Sally Sheklow

Dashing SalAll Dolled Up

My blatantly heterosexual sister was getting married. Not only getting married, but deliberately and emphatically NOT inviting me.

My kid sister Judi—that’s Judi with an i, topped with a smiley face for a dot—inherited Mom’s disgust for my lifestyle. I called and asked about my non-invitation.

“You'd show up in some damned tuxedo,” my sister snapped. “Why do you always have to make a statement?”

Well, duh! My gene-pool cohort was about to have her socially approved gender-normative relationship regaled with a big family wedding, opulent gifts, and a Hawaiian honeymoon. My family wouldn’t acknowledge my sexual orientation, let alone celebrate it. Wasn't a statement in order?

Judi wouldn't have any of it. “This is my wedding. If you can't dress like a girl, don't come. This is my wedding. It’s not about you.”

I blame myself for Judi’s selfish nature. I was eight when she was born and disappointed Mom hadn’t give birth to the dress-up doll I’d hoped for, so I over-compensated. Who needed a doll? I dressed my real-live little sister in every frilly froufy baby outfit I could lay my hands on. Poor kid got used to it.

Now she was planning her day of days and she didn’t want her dykey gender-bender big sister there unless I promised to conform. I wasn’t about to let her homophobia keep my lesbian face out of her wedding album. No tuxedo? Fine. I’d show her. I’d participate in my sister’s ceremony if I had to go in total drag.

Which I did.

Like any self-respecting androgynous 1980s dyke, I didn’t own a dress. Luckily a drag queen friend had the perfect thing. He brought over a flouncy pink voile-on-chiffon evening gown with matching pink pumps—a leftover from his early Diana Ross phase.

I never learned to walk in heels but, under the queen’s professional instruction, I minced across the room, concentrating to keep my balance. One look at big beefy me teetering around in this get-up would make my sister wish I had shown up in a tux.

Dolled up and wobbly (right), with sisI arrived in Las Vegas early on Judi’s wedding day, my Diana costume tucked neatly in my back pack. I checked into the Sands, dolled myself up, and wobbled down the hallway to join my family for the limo ride to the chapel. Their suite door was propped open, egress for gusts of hair spray fumes.

“Oh, Sal!” Mom hugged me. So did Dad. Not a word about my out-of-character wardrobe choice. My folks looked seriously stressed. “Your sister needs help.” Mom nodded toward the bathroom.

Judi stomped out of the bathroom in a cloud of big hair and yards of white satin. The unzipped bodice of her bridal dress flopped forward. “I can’t get this friggin zipper!” Mom turned toward me and rolled her eyes.

“I’ll do it.” I followed Judi back into the bathroom, silly pink shoes clicking on the polished terra cotta tile.

My baby sister gathered up her white satin skirts and flopped down onto the toilet seat. “Everything’s wrong!” Mascara tears streaked her tanned cheeks. “My dress is wrecked. I look hideous.”

“It’s okay, “ I daubed her cheeks with a damp cloth. My arrival, the over-the-top rustling chiffon, my teetering walk in the pink high heels—all unnoticed. I was the big sister and my role was to help the bride.

Ta da!I rifled through Judi’s toiletry bag for a Q-tip and tidied her eye makeup. I fixed her zipper and attached her veil. One last mirror check. “See? You’re a doll!”
“Come on girls.” Our dad tried to sound chipper, but Judi's hissy fit had worn him out. “The limo's waiting.”

I escorted my sister out of the bathroom. “Ta-dah!”

Judi, hiked up her gown to show her wedding garter. Dad snapped a picture of us standing there like that — me in that comical dress with a big plastered-on smile, Judi trying to look like she hadn't been crying her eyes out.

By the time we got down to the limo Judi was feeling much better—well enough, in fact, to reach over and steady me in my wobbly shoes as we posed for one last shot.

I keep a copy of those photos, in case the originals are missing from her wedding album.

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