In this particular circle of hell, even boiling pitch sounds good

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2004

I hate to quibble with the treatise of such a morbid and anal literary master, but Dante missed a circle in his description of hell.

Somewhere in his realm of simple frauds, amongst the continuum of grafters, hypocrites, sowers of discontent and watchers of reality TV shows is a special level reserved for a select group of tortured souls: bridesmaids.

I'm not entirely sure what sin one has to commit to be condemned to this state, but I plan to ask my fellow damned for their thoughts while we're enduring the ceremony. It'll probably go something like this:

"So what are you in for?"

"College roommate. How about you?"

"I grew up with her."

"Wow, that's rough."

I am very clear on what the punishment is, as it already has come in the mail.

Dante, who I'm willing to bet was never considered the life of any party, was quite specific in describing the punishment associated with each crime: panderers are whipped by devils, grafters are covered by boiling pitch, and thieves are trapped in a snake pit with their hands bound.

For bridesmaids, it's wearing hideous itchy dresses and pinchy high-heeled shoes. Where do you sign up for the boiling pitch?

My particular brand of doom is dark blue with rash-inducing netting for poofiness and big white sparkley things that I think were designed to stun deer. Wearing it, I look like I was vomited on by a rabid Smurf.

My condemner is my "friend" Danielle. We knew each other in high school, visited a few times in college, then moved our separate ways and hadn't talked much in the intervening years. But apparently weddings are a time to reach out and renew lapsed friendships by involving those once-important people in your special day, and in the process, destroying their souls.

Lucky me.

But it's an honor, I'm told, to be a bridesmaid. That's a strange way to define honor: You're expected to travel whatever distance to the wedding at your own expense buy a bizarre dress you will never (God willing) wear again, enslave yourself to a demanding and increasingly panicked master, buy her a gift, throw her at least one party and cater to her every irrational whim.

By that logic, enduring a tax audit or being a POW should be considered an honor.

Danielle is ordinarily a fairly rational, intelligent person with many hobbies and a general interest in the well-being of mankind. At least she was before she got engaged. Since them she's been sinking progressively deeper into an egocentric pit of obsessive, controlling bridal angst.

I understand that this is to be expected and that she would not be considered a normal American bride if she weren't behaving this way. It's just that I've never been within fallout range of the transformation before. In all the previous weddings I've attended I've been sheltered by the protective bunker that is the "guest" designation.

But I'm catching on to my role. It's really very simple. All I do is say "yes" to whatever I am asked, whether it's if I like a flower arrangement or if I'm willing to dip my head in battery acid. Your own interests, opinions and desires need to be suppressed at all costs during the period of bridesmaid servitude because if they're not, you run the risk of provoking bridal wrath, which is by far the most frightening thing I have ever witnessed including Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez teaming up to do a movie.

There has got to be some way to harness this power for good.

For instance, if advanced alien life ever is discovered in the universe and it decides it has a bone to pick with humanity, all Earth's leaders would have to do to forestall destruction is find a bride planning to be married on the day of the attack and have her negotiate with the aliens:

"Now you listen to me," such a "discussion" would begin. "You will NOT invade this planet on MY wedding day because I will NOT have MY guests talking about anything OTHER than how I am THE MOST beautiful thing they have EVER seen on MY day! Got it?"

If necessary, I believe a bride would even have the power to spontaneously overcome whatever human-alien language barrier may exist to spew threatening vulgarity at the creatures in their own language on par with whatever equivalent the alien race has to Howard Stern.

I don't mean to be overly harsh in my remonstrating, it's just that I really don't want to have to wear that dress. But I know I'll survive, out of my sense of duty to my friend, and from the knowledge that some day, if I ever get married, I get to do to her what she's done to me.

Dante will have to come up with a whole new system of hell to describe the dress that she'll have to wear.

Jenny Neyman is a reporter and design editor for the Peninsula Clarion

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