Marriage is an institution and I’m one of its inmates.
From birth, we’re bombarded with the message that we can’t possibly be happy until we get ourselves a smokin’ hot spouse, 2.5 children, dog/cat/bird/fish/ferret/giraffe, house in the “burbs”, lucrative career selling widgets to the Third World, two car payments, membership at a country club that doesn’t include those people (whoever those people are-my brothers, perhaps?), and a pre-financed funeral.
Why, who needs the freedom to come and go as you please when you can choose who’s behind Door #1? Nossir, nothing says success (or kill me now) like decades of a White Picket Fence lifestyle before the sweet release of death.
The slippery slope starts from the moment you get down on one knee (or lean over in the front seat of your Nissan Sentra if you’re a hopeless romantic like me) and ask the woman of your dreams to make you the happiest guy on the planet. If you’re lucky, your beloved will mist up, clutch her hand to her heart and, in a faint, trembling voice, whisper softly, “I’d like us to be just friends.”
On the other hand, if she displays a remarkable lack of judgment, well then, brother, you’ve set the ball rolling. Get ready for years of a matrimonial Shawshank Redemption.
The period between “Will you?” and “I do.” is a giddy one which is pretty much a girls-only affair. Men are relegated to the background as their fiancée (or is that “fiancé”? I could never get that straight) commence planning an event which makes the invasion of Normandy look like a backyard barbecue.
Oh, sure, our opinions are sought out (and ignored) as we’re expected to: sit in parking lots of countless bridal shops, decide on the smoked salmon or goat head with mango salsa reception entrée, compose wedding vows (sans any references to jumbo hooters), feign interest in centerpiece selections, suck up to future in-laws, and try to convince her that nothing says love like cubic zirconium.
Usually, though, the man is merely window dressing for the main event. Right or wrong, all attention is focused on the bride-to-be. After all, everyone fixates on Beautiful Bride Barbie. Who really gives a flying crap about Kooky Cantankerous Ken?
As weddings go, mine went the way everyone else’s went, I suppose. Got engaged, picked out a tux, got married, went on a honeymoon, came home, started fighting over the remote...pretty typical stuff.
The night before our wedding saw the expected invasion of loved ones, friends, relatives (which aren’t necessarily “loved ones”), acquaintances, and people whom we haven’t seen in years (yet had the good sense to bring gifts).
This beautiful coming-together of disparate peoples carries on a timeless tradition from countless millennia. Each a unique being in their own way with their own needs and desires, they unite in one common cause: to honor us by their presence and joyfully celebrate the expression of our love.
Plus, they heard there was an open bar.
We lucky few got together at the church to go over our lines and hand gestures, without the benefit of hangovers. This ancient tradition harkens back to a time when bridal parties of old gathered together in their bearskins and blue jeans with the promise of chicken wings, beer, and cole slaw.
Thankfully, our rehearsal didn’t last very long. Our minister, an out-of-work podiatrist who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, somehow managed to rope us together into some semblance of order. It was pretty much a whirlwind “You three stand here, you three stand there, Maid of Honor go here, Best Man go there, Father of the Bride look solemn, Bride and Groom in front of me, I talk a little, you say your vows, I pronounce you man and wife, bada bing, bada boom. Questions? Let’s eat.”
Not exactly the State of the Union, but I was fine with that. Besides, I knew we’d be winging it the next afternoon, anyway. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? They wouldn’t let us get married? It’s not like I’d forget what to say when asked, “Do you take this woman yadda, yadda, yadda....?”
The sophisticated part of our evening completed, we adjourned to my fiancée’s house (which, frighteningly, was to be known as my father-in-law’s house in just 24 hours) for the rehearsal dinner.
Here we met up with all those other relatives who weren’t selected to play major roles in the wedding party. However, their out-of-town status granted them the honor of a heapin’ helpin’ of our hospitality.
Gorging ourselves on all varieties of goodies and washing it down with prodigious amounts of beer, we began planning the evening out. Like kids choosing up sides in a playground kickball match, we formed into separate groups for the coming bacchanal.
Never once did any of us think to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for what was sure to be an ordeal the next day. Oh, no, we thought nothing guaranteed a headache-free extravaganza come the dawn quite like late-night partying!
Our hungers sated and our itineraries mapped out, we completed one last piece of unfinished business. After a highly charged “Rock, Scissors, Paper” competition to determine which sap would be designated driver (“Shoulda thrown rock! Shoulda thrown rock!”) we set off in different directions.
We were convinced we couldn’t have a good time unless we lost the power of speech, held deeply serious conversations on the power of plaid with perfect strangers, and wound up at Denny’s at 3 am because “ya know, I could really go for an egg.”
WE INTERRUPT THIS DIATRIBE FOR THE FOLLOWING OBSERVATION ON LATE-NIGHT EATERIES: What is it about drinking all night that compels otherwise rational human beings to seek out omelettes when the bars close?
I don’t know about you but, if I’m in that kind of condition, they could serve me a boot with cheerios and a pizza box filled with charcoal lighter and I wouldn’t know the difference. It’s not like my taste buds are on top of their game, if you know what I mean.
And, while we’re on the topic, how would you like to work that particular shift? Not only must you be fluent in another language (where “Taeggzzoverrrreezewidanengishhhhmuf” means “Two eggs over easy with an English muffin”), but who knows what messes you might have to clean up?
On the other hand, the chemically impaired are great fun to watch. Also, you can make a killing in tips (because everyone KNOWS that Benjamin Franklin looks strikingly like George Washington at three in the morning).
WE NOW RETURN TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED RANT.
Struggling to rise from the dead the following day at the crack of noon, I forced my eyelids open and nervously peeked from behind the bedroom shade. Whew! Car still in the parking lot!
Likewise, I conducted a satisfactory inventory of my wallet, house keys, and pants. Thankfully, everything was how it should be. EVERYthing.
Except for my head, which felt like someone had hammered a railroad spike through it sometime in the wee hours of the morning.
Like a man forced to crawl through the Sahara for weeks on end, I lurched to the bathroom sink. I twisted my tormented noggin under the faucet in a vain attempt to quench my burning thirst and overcome the nausea fairies which overwhelmed me.
Swearing I’d never drink again (yep, kept that promise), I cursed myself for not having any water the previous evening.
WE AGAIN INTERRUPT OUR STORY TO PRESENT THE EMINENTLY SCIENTIFIC “PARTY ANIMAL HANGOVER PARADOX”: It is well known that hangover effects are wrought primarily by dehydration brought on by massive consumption of alcoholic beverages. These effects can be offset, to some degree, by a sufficiently large consumption of water.
However, if you are drunk enough that a raging hangover will ensue, you are too drunk to remember to drink water. On the other hand, if you’re sober enough to remember to drink water, your hangover will be negligible, anyway.
BACK TO OUR STORY....
As I gingerly fixed myself a hearty brunch of Whatever Is in the Refrigerator, I began to mentally prepare for the coming festivities.
Let’s see, I thought, as I ripped the label from a can of Chunky Soup and set it on the electric stove. Tux all ready?
Glancing at the blindingly-white tuxedo hanging from my closet door, I knew that, unless I shared my apartment with a giant penguin (or the Bee Gees), I was all set.
I stirred the bubbling Sirloin and Vegetable stew with a ballpoint pen and sniffed an open jar of Miracle Whip. Pronouncing it better than school paste, I jammed a bologna foldover into its mouth and dragged myself over to the couch. I panicked as I momentarily forgot where the wedding bands were.
Dashing (rather, the hang-over equivalent) back to my room, I frantically pawed through my top dresser drawer. Thankfully, the two rings were exactly where I left them-balled up into one of my white socks for safekeeping.
OK, I relaxed, tux and rings all ready. Let’s see, my vows? Oh, that was easy! All I had to do was repeat whatever the minister said. Luckily, my fiancée didn’t go in for all that self-written personalized vows stuff. A traditional girl, she was content with whatever the reverend had to say. No sense making up Disneyesque lyrics in an attempt to jazz up what was a standard ceremony.
So, I was all set there.
Hmm, what was I forgetting.....?
Thirty minutes later, I was at the mall, making a beeline for one of those stores which sell all manner of gewgaws for those with sophisticated tastes. You know, like monogrammed golf balls and fake dog poop.
Seems that, in the manic hustle of the past few weeks, I’d neglected to get gifts for my best man and ushers.
Browsing though the store aisles, I agonized over which gifts would be the most sincere expression of my feelings for those good friends who were to be part of one of my life’s milestones.
And who weren’t nimble enough to come up with a quick reason why they shouldn’t get all dressed up and stand in the front of a church.
Rejecting the naked playing cards and beer drinking helmets as inappropriate (although cool), I elected to purchase five shot glasses with Virginia Is For Lovers scrolled across them in fake gold paint.
Sufficiently emotional, reasonably priced.
For good measure, I bought one of those hip flasks (you know, the kind only seen in speakeasies and in movies about the homeless) for the best man. Because, I was that kind of guy.
Patting myself on the back, I returned home to begin getting ready for the big shindig to come.
I also needed to turn off that can of Chunky Soup.
Next: The wedding, the reception, and "Garter-Induced Injuries"
Next: The wedding, the reception, and "Garter-Induced Injuries"