Day one of married life shed no light at all on married life. Reality check: we were not going to wake each morning and leave for Italy.
The first day after our wedding, I still felt single, as if exhausted from a big-night bar crawl instead of my own wedding reception. That morning, my biggest concern was what to wear on the plane. I had planned to wear a black, denim, maxi dress, but before I left the office two days before my wedding, as I was hugging everyone and waving bye and collecting wishes and congratulations, my Creative Director’s last words to me threw a wrench in my line-up. She said, “Don’t wear black on your honeymoon.”
That last day in the office, I was in a hurry to catch my commuter bus and get out of Manhattan and home to the hundred or so wedding details I had to address, so I didn’t take the time to ask why. I fretted over my affinity for wearing black all the way from midtown’s Port Authority, locally known as Port Atrocity, to New Jersey. While waiting for my bus, I re-evaluated my fashion identity. Everything I own is black. Open my closet, and it’s like stepping into a cave. There’s security in black and mystery, sophistication, elegance, neutrality, and a metropolitan-ness, and aren’t I all of those things? And I work in Manhattan, where everyone wears black so that the streets seem to be crowded with shadow people. What’s wrong with black? I looked at the several hundred people shuffling and running by me on the bus platform. Ninety percent of them were wearing black. The other ten percent, wearing pastels, were obviously tourists.
Trapped in traffic beneath the Hudson River within the smoggy, dark, exhaust-filled, tiled walls of the Lincoln Tunnel, I couldn’t escape the throbbing thought my Creative Director had planted. Why did she have to say that? Couldn’t she have just said congratulations? She irked me. Her warning irked me. The always-uncomfortable ride home on a packed, rush-hour bus, sitting crushed against the window, my shoulders rounded forward, several tote bags and packages piled on my lap, and another commuter–dressed in black, by the way–squished against my left side, was even more uncomfortable. I was not only miserable physically in that inhumane seat over the front wheel fender that forced me to have my knees bent up into my chin, but I was also in mental anguish. As a person who knocks on wood regularly, I did not want to tempt fate by ignoring my Creative Director’s warning. Don’t wear black? I’m a New Yorker. I’m in the fashion industry. Everything I own is black, including my tooth brush. I wondered if it would be bad luck or a taunt to fate if I wore the black maxi. Did it have anything to do with widow? I couldn’t even go there. Why did she say that?
Superstition won. Once I got home, I intended to dive deep in to my closet, in the back corner where I keep the non-black clothes, and pull out the fuchsia floral on white fit-and-flare and ball up the black denim. I really meant to switch dresses. Really. But our DJ lost my playlist. Two guests cancelled. A friend was coming to drop off the dress she made for my little flower girl. I still had to make my veil and headpiece, and when I looked in the mirror that night to wash my face, my nose looked particularly big. I forgot to switch dresses. All I can say is that when I was getting dressed the first married morning of my now married life, I put on a black maxi dress, and we boarded the plane for our honeymoon in Italy. To hell with omens. I say that now, but truth be told, my brain itched all the way across the Atlantic wondering if I had made a mistake wearing the black dress. Trying not to let all the blue jeans and beige sweaters, all the khaki pants and plaid shirts sitting in nearby seats taunt me, there I was–newly married, thirty-thousand feet in the air, wearing black. I worked my newly-wed heart into a frenzy trying to tame my thoughts all the way to the Marco Polo Airport in Venice.
Apparently, if wearing black on your honeymoon was a thing, it passed me by that day. I am now married thirty years, living in an enchanted New York suburb–though less than forty miles out of Manhattan, in personality, it might as well be a forest in Narnia, but that’s another story–and I still wear black. Daily. Since I was a full-time working mom with a daily commute to Manhattan, I can’t say I had the time to know my neighbors on an intimate level, so it was a bit of an eyebrow-to-hairline moment when two different parents at two different times approached me on the rare days I took off to be at my kids’ school. They both asked, “Why do you always wear black?” I didn’t know them. They didn’t know me. Because of my work schedule, I was rarely there, and most parents at school thought my husband, a firefighter with a rotating work shift, was a single parent as he was the one usually taking our kids back and forth to school. For all those school parents knew, I could have been in mourning, or wearing black might have been a religious thing, or I could have been a spy. The first time someone asked, I had to take a minute to form a proper answer for this person I had never met. “I wear black because they haven’t invented anything darker yet.” Whenever I gave that answer, the person who had asked looked perplexed, nodded with a semi-smile, eyes squinting, connection fading as if he or she had fallen into the void of the black outfit I was wearing. The reactions didn’t surprise me. After all, one person had little whales embroidered on his canvas belt. The other had anchors on her sneakers. It’s painful for me to recall that both had been wearing the same khaki Bermuda shorts. I was in my usual–long black skirt, black tee-shirt, red lipstick (yes, even in the afternoon.) If fashion were any indication, it was a sure thing that we weren’t going to connect. That became my go-to answer for future curious suburbanites. Sorry, not sorry. From then on, though I had not thought about it before, I was happy to be judged by my appearance. My black clothes became a “Take that” to anyone who wondered about me. I was, I am, I will be the one wearing black standing just across the field from the groups who are not.
When it comes to both my husband and black clothes, it’s ‘til death do us part. And since I haven’t been shopping in Heaven yet, who knows? I might still be buying black in my next life. Death, like marriage, can take the girl out of Manhattan but can’t take the Manhattan out of the girl.
Maureen Mancini Amaturo, New York based fashion/beauty writer and columnist with an MFA in Creative Writing, teaches writing, leads the Sound Shore Writers Group, which she founded in 2007, and produces literary events. Her fiction, essays, creative non-fiction, comedy, poetry, and articles have appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies including: The Dark Sire (nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, 2020), Boned, Every Day Fiction, Coffin Bell Journal, Drunken Pen, Dime Show Review, Flash Non-Fiction Food Anthology (Woodhall Press), Things That Go Bump (Sez Publishing), Film Noir Before It Was Cool (Weasel Press), The Re-Written Anthology (Wingless Dreamer), and Points In Case. A handwriting analyst diagnosed her with an overdeveloped imagination. She’s working to live up to that.