnant! Ha. Maybe not.
My mother kept barraging on. “There’s time for you to prepare. You should go on a diet now. Maybe join the gym.”
An impatient sound of annoyance. “Scar, are you listening? There’s fifteen bridesmaids. Most of them are Naomi’s friends from work and the Miss Samoa pageant. You want to look your best. What about that watercress diet? Your cousin Patsy did it and she lost fifty pounds.”
“Really? Porkpie Patsy?”
“Don’t be cruel Scar. Fat girls should stick together,” rebuked my mother, blending kindness and meanness as only she could. “Yes Patsy ate nothing but watercress. Made it into soups and salads.”
I was envious. And intrigued. If keke pua’a Patsy could endure weeks of watercress, then why couldn’t I? Maybe I could put watercress in a cake? Perhaps there were some cabbage-based flours I could use? Watercress was disgusting, not much better than gutter weeds really – but I didn’t want to be the only pudgy lump in the wedding party. I envisioned what I would look like after several weeks of watercress. Slim, sexy and smiling at everyone as I glided through the crowd at the reception….
“She was in hospital for two months! By the time she got out, she was a shadow of herself.”
Wait, “What was that? Who was in hospital?” I asked.
“Patsy,” said mum. Annoyed. “I told you, after two weeks of eating watercress she got sick and had to go to New Zealand. She ate some kind of worm parasite from not washing the watercress properly and it burrowed into her brain. She was in a coma. Nearly died. But when she came out, oka, no more pork pie nicknames! She’s married now, you know. Got a nice husband who owns ten taxis.” There’s triumph in her voice. “If you lost some weight you would find a good husband. Just like Patsy. Of course, she got fat again. But at least she’s married so it’s alright.”
My mother’s answer to all my problems. Eat a worm brain parasite.
I had no words to counter such logic so I agreed to everything. To going home, to hand-carrying the dress, and to being the Maid of Honor.
I had no excuses. That’s the problem when you’re single, childless and don’t own a cat. You have no lives depending on your presence.
So I packed my bag and made a mental note to buy a cat as soon as I got back to Vegas. And at all times, avoid any and all watercress.