I sat before the mirror, awaiting my fate. The hairdresser behind me extracted her scissors. Half a second later, she held my long, detached ponytail in her hand. It dangled like a corpse in midair.
When my father cut off his pinky in a combine a few years ago, my mother would tell people we had lost a “member of the family.” I had a similar feeling at that moment, while the hairdresser escorted me to the sink and asked if I’d like to donate my severed locks.
My hair needed cutting, and my fiancé likes it shorter. I designed this dramatic act as a surprise for him the week before he flew to New York to ask my dad for my hand.
Despite my pure motives, I saw my haircut as a curtailing of my youth, an introduction to grown-up-land, and a passport to who knows what.
I’m a slow adjuster. Moving into marriage feels to me simultaneously like an intoxicating adventure and a bitter overdose of “last times.” The last time I will live in my bedroom. The last time I will wake up to my brother laughing in the kitchen. The last time I will drive the 12 miles to see my best friend whenever I want. The last time my mother will tuck me in.
Last week I tried on wedding gowns for the first time. I hope heaven has bridal stores, because few places to me seem more like paradise. I would like to take up permanent residence among the ethereal rows, gown after hanging gown, sheer layer after sheer layer, tuft after tuft, frill after frill—all the same angelic shade with small tonal variance. I could spend ages among the pedestals, twin mirrors, curtains, sparkles, feathers, and silver lighting.
Bridal shops require you to remove your shoes at the door. Rightfully so. When you are admitted into such places, you must strain into the big reality of your small life. You remember that something like marriage, which will change you forever, should never be dismissed as normal. It is something to jubilate with all the sacred energy you have.
Marriage finds its allegory in the return of Christ. Earthly spotless brides exist to point to the reality of the white wedding at the end of the world. When I was a child and before I was a Christian, I found the idea of Christ’s return terrifying. It was so big and unknown, like getting hit by a huge train in the sky. After ingesting the usual dosage of Left Behind, I was terrified that God would take my family away from me, leaving their clothes and fillings on the kitchen floor. I was afraid He would leave me as an 8-year-old in the apocalyptic universe. He would take away what I loved, and then I would have to face Him.
God taught me about His kindness through my longing to become a bride. He is teaching me to remember that what lies before is better than what lies behind. He has never disappointed me.