Jan 15, 2006

PLAYING NICELY WITH OTHERS
The root beer floats were a mistake. I knew this … but how could we watch Buffy without being in sugar shock? Anyway, a bride's last night solo should be of her choosing. And if this obliges me to eat several brown cows, who am I to argue?

Through a series of mishaps, Amy winds up at J.C Penny's for her upsweep. “All I know is that generations of old ladies have been very happy with their 'dos from the salon,” she announces.

Anne and I gesture, frown, cajole and eventually direct Amy's thin hair into a suitable style. “They're both editors in one capacity or another,” the bride apologizes to the shell-shocked, but game, hairdresser. We're experimenting with processional and recessional music on the Powerbook, snippets of Bach, Handel and 10,000 Maniacs.

Abba's Take a Chance on Me blares. “Now you're just messing around,” Amy scolds.

***
We dress in an overheated room at Hannah's Garden Inn, the 1908 bed-and-breakfast where the wedding is being held. My cranberry chiffon stubbornly resists the iron.

“Maybe you shouldn't have brought it home on your bicycle,” someone points out, not unreasonably.

“No, no. The thing just wrinkles regardless,” I insist. Anne's wielding the steamer dangerously close to my body. I endure the scalding, mainly because I get to wisecrack: “are you blowing smoke up my ass?”

Opportunities like that are rare and not to be missed.

This silliness is much-needed. Despite our editorial savvy, we know little about how to corset a gal with dangerous curves into a strapless gown.

We're tugging and tucking and tightening, racing against the clock. The photographer wanders in and captures me winching the ribbons, knee jammed into Amy's back for leverage like a paler, wilder Mammy. Now there's a Kodak keeper.

***

Then the bustle is over. Andy and Amy sign the ketubah, their spiritual contract, along with the secular papers. I witness both.

And then we're downstairs, doing the drag-step to the huppah (Jewish wedding canopy) that the groom built. The parents light candles, which are set perilously close to my shoulder-blade-length hair and highly flammable, still wrinkled frock. I'm worrying about a bridal wardrobe malfunction, trying to forget that today is the two-year anniversary of my divorce, when suddenly it clicks.

Amy and Andy. Married. That's the point.

I tear up, but manage not to blub. After they sip grape juice, I read the first blessing – a fantastic bit of luck. Just last night, I was delighting in the line “this marriage, a study”: so appropriate for the wedding of a professor and graduate student.

The poem also contains lovely bits equating marriage with milk and honey, the laughter of women. I try not to weep or ignite … and soon Andy's stamping the glass and leaning forward for a kiss. “Wait for it,” the rabbi says, or some quite secular equivalent, and everyone laughs. Then we all race back down the aisle. It's done. Mazel tov!

***

The rest is incidental. Anne and I nearly destroy Amy's dress – ripping an eyelet and jamming the zipper – then finally lace that sucker securely. We pose for photos, drink and eat. I make a sweet, silly speech, explaining how I introduced the pair: Amy's romantic star ascending as mine sunk.

“She spent hours on the phone – international – comforting me. And sometimes we'd talk about Andy … how they hit it off with a conversation about ancient dog crucifixion … how sweet and smart he was …. how nervous she was to meet finally.

“'It's no big deal,' I'd tell her. 'A date is just two nice people doing nice things together nicely.' These words have come back to haunt me. A lot.

“But here's to Amy and Andy. May you always be nice together.”

On one hand, that's a pretty milquetoast toast. On the other, what more could you wish for two dear friends?

As my marriage dissolved, we no longer gave each other the kindness accorded to strangers, the simple courtesies, the double-check before temper-ignition (“did you say that I was loathsome, or did I mishear 'toothsome'?").

And really, who should you keep more safe than the ones you love?

So play nice, kids.

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