Love, Oscar, and What I Wore

Her marriage was the stuff of Hollywood drama: cancer, infertility, estrangement. But when her husband was up for a second Academy Award, all Peggy Orenstein wanted was a happy ending — and a killer dress.

By Peggy Orenstein
While a publicist guided Steven through a gauntlet of reporters, I drew on my dramatic training in the chorus of my high school’s plays and tried to mill inconspicuously near Joan Rivers’s pre-show cameras, hoping the folks at home would catch a glimpse of me in the background. No luck. I was quickly shooed away.We strolled farther down, a stone’s throw from Jack Nicholson, where a stand of bleachers was packed with photographers. Since the winners were still unknown, they shot everyone who passed. I watched as pneumatic-breasted starlet-wannabes, the dates of rich and famous men, struck their poses: shoulders forward, chin down, lips pouting sexily, feet in third position. Then it was our turn. Flashes popped. "Steve! Peggy! Over here! Over here!" they shouted, having been given our names by the publicist. Steven wrapped an arm around my waist and we looked up, down, left, right, smiles plastered on our faces. I imagined myself as Meryl Streep, Felicity Huffman. Yes, I’d sworn to be simply me, but who could possibly do that in circumstances that were so surreal?"Hey, Peggy," one photographer shouted. "I like your dress!" In his picture, wherever it may be, I’m sure my grin is real.This year the academy tried something new, moving the non-celebrity nominees to the front rows just before their categories were announced. That meant Steven and I wouldn’t be together at the big moment. It was a lousy time to be separated, and not just because it extinguished any chance of airtime for my dress. When the usher came to get him, I stood, just like before, to let him pass. He held me close for a moment. "I’d like to thank my wife," he whispered, and then he was gone. We didn’t yet know that the statuette on our fridge wouldn’t get its playmate. But it didn’t much matter. When I met him in the basement bar after it was over, we toasted our elegance, our love, ourselves. We’d gotten this far together. We’d won. Peggy Orenstein’s memoir, Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Romantic Night, and One Woman’s Quest to Become a Mother, will be published in February 2007.Originally published in MORE magazine, September 2006.

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