She looked like the dwarfish woman from Poltergeist--the little rotund one who helped get Carol Anne back from the other side. She looked like that, only she was trampy, with short shorts and tight tops and sly looks. She was 60 the hard way. I didn't even know my man Marty knew her, but one day it started becoming clear: When I'd gone out of town a few weeks back, the two of them had had an affair.
Marty! Whom I'm a month and a half away from marrying! Betraying me--and with a wizened old trollop! It was the stuff nightmares were made of.
And actually, it was a nightmare. Suddenly the Poltergeist lady faded, the horror dissipated, and I woke up, remembering that the only thing directly across the hall from our apartment is a room marked "trash." I looked over at Marty, his mouth open wide enough to catch tumbling meteors. This was the real Marty, the stellar Marty, not the dream-state Marty who cavorts with impish jezebels. Relief filled my every cell. I lay back down. Just another pre-wedding freak-out dream.
Yep, I've had a bunch of these. Starting soon after Marty and I got engaged five months ago, the unconscious prenuptial paranoia has been visited upon me. At first the nocturnal spazzings came every month or so, leaving me jittery and covered in sweat. Now, with the blessed event only six weeks away, they're getting more frequent. No telling how many more of these worst-case scenarios my unconscious will be spitting up and loading onto the dream reel.
But I accept them. I figure they're just my cross to bear as a nearly 35-year-old who's just getting hitched for the first time. Up here on the conscious level, all is well. Our relationship is tip-top, the wedding planning has been a hoot, and I'm in a state of readiness. But marriage, ultimately, is scary business. Deep down, my mental innards must be pooping their pants.
I vow to take whatever my trembling unconscious hurls at me. But rather than disturbing themes of betrayal, abandonment and sexy dwarfs, I'm finding I much prefer the more shallow variety of prenuptial freak-out dream, the kind I've gotten almost chummy with: the wedding-day logistical pandemonium vision.
I've had about six of these. In each, I suddenly find myself in what appears to be the seaside community in Alabama where Marty and I are to be married. I'm all spaced out, as if I've just awakened from a monstrous nap or am filled with sedatives. I see folks I've invited to the wedding. They're milling about. I become confused. Is this the wedding, or some sort of practice run? Or maybe a really weird coincidence that involves all of the guests and me ending up at the wedding site several months before the wedding?
Invariably, I seek the answers from my 15-year-old niece, who is scheduled to sing in the ceremony. I find her in the crowd. I grab her arm and pant, "Rebecca, is today the wedding? Where are we? What's going on?"
Rebecca looks at me like I'm batty and says, "Whatever!"
At that point I realize that yes, it is in fact the wedding day, and I have done nothing to prepare for it. I have not reserved a caterer; I have not made arrangements for a florist. Because I haven't bothered to call any, no rental people have come to set up tables or string up a disco ball at poolside. No confection lady has arrived bearing the three-tier cake with gold curlicues all over it. I have no ivory sheath dress, just khaki shorts.
All is in complete disarray, and the guests are wandering about ready for food and drink. In the dream, I've done so very little in the way of preparation that there's no way the event can be improvised or saved. One hundred twenty people have paid to fly themselves to Alabama, and I've failed them all. I start hyperventilating.
I usually wake up in a cold sweat, then spend about a half day on the phone tying up wedding-related loose ends. Perhaps those dreams, rather than being about something deep and disquieting, are just about keeping engaged people in close touch with their caterer and florist.
But who knows what the real meaning is? My therapist believes every element of a dream represents an element of the dreamer--not anything external. But I'm not buying that. How could I be the baker who hasn't received a deposit? How could I be a hungry and annoyed guest? How could I be a sexy dwarf? C'mon.
Instead of listening to him, I got on the Internet and fished around on some dream-interpretation Web sites. One told me that, according to the Hebrew Talmud, "A dream not understood is like a letter unopened." OK, I buy that. What else? "Creative, artistic individuals usually fall into the category of nightmare sufferers because of their openness and ability to tap into other dimensions of consciousness more easily." I like that. That's cool. So what about these wedding dreams specifically? All I could find was, "Weddings signify the uniting of male and female aspects of self." As Rebecca would say, "Whatever."
Next I consulted some wedding Web sites, the kind that send brides a weekly e-mail update and then try to get them involved in lengthy bulletin-board chats about flower-girl dresses and unity candles. But when I did a "wedding dream" search on a few of these, all I came up with were pictures of people getting married in castles and on mountaintops. Apparently no other brides are having these nocturnal seizures. Apparently they're all fit as fiddles, and I'm a freak.
But I guess Marty's a freak too. A few nights after my slutty-sorceress dream, he reported having a prenup nightmare. In his dream, he was surprised to find that our wedding venue had been switched from Alabama to West Virginia. He was also surprised when he looked down and saw that he'd forgotten to put on a shirt. Under his jacket, his white belly was exposed to all. In the next scene, he was shaving and his skin was coming off. I shudder to think what that meant--that I'd soon wear him down to the bone?
To make absolutely sure Marty and I weren't a couple of psychological monstrosities whose unconscious minds were trying to tell us to bolt now or forever hold our peace, I consulted some of our recently married and soon-to-be-married chums. And oh, happy day--they reported having wacko pre-wedding dreams too.
Why, right before her matrimonial extravaganza, my friend Juliet dreamed that she was walking down the aisle and suddenly discovered that her wedding dress was screaming-bright orange. My friend Steve, who's getting hitched in December, dreamed that as he waited anxiously at the altar, his bride appeared and came hither outfitted in a loose green smock befitting a hospital orderly. Cindy dreamed that she awoke on her wedding day to find she didn't have a dress at all. Her sister bitched at her for being disorganized. Cindy tried to quickly go and buy a dress, but all the local bridal boutiques only carried size 14. Cindy is a 2.
Those dreams, I have learned from polling my pals, are garden-variety, if very focused, pre-wedding anxiety dreams. The next level up involves much more tumult. Take Lynn. Before her wedding last year, she dreamed that the big event had been taken over by a very nasty chapter of the local Chinese Men's Neighborhood Association.
"It's the night of the wedding," Lynn recalls, "and we're at the reception but there is no food or drink and people are really not happy about this. Then, I notice that behind a partition there are about 50 old Chinese men drunk off their asses, eating my food! They spot me checking them out and rush at me, going out into my guests, frolicking and screaming wildly. One picks up a beer and hits my mom on the back of the head."
After that dream, Lynn said she had a nasty case of wedding-food paranoia. In order to stay calm and tranquilizer-free, she told a few key people about the dream and they sprang into action. "My mom sent me cash to add two more things to the menu. I also told my coordinator. It must have worked--we all had enough food and the only Chinese men there were the ones I'd invited."
Then there's the possibility of badly timed abductions to fret over. My pal Clinton, who's to be married in December, reports that his fianceé recently dreamed someone kidnapped her on the day of the wedding and wouldn't let her put her dress on.
There's also the mistaken-identity stuff. My friend Erin, who got hitched a few years ago, had a recurring dream in which she repeatedly called her betrothed "Abraham" during the ceremony, though his name is Jon. She also had several tripping-down-the-aisle dreams.
Then, I learned, there are the meddlesome family members to metaphorically wring one's hands over as one sleeps. My friend Jenny, while planning her low-key wedding up in Buffalo a few years back, dreamed that her very high-maintenance and chi-chi cousins showed up pushing a wheelbarrow of makeup to help her apply.
Beth, who's to be wed later this month, tells me she keeps dreaming that she's forgotten her wedding shoes on the big day. The dream-interpretation Web sites say that shoelessness symbolizes feeling unprotected or unprepared. But Beth says her dream turns out nonthreatening--she realizes it's just a practice ceremony, complete with all the guests dressed in their finest finery.
Beth's in better shape than me, though. I haven't even bought any wedding shoes yet. I guess I know what's on my subconscious' agenda tonight.
Exit Stage Fright (2/26/2003)
Editor's note: With this installment we bid adieu to Germ Bag.
Cabin Pressure (2/12/2003)
Escape -- you might think it's what you desire. Until you've actually run somewhere.
New Traditionalists (1/8/2003)
It was Christmas Eve morning on Harvard Street. Marty and I sat on the hardwood floor near our...
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