It was a letter to Slate’s ‘agony aunt’ column Dear Prudence and it started innocently enough – a daughter getting married and her best friend invited to be a part of the bridal party.
Soon, however, it turned ugly: The letter-writer was concerned their daughter’s wedding day would be ruined because the best friend in question has a walking impediment.
Finally, it turned into a lesson for all of us. Writer Mallory Ortberg (Prudence) schooled the parent on what it means to have empathy, show compassion and be an all-round decent human being. In one scathing – but smart – reply, Ortberg smashed through the stigma that is so often faced by people living with a disability because of what others think of their place in society – in this case in a bridal party.
This is how it went down:
“My 27-year-old daughter and her best friend, Katie, have been best friends since they were four,” the letter writer begins. “Katie practically grew up in our house and is like a daughter to me.”
(What a preface, considering what’s to come.)
“My daughter recently got engaged and announced that Katie would be the maid of honor. The problem is that Katie walks with a pretty severe limp due to a birth defect (not an underlying medical issue). She has no problem wearing high heels and has already been fitted for the dress, but I still think it will look unsightly if she’s in the wedding procession limping ahead of my daughter.”
(Yes, the word used was “unsightly”.)
Are singles lists at wedding a good idea? Post continues below.
The mother or father writing the letter (we don’t know which) helpfully provided a solution; suggesting Katie might be better suited “taking video or handing out programs (while sitting) so she doesn’t ruin the aesthetic aspect of the wedding”.
Unsurprisingly, the bride-to-be has stopped talking to the letter-writing parent. “My daughter is no longer speaking to me (we were never that close), but this is her big wedding and I want it to be perfect.”
And then Ortberg begins. “I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this,” (aren’t we all).
She suggests the reader ask themselves the “time-honoured” question: “Do I sound like a villain in a Reese Witherspoon movie?” (YES, the answer is most definitely YES).
And then there was this:
“Your daughter’s wedding will be perfect with Katie as a full and honored member of the bridal party. A limp is not a fly in the ointment; it’s a part of Katie’s life,” Ortberg writes. “This is ableist, and cruel, and it speaks to a massive failure of empathy, compassion, and grace on your part. You must and should apologise to your daughter immediately, and I encourage you to profoundly reconsider the orientation of your heart.”