Friday, July 15, 2011

27 Dresses. Not.

Well, it COULD be a thrift shop purchase, although it looks more like a nightgown with mosquito netting. (Wiki Commons)

Could you put in some pew de soy?


During journalism grad school, I got a job copy editing the local morning rag. Glen, one of the typesetters, who had been an English teacher before the unruly kids almost destroyed his gentle soul, was getting married and had handed me the wedding announcement.

"Oh," said I. "Peau de soie? Well, does her gown entail any peau de soie? Probably; most do. Why don't you ask Esther and find out."

He did. It did have pew de soy and some Allan's son's (Alencon) lace as well. Still, I sent him to the Community Editor with the announcement, as it was her job to marshall all the laces and silks and satins into regimented rows, always ending in, "The couple will honeymoon in Myrtle Beach." Everyone who lived in Athens, GA, honeymooned in Myrtle Beach. I suspect they thought a passport would be required if they ventured farther afield.

I missed that wedding. I even missed the one wedding for which I was supposed to be a member of the wedding party. Lord, how I did not want to do that. I managed to get a strep throat a few days before that wedding, which was to be the day before my college graduation, and two days before my husband, who was getting his doctorate, and I moved to Denver from Binghamton, NY. So I bombed out. Whew.

I think I am phobic about weddings. It might have something to do with the wedding in the movie 16 Candles. Or maybe the 1978 movie, A Wedding, directed by Robert Altman and casting funnywoman Carol Burnett in an unaccountably bleak role. A wedding, it always seemed to me, was a prescription for one kind of disaster or another. So I avoided them. Even my own...and I've had three, or four if you count the last one.

Interfaith marriage? Problem solved
The first one was fraught with peril because the groom was Jewish and I was nominally Roman Catholic, although I had, by age 20, long since abandoned that nonsense. We could find no clergyman to marry us. After much dialing, I finally found a New York State Supreme Court Justice who agreed to do the deed as long as it could be on a Wednesday morning in March. OK.

The attitudes toward this happy event ranged from horrified to OK with it. Well, maybe a bit more. For example: 

  • My father, the RC patriarch, was not happy. 
  • My Episcopalian grandmother, my mother's mother, was happy. She liked Paul, my fiance. 
  • My brother was 15. That is, he didn't really care. Sure, it was a day off from school--two because of the trip from Long Island to Binghamton. 
  • My husband's favorite aunt--and mine too, as it would turn out--flew from NYC the night before and back the next afternoon. She was a grand lady, and also the able long-time cable desk chief at Time, Inc. She was happy. I think she was as happy a my grandmother. They were much alike.
There was also Paul's best friend as his witness and my best friend as mine. I think they were both on the negative side of the midline between ecstatic and horrified, but only just.

But if you value your belief that weddings are a priori happy occasions, do not look at that wedding picture. We all look like we've had the word from the stormtroopers and we're next. All of us.

Next time I got married, it was in Athens, GA. I was in grad school, had just divorced No. 1, and No. 2 seemed like a good bet. He was also a journalist, and, in fact, the marriage lasted 16 years, a lot better than the scant five for marriage number one. The wedding? Neither of us wanted clergy, so we trotted over, with our two best friends, to the offices of an elderly judge. At one point, we had to quietly snake the rings off each other's fingers because the old judge had forgotten we'd done that already. So we did it again. I think he got tired after that, or he might have gone round again.

The reception was a barbecue at a friend's house. We fell out of a hammock together after too many peach daiquiries.

Third time's the charm
Marriage number three (five years and counting) was supposed to be the first actual church wedding I'd ever had. I had become a nominal Episcopalian, mainly for the coffee hour as freelancing is lonely work, and my husband was Church of England, being a Brit. We even had the de rigeur conversation with the Rector who assured us it was very important to involve the church community, who would be there for us as marriage took its inevitable toll on us (he did't put it that way.) We nodded. Then Simon ran off to fly to Africa or someplace on business, and I went home to wonder how I could ever even get through buying some kind of frou-frou dress, never mind figuring out how to involve Simon's three grown daughters in the ceremony, as the Rector had suggested. A dilemma indeed as at least one of them hated me (and still does.) And this is supposed to be joyous?

Right after Christmas, a month or so after the confab with the Rector, I had a meeting about some business with a Religious Science minister friend. She was worried. I had given up my apartment and had put my work on hold. Simon's house needed a lot of work, and I like decorating. But she felt I was at risk without getting the third wedding done pronto. I could be out in the street with my little dog and no place to go. And no alimony, or even a whiff of any.

"Why don't you just go get the license today and I'll marry you Saturday night. It will be fun. I'll get champagne," she said.

I called Simon at work and he agreed to meet me at the county office where marriage licenses could be procured.

On Saturday, we cleaned out part of the basement, took the stuff to the landfill, and returned the borrowed truck to its owner. It began to snow. Hard. Our return trip, from the mountains around Camp David where his friend lived, among the constant coming and goings of the presidential copter and 24/7 fighter jets on patrol, was really slow. But I really wanted to paint my toenails.

I have no idea why it was so important to me to paint my toenails.  For this wedding, I was wearing a purple two-piece dress I had gotten from my cousin's thrift shop.

Well, it wasn't really a thrift shop. My cousin manages a big apartment building in Washington, DC, and when someone moves out, they often tell him to take what he wants. One woman left a ton of books, a ton of clothing, a ton of kitchen equipment. He took it all. When my friend Noeleen and I visited, while Simon was in Africa, we each chose what fit us from the selection in Dennis's spare room. She got mainly shoes; I got mainly clothing.

Anyway, between trying to fluff up my hair after the snow experience and painting my toenails for the open-toed shoes to go with the thrift shop dress, we were late. Quite late. The cell phone call to Jane, the minister, produced ice almost as bad as what was on the roads. "If you're not here in half an hour, I won't do it," she said. "Noeleen is already here."

We got there. And it was fine. Short and sweet. Then Jane, her husband, Noeleen and we newlyweds had champagne, and then we drove through the blizzard to our favorite Indian restaurant in Baltimore.

Three weeks later, we had the reception on the date of the original, non-starter church wedding, since it was already booked and paid for. I would have gone through with that wedding itself, I guess, but when I called to tell the Rector that we had already gotten married, so it would just have to be a blessing and not a full wedding, he said that was all right. Civil weddings could be blessed.

"What? You were married by a bona fide minister? Then I can't bless it," he said. "It has already been done."

He wasn't too fond of us after that. The community seemed OK with it, though, as those we had invited all came to the reception. I wore some old black silk pants I had, a silk chemise I had bought at Nordstrom Rack, and the thrift shop Asian coat thingie in embroidered yellow silk I had found the week before. No, really. This time it WAS from a thirft shop.

But I did, the morning of the reception, decide maybe I should go have my hair done.