Rules Of Engagement


Rules Of Engagement
For Amy Sohn, saying yes was easy. Getting her parents' approval was the hard part.

When we got home that night, my mom had written me an email to congratulate me. She said it was obvious that Jack and I brought out the best in each other, and would make each other very happy. There wasn’t any note from my dad. I wrote back to my mom: “I’m so glad you’re happy,” I said. “I hope Dad is too.”

The next morning I checked my email as soon as I woke up. “Mom felt I should reply to the implied question. I really, truly, totally feel as she does. If I tell you that running through my mind was: ‘But does she know how hard it is to live with someone for better or worse?’ you have got to believe that that’s how any eyes-open person would feel at a time like this.”


My dad had always written like this, in a long, winding style that was hard to decipher—but lately he’d been getting better. Now, one of the most important events of my life was about to occur, and he was reverting to insane syntax. I wished he had some ability to lie, to suck in his feelings when it was for the greater good. Didn’t he know how important his support was to me, even if he wasn’t totally comfortable with Jack? True, we hadn’t known each other that long. But he’d only known my mom a year when they got married. Besides, they knew from reading my column that I’d dated around long enough to know what I wanted.

Over the next few weeks, as I began wedding preparations, my mother said she’d like a running tally. I took this to mean my parents were OK with paying for the bulk of the wedding, as long as the costs didn’t balloon out of control. I liked this arrangement, because I didn’t want to tap into my retirement savings to pay for my entire wedding. I was going to pay some of the expenses myself—my outfit, the photographer, and the liquor (Jack’s mother bought him a suit)—so I thought it was fair to ask my parents for the rest, as long as I consulted with them.

So when I found a klezmer band that would cost $2,500, I decided to run it by my mother. My father answered. “Is Mom there?” I said.

“She’s out folk dancing,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “I just interviewed this band we want to hire.”

“You can talk to me about it.”

This was the point where I should have said no and hung up. She was out folk dancing, which meant he was watching crime shows and messing around on the computer. Nights like this he didn’t eat dinner and got hypoglycemic. This was no time to talk money. Even though I knew this I got nervous, and because I was nervous, I kept talking.

“Well, we listened to a few of their tapes and they’re really incredible,” I said. “They cost $2,500, and I was thinking we’d pay for half.” He was quiet.

“I’m so glad you brought this up,” he said. “I think you’ve gotten the impression Mom and I want to pay for the whole wedding when that’s not the case. I don’t believe in the tradition of the bride’s family paying. I think it’s outdated and unfair.”

“Who paid for your wedding?” My mother’s parents had paid for the entire thing, a swank affair for 200 people back in 1969.

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