On May 21st, the date of the Rapture, my best friend got married in Las Vegas, the least likely place for anyone to ascend to heaven. It was an intentionally small affair, which is the only reason I did not attend. I did, however, flirt with the idea of ruining everything by hopping a cheap weekend flight out for the ceremony, but the combination of laziness and cheapness prevented that. Plus, I had to build a desk that weekend. Oh, and there’s the matter of respecting the wishes of my pal — that’s way down on the list, though, because there isn’t a major life event for somebody else that I can’t turn into something about me.
The game plan was to have a small, quick wedding in Vegas and a honeymoon starting in Vegas and touring the American Southwest, known primarily for heat, panoramic vistas, and “land art” projects developed by acid junkies in the ’70s. (Somehow, they missed the 879,000 billboards for The Thing?, arguably the Southwest’s most significant cultural contribution outside the Donner Party.) This would be followed by a reception in the Chicagoland area, known primarily for Al Capone and smoke billowing from flaming downtown records offices, a couple of weeks later. That’s where I enter the story.
It will come as a shock to no one to learn that I find wedding ceremonies to be the height of tedium. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of only attending weddings for people I either barely know or barely tolerate. This is compounded by the fact that most weddings hold the reception on the same day, making it an endless event full of joy and love for the wedded couple, their immediate family, and closest friends, and full of misery for me. I think most people endure the tedium via the majesty and glory of the open bar, but I don’t drink, so I just sit in a corner and sulk.
Would Sara’s reception be any different? I mean, wasn’t this part where I get to be part of the joy and love, celebrating my best friend’s wedding? Sitting at the head table, right beside the bride, the unofficial maid of honor, enveloped in the maximum love vibes. That had to be a better experience than sitting at a table eighteen to twenty miles away, watching a black blob and a white blob in the hazy distance doing…something. Cutting the cake? Being told by the priest he found a few more Latin rites to read? I’d rather clean lint traps for six hours than endure that again, but this had to be better, right? (On a related note, this is exactly why I loved Rachel Getting Married. Many I know dismissed it because Jonathan Demme stops the story cold to spend an interminable amount of time documenting the chaos of the wedding ceremony and reception, but I appreciate that he made the sequence feel exactly as alien and tedious as it would for any vague acquaintance invited to a large wedding like this.)
It could have very well gone wrong. Admittedly, I’m an awful person — the sort who needs constant babysitting in social situations like this in order to prevent one or more of the following from occurring: (1) panic attack, (2) slipping out silently like a ninja, (3) flipping out and verbally abusing the nearest person. It’s not easy being so needy and emotionally unstable, but I manage it with grace and apoplexy. Unfortunately, every woman I’m friends with knows better than to go to a wedding as my date, and the only one who pitied me enough to ignore her better judgment happens to live in California and couldn’t find a cheap enough flight to make it worth putting up with my bullshit for a memorably unpleasant weekend (picture Love Streams without the alcohol).
So, I flew solo, but I promised I’d be on my best behavior — a problem I forced myself to make good on when it occurred to me that Sara seemed to be either stressed out or oxygen-deprived. The last thing she needed was my bullshit, but even so, she anticipated my neediness and forced one of her Iowa friends to babysit me. The weird thing is, I didn’t really need babysitting. I actually had a good time. For one thing, by design there were significantly fewer people in attendance than at most of the receptions I’ve slogged through. In stark contrast to my extended family — who, when fueled by alcohol, have the tendency to turn ancient resentments into tenuous reasons for histrionics and/or fistfights — the people at Sara’s wedding seemed to mostly get along in spite (or maybe because) of the open bar. If any family members had deep-seated angst, they managed to tamp it down for the sake of Sara and Bill, like dignified human beings do.
I cracked wise, I danced like a chunky white man does, I didn’t withdraw and then lash out — all in all, a pretty good night. I didn’t even go nuts when I got caught behind the world’s longest, slowest freight train on my way home. I actually felt sort of good — the sort of good a person feels when he’s shared a special experience with a close friend and a select group of tolerable others. I don’t do that as much as I should anymore. I could blame all the self-isolation and alienation, but I prefer to blame it on an elaborate Zionist media conspiracy. Personal responsibility is for suckers!
Posted by D. B. Bates on June 6, 2011 1:20 PM