So today I'm going to tell you the Strange Story of How I Ended up as a Bride on a Rooftop in Shanghai.
I was in Shanghai for a 6 month writing residency and I joined many strange WeChat groups which included clothing exchanges, art exhibits, book clubs and even second hand appliances for sale groups (China does strange things to you).
In one group, one of the members (of hundreds) mentioned a 'wedding party' that weekend that we were all invited to and I thought it sounded interesting but one member warned us against it saying it was for 'publicity' and we should be careful so I lost interest.
But it turned out that Saturday I was in a bad mood and didn't want to work and I vaguely remembered this strange invite so I decided to see what it was about. This wasn't a great idea because there were no metros on the route and I had to walk because cabs were expensive. It was
hot and I walked for 30-40 min toward this thing that I didn't even know what I was going for in a city where I don't really know anyone & no one speaks English & it crossed my mind that I could be kidnapped & sold into sex slavery but China & loneliness make you do weird things.
So the address takes me to this warehouse place with a dark, quiet entrance and I say to a lady, 'Er, I'm here for the wedding party?' and I'm told to leave my bag at the entrance and this big man takes me in an elevator upstairs and leads me to a room.
Of course all sorts of alarm bells are ringing in my head and I'm wondering if I should have told someone where I am because I still have no clue what's happening and I'm hesitating but the man is urging me forward. The man pulls open a door and pushes me into a room full of
wedding dresses. There's wedding dresses everywhere. I've never seen so many wedding dresses and there's women everywhere putting them on around me and I'm urged to choose one quickly because 'I'm already late.' And I don't know what's happening but
I'm going through all these beautiful wedding dresses and I'm trying hard to find a halaal one that at least covers part of my arms (and I hope God blesses me because there were some STUNNING fairytale sleeveless ones) and I still don't know what's going on except
that I'm also rushing to get this wedding dress on (all thoughts of slavery and kidnapping and forced marriage are out of my head because all I can think is wedding dresses! and honestly it's disturbing how dresses can distract you from imminent death). After I put the dress on
I'm rushed to another section and there's a hairstylist who does something to my hair and then she passes me onto someone who does my makeup & honestly I don't care anymore if someone is going to force me to marry a balding Chinese businessman because it feels like a dream,
and then I'm ushered into the main section of this building that can only be described as like... an avant-garde museum? There's crocodile skins, and knights in suits of armour and fireplaces and pool tables and giant paintings and views of the Bund
and there are brides everywhere. On the couch, at the fireplace, beneath the stuffed Kudu, on the pool table and on the roof with sweeping views of Pudong's skyscrapers. On the roof I'm trying to mingle along in my dress and loafers acting like it's all normal.
There's a fake aisle and reception on the roof where couples can pose (girls brought their boyfriends - For practise? For pressure? WHO KNOWS - I for sure don't know what's going on). And all I'm wishing is I brought a a friend or camera, or better shoes, heck even a boy.
Anyway I make some friends and now I'm into this thing and I'm posing like it's my wedding day (except without the husband).
And pretty soon I'm making friends with all the brides and we're comparing dresses and notes about our wedding ('he wanted something small but I put my foot down, he must know who's the boss').
And then I'm thinking, hey it's quite possible I could never marry and this is my only opportunity to wear a wedding dress so I'm taking pictures everywhere.
'Take one next to this big ball.'
'Take one of me with this knight'
'Take one of me playing pool'
'Take one of me with this painting'
'AND THIS PAINTING' ('make it look regal').
And all these brides are walking around taking photos and laughing and eating cake and drinking and not once has anyone once asked me to pose for anything or marry anyone I don't want to and I'm thinking this is probably one of the best days of my life.
And I walked back to my hotel with a box of chocolates and the other artists couldn't believe my story and some of the women wanted to know why I didn't take them and I had to explain I didn't even know myself what I was getting into (I mean it could really have been slavery).
And to this day I still don't understand what I went for and what was going on. But I got to do something completely unexpected and I use it as a reminder that even when you want to say no, just say yes to the unexpected.
It will take you somewhere.
Oh yeah, I forgot. Of course I gave back the dress at the end. We all did. Only until we were very tired of posing in them.
If you liked this, I think you’ll like my other strange stories which I will share soon (one involves a trip to Turkey & another on how I found myself on a Macdonald’s advert in India) but in the meantime if you want to read my novel, you can order it here
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