There was one Halloween in elementary school when I dressed up as a bride. I had a long white dress and a lace veil covering my face, though nothing about my costume could cover the beauty I felt while walking down the concrete aisle to every front door in my neighborhood, building myself a candy bouquet. I couldn’t wait for the day when I would wear a bridal gown ceremoniously and not as a costume.
As the years passed—and many of them passed—my excitement for my moment as a real bride shifted to fear. Both my inward thoughts and outward conversations slowly became centered upon the two words: What if?
Specifically, my question was “What if that Halloween day in the early 1990s was as close as I get to being a bride?” I wasn’t exactly looking for opportunities to dress up as a 30-year-old maiden. Even as a young girl, society’s messages told me that brides should be glorified enough to warrant a Halloween costume. But what if I’m not a bride? “Maiden” felt lonely, wounded, and powerless. She doesn’t get the same oohs and ahhhs at the school’s Halloween parade.
These days, my real life wedding gown is tucked away in my closet, soon to be discovered by my daughters who have a real knack for playing dress up. I love that dress, maybe even more than my 1990s elementary school edition. But I think what I appreciate even more is the person I became as the scared but alive maiden.
Sure, maybe I was lonely and wounded, but that wasn’t all I was. Those years gave me adventure, deep friendships, and a sense of empowerment. I mowed my own lawn, filed my own taxes, and filled up my passport. For all of the “what ifs” that saturated those years, there were a number of “why nots!”
I don’t believe you have to be a maiden in order to live a life of great adventure. I don’t think you have to walk down the aisle in an elaborate gown for that either.
I know how society sees the maiden, but I don’t know what I would do without my experience as one.
What I hope my daughters learn much quicker than I did is that they don’t have to wear any stereotype like it’s a uniform of truth defining their existence.
What if the maiden is actually one of the most crucial paradigms they embody, leading them to more fully learn (and love) themselves, embrace a full-bodied life, and delight in the beauty of their own self—with or without an elaborate gown? What if a lover, mother, or heroine who hasn’t really sat with and embraced herself as a maiden is missing out a little bit? What if the maiden, while arguably a relatively boring Halloween costume, is really a necessary launching pad for wild, free, and powerful female embodiment?
Maybe the trick is in turning the parts of life that scare us into a treat.
Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies—she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.