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Romance novelist Amy Pennza horrified the internet this week with a photograph of her and her mother-in-law at Pennza’s wedding—both wearing wedding dresses.
People naturally assumed the worst.
You know, in a way, this is beautiful. Like... Most mother-in-laws hold back until you’re actually married to let loose the full measure of their toxicity, but this lady was extremely upfront about it all. It’s like the way a rattlesnake rattles before it bites you. So nice.— Jamie Kenney (@LaComtesseJamie) June 19, 2019
Is she still alive? pic.twitter.com/cyiNJk4OxN— amy mccarthy (@amymac0215) June 19, 2019
It's passive aggressive. A wedding is a big deal for the bride and finding some way to upset her or upstage her is what some people do. The annals of jealous weirdos trying to ruin weddings are loooooong.— Katrina Gulliver (@katrinagulliver) June 19, 2019
Respectfully disagree on one small but important point. This was no passive in any way. This was Aggressive Aggressive and the hands tell you that.— amazing nonsense (@heardinboca) June 19, 2019
Commenters also provided some pretty funny takes on the situation.
“You need to make a ‘who wore it better’ and send the results out as your Christmas Cards this year,” one Twitter user wrote.
You need to make a “who wore it better “ and send the results out as your Christmas Cards this year.— Anne with an E (@ahoyfromnc) June 19, 2019
People also suggested strategies for dealing with similar missteps in the future.
A friend straight up had a bridesmaid who was prepared to spill red wine on anyone who wore white.— Theresa Coffin (@TM_Coffin) June 19, 2019
Someone did show up in white, and as the bridesmaid was at the bar getting the wine a group of guests who knew told her to wear her boyfriend's jacket and stay off the dance floor
Pennza followed up on Wednesday to reveal the full story—and it’s very different from the one people were imagining.
i need the story. what was her justification? was there an emergency?— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) June 19, 2019
It started out the way we might have expected, with an explanation about why the bridesmaids didn’t do their red wine spilling duty.
“My sister (matron of honor) said she didn’t pull me aside and talk about it because she hoped I was too distracted to notice,” Pennza explained. “My college roommate (bridesmaid) said the same thing.”
So, a couple people have asked for the story behind The Dress. Sorry for the delay! I have four kids (yes, I married him) on summer break, so my permanent state of being is "frazzled." I called my daughter "mom" the other day.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
Later, my sister (matron of honor) said she didn't pull me aside and talk about it because she hoped I was too distracted to notice. My college roommate (bridesmaid) said the same thing.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
But then there was a huge twist (Pennza is a writer, after all).
It turns out that her mother-in-law is a lovely woman, and rather than it being a case of jealousy, spite, or a creepy level of attachment to her son, it was all just a terrible mistake. Pennza explained her mother-in-law is incredibly frugal, the result of terrible poverty as a child.
She grew up in extreme poverty. As a child, she used to sneak into the kitchen and eat match heads. That's a pica craving, and kids do it when they're malnourished.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
Unable to resist any kind of bargain or money-saving strategy, she’s become a legend among her family.
However, she's a bargain hunter to the bone. Her money saving strategies are legend—and often hilarious. At family gatherings, we amuse ourselves telling stories of crazy shit she's done to save money.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
She once walked casually to the table where I was eating a subway sandwich and put my discarded cold cuts in a baggie because "someone will eat them."— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
That’s apparently how the terrible dress error happened.
So when she spotted The Dress at an incredible bargain, she couldn't turn it down. If you ask her now, she says she feels terrible about it.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
But less generous folks on the internet weren’t buying this explanation at all.
100% NOT a viable excuse. Not even close. Not even ball park. Has she gone the extra to make amends? Sounds like she has. But don’t kid yourself here, that was WAY out of line.— HazyGray (@HazyGray) June 20, 2019
The updo cost money. I’m not buying the bargain hunter theory. Though I appreciate your generous soul.— Andrea Hackett Henningsen (@andreahmay165) June 20, 2019
This is a very nice story, thank you for the update.— Theresa Coffin (@TM_Coffin) June 20, 2019
But. Like. Rit dye is cheap, she could have dyed the dress and it still would have been a great deal.
So, Pennza went out of her way to describe how generous and loving her mother-in-law is.
When I got my first job, she hemmed all my work pants because I can't sew for shit. And because she was proud of me.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
She never misses a band concert, sports event, talent show, science fair...you name it. She'd walk over hot coals for her grandchildren. She gives them everything. Because, you know, she grew up with nothing.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
The woman is practically a saint.
She's frugal. But she's also incredibly generous. When my twins were newborns, she drove across town every night, slept on the sofa, and did three feedings. For two babies. Every night for months.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
In context, it’s no wonder that Pennza looks back on it as a funny mistake rather than a declaration of war.
So, yeah, the wedding dress was a shock. But it gave me a pretty funny memory. No one who attended has ever forgotten it. And, you have to admit, weddings can be forgettable.— Amy Pennza (@AmyPennza) June 20, 2019
Unfortunately, it’s not the only time someone showed up their kid’s wedding in a wedding dress. And most of the mothers-in-law involved were decidedly less innocent than Pennza’s.
My grandma did that at my dad’s second wedding 😂— Brie Barbee (@briebarbee) June 19, 2019
Wait. This has happened more than once?— sofia (@sofiability) June 19, 2019
I can top that. My MOTHER did this to me. Turned up in a full lace white dress to my wedding in 2010.— Dr. Jessica Eaton (@Jessicae13Eaton) June 20, 2019
Then she got drunk and lap danced a Roman statue in a fountain. In her white dress. #weddingfail @jimmyfallon
In the end, @DrSpEdinNV may speak for all the nosy Twitter users. She wrote, “I have suddenly become overly invested in women behaving horribly at other women’s weddings and I don’t know why.”
Please tell me there’s video of this. I have suddenly become overly invested in women behaving horribly at other women’s weddings and I don’t know why.— Shanon Taylor (@DrSpEdinNV) June 19, 2019
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Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org