Recently, I went to a wedding in Philadelphia with my girlfriend of two years, Lorri. She was a bridesmaid, which meant I shared in the full complement of her duties. Read: the Friday-to-Sunday gauntlet of meals and pictures and shiny dresses and small talk with people whose names you don’t even try to remember.
Generally, I like other people’s weddings. You eat and drink like a war’s just been won, you’re expected to make a fool of yourself on the dance floor, and there’s cake. Oh, and it’s usually free. Better still you get to toast the very beginning of something, the still-furled bloom of a union just made legit by law and (if it’s your thing) Lord.
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As a man edging towards his late-30s, I know of which I write: I was best man to both my brothers and a close friend, and have served as a groomsmen on a handful of other occasions. I’ve been to weddings held in churches, on beaches, in vineyards, and one under a tent in the desert that nearly got blown over by a freak windstorm as a Mariachi band played.
I had not, however, been to a wedding with Lorri, a fact that didn’t occur to me until we were half-way to Philly from New York. You see, I don’t believe in marriage and Lorri does. For me, the wedding seems like the best part of it, like the high from the first hit of a new drug that you’ll forever try, and fail, to reproduce. Whereas Lorri likens marriage to a coming-out party for love and sees it as fruition, not the beginning of the end.
Despite my views, I find the recent speculation about the death of marriage absurd, if only because it doesn’t acknowledge the hypnotic power of matrimony. All the proof you need can be found in the tight smiles of single men at weddings, in the ever-teary eyes of the unwed women, in the fear and envy behind both. The very thing, I realized, that Lorri and I were walking into as we arrived at the rehearsal dinner.
An hour later, it was as if someone had counted me down from ten: hypnosis was in full force. I went under right about the time the mini-quiches and grilled sea scallops were circulating.
Dinner was kicked off by an uncomfortably long prayer from a born-again uncle and was interrupted constantly by a slew of toasts, including those from the requisite drunken bridesmaid, fraternity brother groomsmen, and awkward stepmother.
Next up was the slide show that tracked the bride and groom’s life from impossibly cute babies to awkward teens back to impossibly cute adults, now together as one. I tracked Lorri’s reactions throughout and saw her get teary a couple times as she looked my way. We were cute babies, her eyes said, that could be us. I smiled, lips tight, and wondered why it was taking so long for dessert to arrive.
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