My corset is laced so tight I can hardly breathe.
“The most important day of your life,” Grandmama reminded me this morning, as she pulled and fussed and fretted. Mama frowned as she watched my tiny waist grow even smaller. “You must love, honor, and obey him always,” she advised and then obliquely added, “especially in the bedroom.” Grandmama nodded, and both women shuddered delicately.
And now, here I am, standing at the altar. Here he is, standing beside me. His moustache is beautifully waxed; he is standing ram-rod straight. “A perfect husband,” Papa had pronounced after hearing his pedigree and prospects. I hardly even knew what he looked like, having kept my eyes decorously lowered during our strictly chaperoned courtship. This is the man I’m supposed to love, honor, and obey? For the rest of my interminable life?
“I can’t do this.” The traitorous thought enters my head just about the time I feel the first lace pop. I should be mortified, but instead, I feel a ray of hope. I stop listening to the droning of the vows and concentrate instead on pushing. There! Another pop. I can feel my body relaxing from the unnatural constraints. I imagine many more important days in my future – the day I enter the university, the day I publish my first book, the day I fight for the right to vote. With each liberating thought, another lace becomes undone.
The stranger at my side nudges me. They are waiting for my acquiescence, my daintily whispered “I do”. “No, I don’t!” I shout and whirl around. I hurry down the aisle tossing my bouquet into the crowd on my right, my veil into the crowd on my left. I hear the gasps of fainting women clutching their lavender-scented handkerchiefs. I glance at Grandmama and see a glimmer of new respect. She and Mama don’t move, but their eyes follow me longingly as I exit the church into the brilliant June sunshine, and breathe, breathe, breathe!