Editor’s Note: For the life of me, I cannot undertand why otherwise reasonable people continue to invite this “party pooper” to their weddings. It must be because his wife—who is not, at all, a wet blanket—is a desirable guest. Inexplicably, after decades of failure, she has not given up her efforts to civilize him.
I guess that makes TWO things I cannot understand.
At a recent wedding—where he confirmed his antisocial bona fides by sitting alone with a thickish book, and by being conspicuously absent from the dance floor—he instead mused on the nature of the proceedings.
It should be noted that, while he has no personal knowledge of the subject on which he pontificates, that has never stopped him before.
When boys are growing up, they’re vaguely aware that weddings and marriage exist, but they lump them together with other “things to be avoided”—like skunks, poison ivy, and soap. As they get older, and the inevitability of the unthinkable approaches, they realize that there are but two details about which they should be concerned: picking out the right engagement ring, and coming up with the least-objectionable way to present it without making complete asses of themselves.
Once past those obstacles, there’s only the engagement.
Most males mistakenly believe that the engagement is a kind of grace period that was designed to provide either party a chance to weasel out of the contract. The poor deluded chaps were either unaware of, or simply weren’t paying attention to, children of the female persuasion who grew up in their vicinity.
Many of these inscrutable creatures (who, for all the boys knew, were of some entirely different species) had, from an early age, been planning imaginary weddings—either alone or in concert with similarly-minded females. The details of their imagined weddings might have changed, but their complexity only increased, with each passing year. By the time a girl reaches marriageable age, with a wedding date already inked in, a set of plans as convoluted as the outline of a Russian novel of the larger sort are formulated.
To layout one of these metaphorical novels, she must consider mood, theme, character development and interrelationships with other characters, setting(s), multiple plots and sub-plots, previous novels or historical facts (if any of the characters, settings, and events had appeared in print before), as well as times and distances required by all sub-plots, so that no unexpected conflicts present themselves.
The groom, of course, is blissfully oblivious to all this.
Gradually, like an unfortunate frog that discovers that his smallish pond is actually a pot that has been set on the stove, the boy begins to notice that he’s in hot water.
While he is busy worrying about the likelihood of choking or mumbling his lines at the altar, his future bride is manipulating the numberless details of the impending event. Relationships of which he has no knowledge—or, if he does, are of no consequence to him—are of paramount importance to the growing circle of female co-conspirators who orbit his bride-to-be. Clothes, which for him are no more than a collection of unmatched items that need only shield him from weather are instead—and utterly new to him—a cacophony of competing fabrics, styles, cuts, colors, and god-knows what-all attributes, every one of which is of critical importance to the bride and her cohorts.
The fact that such details are indistinguishable to him does little more than make him a lodestone of feminine disapproval.
Still, he cannot comprehend the reason for their long engagement. This despite the fact that the bride’s inner circle might need two months just to determine the seating arrangements at the reception. Layers of social and familial entanglements rivaling those of the Hatfields and McCoys, must be identified and parried through meticulous planning. The groom—who, frankly, had never really paid attention to who, exactly, all these relatives were, let alone the forces that attracted them to, or repelled them from, each other—is learning all this for the first time.
Whether he wishes to or not.
Weeks and weeks of interviews with potential DJs, printers of wedding invitations, florists, bakers, hairdressers, organizers, clergy and/or justices, facilities managers, caterers, hoteliers, chauffeurs, mixologists and moon-shiners—and possibly fools, jugglers, acrobats, peacocks and trained apes (but nary a belly-dancer) will occur.
Much as he would like for all this to proceed without him, he will be expected to participate in every decision. Knowing, beforehand, that any suggestions he might offer will be disregarded would be merciful.
No one will be merciful.
He will, eventually, discover that he has achieved the status of an ancient feeble-minded uncle. That guy who shows up at all family gatherings, only to be shown to a soft chair in a remote corner and ignored until dinner time—when the unfortunate person who drew the short straw has to sit beside him, assigned to pick up dropped flatware, wipe up occasional spills, and mop drool from his grizzled chin.
It is the time-tested training method for married life.