I used to be one of those people that things just happened for. It was part of the innocent charm I was born with:  without even realizing I was doing it, I simply believed good things would happen for me, and they did.  I’ve mentioned before that I was a person who ambled through life wearing rose-colored glasses, stopping to smell every flower. 

I didn’t think about failure.  I didn’t really think about anything. I walked blissfully through life, letting good things befall me because I didn’t question that they would.  And they always did.

My friends both marveled at it and hated me for it.

Senior year of high school, I had no doubt that I would be voted homecoming queen.  So when the assistant principal’s voice crackled through the intercom and she started announcing the ten girls who had been chosen by their peers to be on homecoming court, I sat back in my chair and waited patiently. 

I knew I would hear my name.  I wasn’t even stressed when she got to the ninth name and it wasn’t mine because that simply meant my name had randomly ended up at the bottom of the list, and it would certainly be the tenth one called.

When it wasn’t, I was pretty surprised.

But nobody else was.  Out of the 182 students in my senior class, I was the only one who was shocked.

Even my boyfriend, who adored me, nodded his head when he heard.  “Well of course you didn’t make homecoming court,” he said, tapping me lovingly on the nose.  “You’re a dork.”

I threw my head back and laughed and laughed because oh my gosh, how silly he was!  Imagine…me? A dork?!  How funny.

I like to refer to myself back then as an oblivious nerd.  I was not cool at all, but this fact was totally lost on me. Anyway, I wasn’t upset at not making homecoming court; just a little puzzled. But I shrugged my shoulders and moved on with life. 

Speaking of my high school boyfriend: his name was Ryan and he was part of the popular crowd until we started dating, at which point he was knocked down in the popularity hierarchy a notch or two or ten. Poor guy was found guilty of being a nerd by association with a nerd—me.  But I didn’t realize any of this at the time. Life was always good and now, on top of everything, I had a shiny new boyfriend.

Ryan would’ve never shot me a second glance except that during our junior year we were assigned seats next to each other in first semester study hall, and the class was run by an old drill sergeant type teacher who kept track of those types of things, so Ryan and I were stuck together whether we liked it or not. 

Turns out we both ended up liking it way more than we thought we would.  See? Things just always worked out for me back then.  (I hope Ryan’s not reading this right now or I’ll get some kind of smug, gloaty text.)

Ryan said later that he couldn’t believe some of the things that came out of my mouth, and he fell in love with my personality. “I mean, you’re really pretty, too,” he added hastily.  (Ryan always knew when to lie about the types of things a good boyfriend should lie about.)

A couple of years into our relationship, I found out that when we first started dating, his best friend had asked him, “Why are you going out with that nerd with the big nose and weird last name?” Our class was small enough that his best friend had glimpsed me in passing, but otherwise the only thing he knew of me was my long Polish maiden name full of oddly paired vowels and tossed-together consonants. He saw it often enough because it was always listed on the “Top 10% of the Class” academics board that hung prominently in the first floor hallway, just outside of the lunchroom.  I guess that didn’t help my case much.

Thirty years later, the three of us are still friends although we very rarely talk.  By senior year I had somewhat grown into my nose, and my boyfriend’s best friend, who ended up falling in love with my personality, too, couldn’t help but hang around Ryan and me more and more until his popularity status also dropped several levels in a pretty fast and furious free fall.

Like I said, things always seemed to go my way.

When I was 22 years old, a college friend of mine (MIZ-ZOU!) who had grown up in New York City asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.  First off, I'll find an old picture of us together because seeing the two of us side by side will be enough to illustrate my point. Being invited to her wedding—much less being a pretty integral part of it as a bridesmaid—was a miracle in itself because she was so cool and so stylish and a New Yorker!!...and I was a tall, gangly, Midwestern horseface who wore her hair in bangs all the way into her early twenties.

I had flown to New York City for the wedding, but a few friends of ours had rented a van and were driving all the way from Missouri to attend the wedding. We made plans to meet up at my hotel a couple of nights before the big day. The night they were to arrive in the city, I was sitting at the hotel bar by myself, having a drink and waiting on them, when I struck up a conversation with another hotel guest.  She was in town for a wedding, too, but it wasn’t the same one.  Somehow it came out that I didn’t have a hair appointment for mine.  She was appalled.

“So what are you going to do?” she asked me.  “Just show up to her wedding with your hair not done?”

I took a sip of my drink and shrugged.  “Yeah, I guess that’s what I was planning on doing.  Just wearing it like this?” I flipped a piece of my straight, mousy-brown hair over my shoulder.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” she said.  “I’m actually a professional hairdresser.  Come to my room the morning of the wedding. I’m going to do it for you.”

My hair ended up looking fabulous, and she wouldn’t let me pay her a penny.

I got compliments all night, but the best part was earning the respect of my friend, the native New Yorker bride.  “Only you would stumble upon a professional hairdresser in New York City and get your hair done for free,” she smiled, shaking her head in awe.  “Only you.”

That's me on the far left in the black dress.  I think at this point I was finally starting to grow into my nose--I mean myself

I love being a bridesmaid.  I don’t know what it is, but I love being a bridesmaid.  About eight years after that New York City wedding, an old high school friend of mine found me through MySpace and told me she was getting married. I hadn’t talked to her in almost 10 years, but I threw it out there anyway:  Can I be a bridesmaid?

Her reply came back almost instantly:  Funny you should ask. One of my girls just had to drop out.  Are you available July 15th?

I sure was!

I was living in Kentucky at the time, and the wedding was in Missouri, my home state.  I don’t remember all of the details on procuring the proper bridesmaid dress, but somehow I did.  Caught up in travel and the wedding festivities that weekend, I didn’t think about the dress much until the morning of the wedding, when we were all in the church basement getting ready. 

My dress was on a hanger in the back of the room, and the photographer glanced at it.  Immediately her face turned sour like she’d taken a bite of something rotten.  “Oh my goodness,” she murmured, acting as though she didn’t want anyone to hear her.  “Whose dress is that?” She tisked and curled her finger toward it.  “It looks terrible!  So wrinkly…it obviously hasn’t been steamed.”

I was 30 years old, but at that point in my life, I was still pretty naïve.  I thought she was trying to be helpful. My face flushed a deep shade of pink as I turned to her.  “It’s my dress,” I whispered out of the corner of my mouth.  “I didn’t know I needed to get it steamed.  What should I do?”

She pursed her lips and shook her head in pretend sympathy.  “Well I guess there’s nothing you can do about it now, is there?  You’ll just have to wear it like that and hope nobody notices.”

You know those people who look exactly like Nellie Oleson’s mom in your memories?  That’s what this lady looks like in mine.

Why, Pa, she wasn’t trying to be helpful!  She was just trying to make herself feel good by making someone else feel bad!

And it worked for her…for a few brief moments.  But when I look back on this story, I laugh because guess what?  After all of us slipped into our dresses, it was immediately obvious that anyone who had gotten theirs steamed had wasted that $50 (or whatever it costs to get a dress professionally steamed.  How would I know?  I didn’t do it.)  Turns out the bridesmaid dresses were made of a material that wrinkled at the touch.

Ten seconds into our dresses and everyone else’s looked as wrinkly as mine did—and even more so, because as luck would have it, my dress hung perfectly on my frame.

Back then I wasn’t the same hardened person as I am now, but if I had been, I would’ve cast a smug look at that photographer, who would’ve deflated like a popped balloon and slithered off to bother someone else.

See?  Things always seemed to work out for me.


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