The Plastic Bride

I am a horrible person.

Being an extremely gullible individual, I love April Fool’s Day, because it’s finally my chance to play a prank on people and have them fall for it, too. (You’d think it would be the opposite… Believe me, I fall for my fair share of pranks every year!)

My pranks usually involve some sort of announcement on Facebook. One year, I was quitting my costuming hobby. Another year, I was moving to Florida. My favorite was when I said I was dropping out of my fashion program and transferring to Michigan State to pursue a degree in animal behaviorism – my entire network believed me and a lot of my friends at MSU were crushed when they found out I wouldn’t be attending school with them after all!

This year, though, I decided to do something a little more serious. I wanted to use this opportunity to learn something, to make it into a social experiment. A prank with a purpose.

I posted the following status yesterday afternoon:

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Needless to say my mom is not aware of her role in this prank. Because she would never give me the “go-ahead” for the fictional chin reduction and nose job I claimed I was getting.

Within four hours, it received over 40 comments, and I was also bombarded with private messages. Quite a few people were supportive of my decision, and the words of encouragement people gave me were extremely kind and generous.

But the majority of people were actively trying to convince me not to go through with the surgery, even going so far as to subtly shame me by saying they were “disappointed” that I was “insecure enough to get work done.” One girl even messaged me to say that she’d looked up to me as a role model, but after hearing that I was going to get plastic surgery, she couldn’t respect me anymore. And even though all of this was an elaborate prank, hearing that still crushed me – and I couldn’t help but think of how much more it would have hurt if I had really been considering surgery.

More than anything else, though, this experiment made me think about the brides who choose to get cosmetic surgery as part of their wedding beautification routine. Their “something new” may be a new nose, a new chin, or even a new bust to fill out their dress. When interviewed about their decision to do so, some brides say it’s because they “couldn’t face spending [their] big day stressing about how the pictures would turn out,” or because they wanted every aspect of their wedding to be perfect – including themselves.

Plastic surgery is becoming more and more prevalent every year. In 2011, the United States witnessed over 3 million cosmetic surgery procedures, ranking highest in the world. 1.2 million of those procedures were lipoplasty. Another 1.2 million were breast augmentations. Rhinoplasty came in 5th with over 478,000 operations. (source)

How many of these surgeries were done in preparation for weddings? The data isn’t out there due to confidentiality, but areas such as Tampa, Florida report increases in plastic surgeries when the wedding season approaches. The trend has become prevalent enough in our society that it garnered its own reality television show, “Bridalplasty“. Brides essentially competed against each other in order to win the ultimate prize: having their plastic surgery “wish list” granted before their wedding.

Granted, can we really be surprised? The pressure we put on brides to look their most beautiful on the day of their wedding is outrageous. From glamorous celebrity weddings to ridiculously Photoshopped photos in bridal magazines, women have been given the expectation that they should appear entirely flawless when they walk down the aisle. And if they look anything less than what they expect? It’s easy for them to let it ruin what should be a happy, joyous day.

How dare you have pores on your wedding day! How dare you! (Photo via Maggie Sottero.)

How dare you have pores on your wedding day! How dare you! (Photo via Maggie Sottero.)

The culture of plastic surgery is entangled with sexism and societal pressures, and I can’t say I’m 100% comfortable with the morality behind it, but I’m also a strong believer that people should have the right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies. And they should absolutely not be shamed for making those decisions.

During my little Facebook experiment, I received an incredible amount of support from my friends who were glad that I was doing something to make myself happy, but that was significantly overshadowed by the numerous guilt-trips I was put through that made me feel like utter trash for even considering having cosmetic surgery.

To think of a bride putting herself through that sort of criticism right before her wedding… I can’t imagine it. But for many brides, the results are worth it, and in that case, I’m happy that they’re able to feel self-confident on their wedding day!

How do you feel about the “bridalplasty” trend? Did you do it, or are you considering it in the future? Or are you a firmly against going under the knife for cosmetic purposes, especially to change how you’d look for your wedding?

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The Major Leagues

So, why weddings? Why not marketing, or finance, or creative writing? Why not be an editor, a pastry chef, a costume designer, a nutritionist? Why choose event planning over animal behaviorism? All of these are things that I’m skilled at and passionate about. So what is it about the bridal industry that made me fall head over satiny heels?

As I mentioned during my introduction post, working with weddings hasn’t always been something I wanted to do. Deciding on a major (or a career) is similar process to finding The One. You “date” the major by taking a few classes, testing the waters, seeing if the two of you are compatible.

"I knew I shouldn't have been a chem major." (Photo via Glamour.)

“I knew I shouldn’t have been a chem major.” (Photo via Glamour.)

After a bit of experimentation, you can tell if the major or career is a good fit for you. If it’s not, you break up and move on. Or you delude yourself into thinking that it’s the right choice – which is exactly what I did when I started college.

For most of high school, I was certain that I wanted to become a film director, and it wasn’t until the fall of my senior year that I decided I wanted to pursue fashion design instead. Mostly because I did some research and found out how horribly sexist the field of film-making is, and frankly I couldn’t see myself being happy surrounded by that sort of mentality.

Unlike most schools, Columbia requires incoming freshmen to declare their major at the time of application. The choice to major in Fashion Design wasn’t based on a dream of mine to start a famous clothing line or even an interest in design. Mostly, I just enjoyed sewing and putting together outfits, so fashion design must be what I was meant to do, right?

Wrong.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my classes or that I wasn’t good at them. I received a hefty four-year scholarship for my fashion portfolio that I submitted with my college application, and at the end of my spring semester, I had a 4.0 GPA and made the Dean’s List. Coming up with clothing designs and collections was fun, and my garment construction classes were vastly improving my sewing skills.

But everything I did felt dispassionate and impassive. There was no heart in my work; I was simply going through the motions.

There was a clear point during my 3D Design class where I just lost motivation and gave up. (Personal photo.)

There was a clear point during my 3D Design class where I just lost motivation and gave up. (Personal photo.)

Before the end of my first year, though, I realized that this was not the field for me. It came to me as an epiphany during my Fundamentals of Fashion Design class, while we were watching a documentary on Nicole Miller. I remember sitting there as the video walked through a day in Nicole Miller’s life, thinking to myself, “I do not want to do that. I absolutely, positively, do not want to do that.”

Immediately after class, I took myself to Starbucks, got a consolatory chai latte, and went to sit in Grant Park as I promptly had my first “Oh God What Am I Doing With My Life” college breakdown. (It was the first of many.)

The thing is, I loved sewing, and I loved designing, but my classes were making me hate both because I felt obligated to do the work, rather than being inspired to do it. Those were my hobbies, things I did to relax and relieve stress, and I didn’t want them to become something I couldn’t turn to for fun.

In the middle of this breakdown, I called my mom, who calmly talked me away from the ledge of dropping out of college to live with her for the rest of my life. Once I admitted that I didn’t really want to become a moocher, she suggested the idea of switching majors.

“Is there anything else you can see yourself doing, honey?” she’d asked. “Think of something that makes you happy.”

I took a moment to do so, and for some reason, my mind immediately jumped to my cousin’s wedding from the previous summer. I’d loved talking to her during the planning stages, helping her figure out a color scheme, and seeing it all come together had been one of the most exciting days of my life.

“Weddings,” I’d said, a little breathless. “Mom, I want to be a wedding planner.”

My mom had sounded all too smug as agreed, as if she’d always known I’d choose this. The next morning, I made an appointment with my adviser and switched my degree to Fashion Business. It’s been history ever since.

I still have the occasional thought of what my life would be like if I had decided to attend Michigan State to major in Animal Behaviorism, but I’m confident that going into bridal is what I’m meant to do. It took a bit of dating, a bit of exploring the fish in the sea, but I know I’ve found the right career for me.

Now, if only finding The One will be just as easy…

How did you decide on your major or career? Did you ever switch, or go into a field different from your degree?

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A Matter of Milestones

I’ve been 21 for three days now, and as I predicted, absolutely nothing has changed. I haven’t gone out drinking every night, my responsibilities haven’t changed, and I certainly haven’t been any more motivated than usual. (In fact, I’ve spent the past days napping in front of the TV doing positively nothing. How’s that for being an adult?)

Even though my birthday was on a weekday, Courtney and I still went out for drinks to celebrate. We chose Sweetwater Tavern, mostly because it’s right next to our apartment building, but also because their menu looked amazing. We split a Waldorf salad and a chicken quesadilla, both of which were absolutely delicious! After we tried a maple and Bacardi drink that neither of us liked, we decided to stick with the fruity ones, which even our waiter said were much, much better.

My third drink was a cranberry mojito. Be still, my heart! (Personal photo.)

My third drink was a cranberry mojito. Be still, my heart! (Personal photo.)

We ended up having a wonderful night, but I have to say, even though we were celebrating my first day of adulthood, I had never felt so young. The other patrons were older, the majority in their thirties or forties, so the two of us definitely stood out as the youngest ones in the bar. It was exciting, yet at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like this milestone had come far too soon. Didn’t I just start college? Wasn’t high school graduation just a couple of months ago? Hadn’t I just gotten my driver’s license? And now, suddenly, I was sitting in a bar, ordering drinks. Being an adult.

It’s strange to think that in the early 1900s, I’d be getting married at this age. The average age of first-marriage brides from 1900 until 1940 was 21, and over the following 30 years, it dropped to 20 (source). So if I had lived in the ’60s, I’d already be married by now! That’s absolutely crazy to think about.

While I’m excited for that stage of my life, there’s no way that I’m ready for it at this point. The average age of brides from 2007 to 2011 was 26 (source), but more than a few people I went to high school with are already married – some are even having kids! Props to them, absolutely, but I’d personally like to postpone that for a little while longer. The next life milestone can wait!

What age did you get married, or what age do you see yourself getting married?

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Introductions: The Girl Behind the Tulle

As I’m sitting here in Panera Bread, spending my final underage day sipping a quite non-alcoholic chai latte, I can’t help but think that my world is going to turn upside-down in a matter of nine hours. Will I wake up tomorrow feeling like a responsible adult? Will I suddenly be motivated to pursue my dreams with a renewed sense of vigor? Or will I just have an immediate, irreversible craving for alcohol?

I know I’m being silly, and more likely than not, I’m going to wake up feeling the same (with perhaps a little more enthusiasm to greet the day than usual). I’ll go to class in the morning, spend the afternoon doing homework in the library, then possibly go out to the tavern next door to our apartment with my best friend for a celebratory drink. Other than that, nothing will be different, with the exception of my new-found ability to order any fancy drink I want when I’m at a restaurant.

But before that happens, I wanted to take the time to introduce myself and my life so far. (All photos are personal.)

So what’s there to know about me? My name is Nina. I grew up in southeast Michigan, and even though I’ve been living in downtown Chicago for the past three years while attending school, I still call Michigan home. And I think that will be true even if I end up moving across the country!

One of the hardest things about living in Chicago is being away from my family. I have a mom, a dad, a younger brother (who’s going to be graduating high school in a few months), and a trusty border collie named Trek. My mom and I are extremely close; we’re no Lorelai and Rory, but we’d like to think we could give them a run for their money. I miss her more than anything else while I’m at school, and she’ll always be the most important person in my life.

We're both avid Harry Potter fans, and in 2011, we finally went to visit the Wizarding World in Orlando!

Though we don’t get to do it often, our favorite vacations are mother-daughter trips to Florida. (In 2011 we finally got to visit the Wizarding World – we’re both avid Harry Potter fans!)

In Chicago, I live with my best friend, Courtney. We recently rented our first “grown-up” apartment this past December. It’s right on Michigan Avenue, and it’s one of the few things I actually enjoy about living in this city. Not to mention, living with my best friend makes it possible to tolerate the awful weather that we have for 70% of the year.

Ahh, nothing like a fresh new apartment.

Ah, nothing like a fresh new apartment.

I’m a writer, a self-proclaimed health freak, a Caribou Coffee junkie, and a corgi addict. I care far too much about television shows, movies, books, and fictional characters in general. I’m also one of those feminists who greatly enjoys being domestic, especially when it comes to baking and sewing. As much as I hate cold winter weather, I love skiing, but I’m also an avid runner, swimmer, and weight-lifter.

This past October, I ran my first half-marathon with a couple friends in the Chicago Monster Dash!

This past October, I ran my first half-marathon with a couple of friends in the Chicago Monster Dash!

My obsession with weddings has been a major factor in my life since I was a little girl. I didn’t always want to work in bridal (like any kid, I went through the phases of veterinarian, marine biologist, movie director, and so on), but now that I’ve finally begun working in the industry, it’s really a dream come true. Which is why I’m so excited about starting this blog!

I love getting to play dress-up at work. This is Casablanca 2056 - definitely a contender for The Dress!

I love getting to play dress-up at work. This is Casablanca 2056 – definitely a contender for The Dress!

I’ve always been a writer, even from a young age, and I’ve had plenty of online journals throughout my life. However, I’ve never really taken it seriously and most of those journals were just used for social networking purposes. And now that I’m on the brink of true adulthood, I figured it’s about time I had a blog that I can use to help myself grow as a person. It’s already inspired me – hopefully it will inspire you, too!

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Introductions: Meet Your Consultant

I’m going to be completely honest: I’ve delayed writing this post for the past two weeks, and it’s taken me around an hour of staring blankly at my computer screen to actually start typing something. This hasn’t been due to a lack of inspiration (trust me, I’ve come up with at least a dozen ways of writing this post). Rather, it’s because none of those ideas have been right. None of them felt like they would be the perfect way to introduce myself and this blog.

And that, I guess, is a better introduction to who I am than any generic biography I could spit out.

Right now, I’m at a point in my life where it feels like everything I do is going to have some sort of critical impact on my future – whether it’s what classes I choose to take, what professional contacts I have, or what cereal I buy at the grocery store. I’ll be turning 21 on Tuesday, which is just four days away, and it’s hard not to think that I’m reaching the Point of No Return.

From here on out, there’s no more being indecisive about my future, no more fooling around when it comes to jobs, no more procrastinating until the “right time.” I will officially be An Adult™, and every waking moment will be spent suffering under the pressures of my new-found responsibilities, as well as the past choices I’ve made that can never, ever be altered.

At least, that’s what I’ve been told. But I know that it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Yes, I’m at a stage in my life when I do need to consider my future. It’s good to have a plan and work towards it, but it’s also important to realize that this plan can and will change. Let’s face it: nothing is certain, and realistically, the plans I have for my future are going to keep evolving on an almost daily basis. Who knows – this blog may not even be relevant to my life a year from now, as my career could go in an entirely different direction.

For the time being, though, I’m pursuing my current dream: being a wedding consultant.

Specifically a Disney wedding consultant, but we'll get into that later. (Photo via BridalGuide.)

Specifically a Disney wedding consultant, but we’ll get into that later. (Photo via BridalGuide.)

Weddings are something that I’ve always been passionate about, and with my knack for design and organization, it feels like the perfect career for me. I’ve been working in bridal for a year already, and it’s been an incredible experience with that sense of rightness I searched for when writing this post. So, as of now, that’s my goal!

This blog will follow my journey as I chase this dream, as well as my adventures in so-called “adulthood.” What’s in it for you? Inspiration, wedding and bridal design tips, and an inside look at the wedding industry as I find my way through it! (There will probably be food, too. Lots of food.)

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again soon!

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