‘She looks TERRIBLE in that gown!’

I used to be intelligent, maybe even an intellectual. For example, I read James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” while still in college. And I’ve been to several off-Broadway plays.

But now I spend my Friday evenings sitting in front of a television screen watching a program called “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress.”

The premise: Young brides-to-be visit bridal-gown shops, one in New York City and one, for some reason, in Atlanta. They bring with them an entourage — best friends, members of the wedding party, mothers, future mothers-in-law, and even the occasional overprotective and prudish father, including one guy who kept saying that a gown his daughter had tried on was “showing too much of her skin.”

Assisted by store staff, the young women try on different dresses, then model them for friends and family who offers their comments and critiques — and catty remarks, insults and even the occasional threat.

And I happily join in:
“She looks awful in that dress!”
“I can’t believe she’s leaning toward the dress with all of those sequins!”
“Is she getting married or going to a costume party?”
“The ‘mermaid’ look just isn’t her. What the hell is she thinking?”

My companion looks at me, wonders whether she’s ruined me forever, then laughs and offers some comment of her own about the overbearing mother or the too-bubbly bride or the members of the bride’s entourage, who often closely resemble a school of barracudas.

I used to watch nothing on TV except PBS and baseball games. Now I watch “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress.”

Maybe this either proves or disproves the theory of evolution. Maybe it just says something about the simple pleasure of sitting together and laughing about the latest episode of the human comedy. Maybe I should confess that I’ve also gotten into watching “Something Borrowed, Something New,” in which brides-to-be have to choose between wearing the wedding gown of their dreams – or wearing their mother’s or grandmother’s original wedding gown, altered and updated and tailored to fit a modern bride.

Or maybe I’ll re-read “Finnegan’s Wake” – while watching the next season of “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress.”

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