Saturday, April 13, 2013

Marriage is also like other things at a carnival. For example, it's like 'funnel cake,' in that I don't really know much about it.

Marriage is like...

... a tilt-a-whirl?

... a Ferris Wheel?

... a roller-coaster?

...that one thing where you stand against the wall and it spins you really fast and then the bottom drops out and you're suspended there against the wall and you're laughing but also a little scared and you can't hardly breathe?

Yesterday, on my way to the dinner to celebrate Middle Daughter's marriage, I explained to Mr Bunches, and to Mr F, who was with us, too, but who often is not directly included in conversations because he's more passive about them, that we were on our way to a restaurant to have dinner to celebrate Middle's getting married.

The restaurant, I told them, had a Merry-Go-Round in it -- because, I should point out, the restaurant really did have a Merry-Go-Round, although technically the ride was not inside the restaurant itself, it was just outside, but close enough, right? -- and they would get to ride on the Merry-Go-Round, before or after the dinner, sometime, but first we had to sit at the table and meet everyone, because Middle, I reminded them, had gotten married.

"Married?" asked Mr Bunches.

(Mr F just looked out the window).

"Married," I said, and asked him "Do you know what married means?"

"Like a Merry-Go-Round," Mr Bunches said, and that settled that and we moved on to more important things, like whether the restaurant was in New York City (No), whether the restaurant was in "Madison City" (technically, yes, but it's called "Madison") and whether his brother Mr F lives at the doctor's office, an exchange went like this:

Me:  And where do you live?

Mr Bunches:  Madison City.

Me:  No, you live in Middleton.

Mr Bunches:  Middleton City.

Me:  No, just Middleton.

Mr Bunches:  Just Middleton City.

Me:  Middleton.

Mr Bunches  Middleton.

Me: And where does your brother live?

Mr Bunches: At the doctor.

Which is what he says a lot, which is how we know that it made a powerful impression on him when Mr F hurt his head last year and had to stay in the hospital for four days.

We were heading, technically, to the celebration of the wedding and not the wedding itself.  The wedding itself was a small affair -- and would have been smaller, had not State of Wisconsin required at least two people to witness the wedding and at least one person to officiate at it.  I believe, if Middle Daughter could have pulled it off, she might have limited the wedding to just herself and her (now) husband, and, honestly,  his presence was probably optional, too, because he might mess up her plans more than anyone else.

Middle Daughter, as you probably know, got married yesterday.  She has known the guy for, I want to say, about a year, but to be perfectly honest I'm not entirely sure, because I have enough trouble keeping track of my own life to not want to bother keeping track of other people's lives, and so Middle has known her (now) husband for as long as she has known him, probably longer than six months given that I know for sure he was at our Thanksgiving dinner last fall, and that was nearly six months ago now, and it would be rare for someone to invite someone else to Thanksgiving when they've first begun dating.

Wouldn't it?  That's weird, right? I can't say, for sure, because I'm a big proponent of "just being yourself," a philosophy I constantly advise Oldest Daughter to follow.

"Just be yourself," I say, when Oldest Daughter wants to call a guy the next day after her date, or reveals to us that she has already picked out the names of her first two children.  "You should lead with that, on dates," I tell her, and then go one better: "Or just bring it up when they ask for your phone number.  Say, 'Sure, and by the way, I already know what I'm going to name my first two children.'"

That is actually far sounder advice than you think, because the theory behind it is that by being yourself, you will weed out the people who don't want you to be yourself almost immediately, and you can then focus on the people who will let you be yourself.

Put another way: there probably aren't that many guys who would ask Oldest for her phone number, hear that she says she already knows what her kids' names will be, and who would then persist in calling her for a date.  But there are, I bet, at least a few, and everyone who asks her out ought to know that she is the kind of person who brings a guy to meet her parents two weeks into the relationship, and who will ask, about 15 times a day, whether she looks fat.

Did I say 15 times a day? I mean per hour.

So guys ought to know that about Oldest, I figure, and there are guys who won't mind that and those are the guys she should be focusing on, the same way that Middle found a guy who will sit happily at a Thanksgiving dinner where he meets her younger brothers for the first time ever and one of those younger brothers strips naked and runs through the living room to grab Middle's (now) husband's drink and spill it on the floor because that's the kind of thing he does

(Mr F.  It was Mr F.)

(You'd probably guessed.)

and not blink twice and even come back for Christmas, where that kind of thing is bound to happen again.

(It did.)

You've got to be yourself, and you've got to let other people be yourself, within certain limits, and so when Middle told us her plans for her wedding, we let her plan her day exactly the way she wanted, except that I felt compelled to point out certain fundamental things to her,  those fundamental things being that:

A. You have to have two witnesses to a marriage, and
B.  You have to invite your mother, even if you didn't need two witnesses.

Middle's original plans were to get married with just her, and maybe her husband, and possibly an officiant.  This is, I suspect, because Middle is a very private person, for the most part, who will tell you at length about how a person on the phone at her school was very rude but who will not mention for several weeks that her (now) husband has moved in with her and they are living together.  I'm not sure if Middle is private because she likes to keep her life to herself, an increasing rarity these days, or if she's worried that by telling us stuff we'll decide to meddle, the way I did when I broke it to her that, legally speaking, weddings have certain ingredients, and that further, practically speaking, weddings involving Sweetie's daughters include Sweetie.

And so Middle widened the scope of who was able to be at her wedding, limiting it to (I've heard) just her, and the (now) husband, and a court commissioner, and Sweetie and the (now) husband's sister, and the several hundred people milling about Wisconsin's State Capitol building at 12:30 on a Friday afternoon, where (I'm told -- I wasn't there) Middle and Husband got married.

My role in this supersecret ceremony was "to not be there," although that wasn't formally spelled out, and my secondary role was to retrieve Mr F and Mr Bunches from school and bring them to the celebratory dinner later that day, a role I was about 83% capable of pulling off without a hitch.

Sweetie had a larger role, in that she was allowed to attend the actual ceremony, but she wasn't very forthcoming about the details, and I am kind of wondering if she didn't have to sign a nondisclosure agreement or something, as only the before-and-after information was provided, in that Sweetie told me that before the ceremony, they had trouble getting a place to go and after the ceremony they had trouble getting to the place they wanted to go.

Middle and Husband had decided to get married at the State Capitol, and I don't know why other than that it probably seemed more scenic than other places to get married in Madison (City).  Since they were doing a civil, rather than religious, ceremony -- I don't know why and I've tried not to ask, for several reasons:

1. It's her wedding. She can do what she wants.
2. I'm not super-religious, or maybe I am but I'm not super into any organized religion these days, and
3. I didn't really care, and
4. When Sweetie and I got married, people gave us a bad time about every single thing we chose or did not choose for our wedding, from the ceremony to the dress to the weather to the food to the location to the person Sweetie was marrying, probably, and by "people" I mean "including me," although that was inadvertent.

Here is what happened.  Sweetie and my mom and her mom had been looking through one of those 4' thick bridal magazines that are filled with wedding dresses, all of which look more or less identical to men in that they are white dresses and that is all I at least see when I look through a zillion pictures of wedding dresses: page after page of seemingly the exact same dress.

"Oh, no," women are saying right now.  "Each dress is different and unique.  See, this one has cross-hatching," or something like that.

To which I respond: They are dresses, and they are white.  They are all the same.  You don't see me running around going into great detail about what I'm wearing.  Take blue jeans.  I own several pairs of blue jeans.  They are all blue jeans, even the ones that are black.  There are, I suppose, differences.  The pair I have on today, for example, has a hole in the right knee.  But I don't parade them in front of Sweetie and say "Which pair of jeans should I wear? The ones that are a slightly darker shade of blue? The ones with the fringe on the one heel?"  I don't do that because it doesn't matter: jeans are jeans are jeans, and also because I have more important things to do.   I just grab whichever one is on top in the drawer and get on with my life.

So Sweetie and Mom and Mother-In-Law were looking at pictures of wedding dresses and they showed me one that stood out from the others.

It stood out from the others because, and I quote (myself. I said this):

"It looks old and moldy.  Like it's been stored and got wet or something."

That, I learned instantly was because the dress had been antiqued or something.  It was supposed to look like that, to which I responded that that was dumb because who wants a dress to look like it's been sitting on the floor of a garage for 15 years, or something like that.

There was a long silence in the room.


And then my mom said that was the dress Sweetie had wanted to get.

You know, if her (then) fiance didn't think it looked like garbage.

In the end, she did not get that dress even though I tried to reassure that upon looking again it looked a lot less like garbage and a lot more like something people would want to wear, etc., etc., and she got a very nice dress (it was white, I remember!) to wear to our wedding, and my complaints about her dress were added on to my dad's complaints about an hors d'ouevre wedding not being right because "people are going to expect a plate of food!" ("Not if we tell them they aren't getting one!" Sweetie responded) and my brother's complaints that an outdoor reception might mean rain, or wind, or even snow, and my mom's complaints that we should have more trees with Christmas lights on them ("?") and so on, and we got married anyway,  without snow and with trees my mom paid for and without a "plate of food" for anyone, unless they loaded up on hors d'ouevres and Sweetie learned to preface questions about my opinions with information that would be necessary to elicit the opinion she wants, and we've lived happily ever after, the moral of the story being that if Middle didn't want anyone but the fewest legally-required people at her wedding, we were going to honor that.

Besides which, it meant I got to stay at home most of the day by myself, just hanging out and eating pizza and playing Plants vs. Zombies and watching Archer, and you know how many days I get like that? About one every 44 years is how many, so this was long overdue.

Sweetie and Middle and Husband and Husband's sister, I later learned, had to work with the Court Commissioner who was marrying them to even find a place at the Capitol, because there was some kind of band there, and they eventually found a location and swore everybody in or whatever happened, and the marriage went through, which I learned about via text message, and swung into action to go get Mr F and Mr Bunches to take them to the dinner.

Here is the other reason why it probably wasn't the worst idea to not include me in the ceremony, completely aside from the fact that I would be bored stiff and honestly didn't really care to watch the ceremony.  I am not a ceremony watcher, really, I only do it when I absolutely have to and if it was up to me, everyone would elope for everything -- not just weddings, but everything.  People should elope for graduations, and anniversaries, and other kids' birthday parties, and meetings at work.  Put another way: if you don't include me in your boring ceremony I'm okay with that because: boring.

I mean, a wedding ceremony is great for the people getting married.  Or I assume it is.   I can barely remember my own, because I was sort of in a daze the whole day (Sweetie is REALLY beautiful and hasn't changed a bit since our wedding day) and sort of in a hurry to get it over with before she changed her mind (she is at least four levels of hotness above me, and that's being very charitable to me) and so the only thing I really remember about our actual wedding ceremony is when she was having trouble lighting the candle that the Catholic Church makes you light to symbolize something about something. I think she lit the altar on fire.

But let's assume that the other people getting married are less dazed by the fact that they tricked someone into marrying them and so they are paying attention to their own ceremony, and if I assume that then I assume that the people getting married are enjoying the ceremony, but maybe not, because I've been at other things where I was the focus of the ceremony and I didn't enjoy that, either.  Graduations, swearings-in, that time I got an award of a scholarship for something and I had to wear a tie: boring.

The ceremony is not the fun part and I don't know why we bother with it anymore.  Would society be any different if we didn't make high schoolers sit through two hours of lectures about how they can do anything they want to do, or if we didn't force everyone to sit in hard pews and listen to that "Love is patient" poem read by a priest while trying not to look at the bride's butt?

Yes, it would: it would be less boring.   So we should do away with all  that junk and just get on with the part people like: the party.   Imagine how much better the Nobel Prizes would be if the committee just called up Linus Pauling or whoever and said "Come on down to Hooters, we're getting wings and a pitcher and nice job on the Higgs Boson."

(Except that people shouldn't go to Hooters.  Not because of sexism. I don't care about that.  Because it's stupid.  People who go to Hooters are stupid.)

(So you wouldn't want to hold the Nobel Prize Party there, is my point.)

So if you ran weddings and graduations my way, and the way Middle's wedding went for me, it would simply be showing up at a reception, and the priest or judge or Captain Stubing could say "You're married!" and then people could dance or drink or find out that there is actually something called a "Mashed Potato Bar," which is like an ice cream shoppe only it has mashed potatoes that they'll put into a fancy dish and they have, like, forty different kinds of things you can put on them, which is a thing that was at one wedding we went to once, and which is a thing I wish was on every street corner, and then everyone would have fun and nobody would ever say "Man, why do we have to go to this wedding today, it's so nice out!" which, if you're being honest, you've said at every wedding you've ever been invited to.  Just admit it.


The other reason I'm okay with skipping ceremonies is because Mr F and Mr Bunches are not very good at sitting through ceremonies.  Or sitting, period.  They have trouble in groups, and trouble in loud places, and trouble around new people, and trouble sitting still for long times, and ceremonies, being a group of new people being loud in a strange place, rattle them.

So many ceremonies, from my in-laws' 50th anniversary to The Boy's graduation to Middle's wedding dinner, are actually witnessed by me and Mr F and Mr Bunches from the outside looking in, or sometimes "from the outside on a Merry-Go-Round looking in."

We had offered, as part of our wedding present to Middle and her husband, to buy dinner for the larger group of people that were invited, including Oldest and The Boy and me, Mr F and Mr Bunches, and the husband's sister's family, including his nephews, and originally we were going to go to a fancier restaurant but Middle downgraded us to the restaurant with a Merry-Go-Round because she recognized that there would be little kids there, including her youngest brothers, who might not want to sit at a table and watch grown-ups make small talk with each other.

Which actually is a pretty incredible thing, if you think about it. How many brides do you know would stop to think that on their day they should maybe make things a little easier for everybody else, even if that means that people won't be staring at them and being jealous of them, etc., and instead people might be outside on a Merry-Go-Round.

(Middle, in that sense, is a lot like Sweetie, who wanted an outdoor wedding reception in part because it was at a park and kids could play there.)

So at the appointed hour, upon receiving the text that they were married, I got up and put on my nicest suit -- I really did, it's the one with the vest that everyone always says looks like an old-fashioned sheriff's outfit, which is a good thing, because old-fashioned sheriff's were the fanciest people America ever knew -- and went and picked up Mr F and Mr Bunches from school, getting them out early, and then drove all the way to the other side of Madison (City) where we got there just as Oldest and The Boy arrived, and ten minutes before the wedding party arrived because the wedding party was led by Middle, who took the longest possible way to travel the six blocks from the Capitol to the restaurant, ignoring Sweetie's advice because the way Middle took "is the way I know," but it didn't matter because the restaurant she'd chosen didn't just have a Merry-Go-Round outside but a bunch of flying, spinning, musical, or otherwise interesting stuff in it, too, which kept the boys occupied for 0.000003 seconds when we sat down, after which I began my afternoon of getting up and periodically walking around the restaurant with Mr F, looking at things, and also of periodically going out to ride on the Merry-Go-Round outside, which we did four times.

It was not the most restful of dinners, but, then, none of our dinners are restful, really,  and anyway I'd spent the entire day in solitude, nearly, and was peacefulled out, so I was ready for the challenge, and, also, I really wanted to get up and look around the restaurant, myself -- who could be in a circus-toy-themed restaurant where the tables have railroad trains or slot cars or Lego sets embedded in them and everywhere you'd look there's another calliope or clown or monkey-on-a-unicycle-on-a-tightrope and not want to get up and look around?

And with Mr F, my ready-made excuse was hand-in-hand with me (literally: I hold his hand because he's fast and sneaky, and he'll grab someone's fries off their tray like he did at McDonald's one day, and I will feel terrible about it, like I did that day, but I will only feel terrible about it until the lady whose fries he grabs turns out to be a total snot about it, even though I have said I will buy her a new french fries anyway, and even though she hadn't started eating them yet, but she's still a jerk, in which case I pay for her new fries but secretly hope she gets warts) and we wandered around the restaurant, stopping back at the table for a few seconds of conversation (me) and watching Youtube on the iPad (him) and cheeseburgers and onion rings (me) and cheese puffs and Hershey's bars (him) and occasionally getting Mr Bunches and the other side's kids and going out to the Merry-Go-Round to take a spin on it, Mr Bunches riding first the pink horse and then the camel and then the white horse, with Mr F always sitting on the bench that had a dragon on the side, with me next to him and my arm around him and him laughing and me keeping a wary eye on him, and on Mr Bunches, and seeing through the window where Sweetie was proudly and happily sitting at a table sharing a banana split with her two beautiful daughters, one of whom was now married, while a little ways away The Boy and his girlfriend joked with our new in-laws and ate cheesy fries.  It turns out our new in-laws like cheesy fries! They'll fit right in.

And then we went home, and everyone went home, and Middle and her husband went off on a brief honeymoon, to Milwaukee.  And back home, everything was the same as it always was: we gave the boys baths and we sat around playing "Buzz Lightyear versus the Mega T-Rex," and we read and we took a ride in the car and we went to bed.

Everything was the same as it always was and yet nothing is ever the same as it was.

I started this off trying to think what marriage was like, maybe to give a little advice to Middle and to me and to everyone else who ever has been or will be married, or maybe to everyone else who ever has been or ever will be alive, and I think that Mr Bunches got it just right when he said it's like a Merry-Go-Round, in that you go around and around and maybe you go up and down or maybe you just sit there and ride, but wherever you look there's someone having fun and someone hanging on for dear life and someone next to you on the ride, and there's bright colors and lights and music, and maybe to an outsider it seems like you're not getting anywhere, but if you're where you want to be in the first place, you don't need to go anywhere else and you can just relax and enjoy the ride.

Congratulations, Middle.


Andrew Leon said...

But I don't want to let someone else be myself. I am myself, and, if someone else was myself, then I would have to go find someone else to be, because there doesn't need to be more than one of myself. And, honestly, anyone else trying to be myself would screw it up. And I'm quite certain I wouldn't enjoy being someone else, even if I could pick anyone else to be.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, and that conversation reminds me of the one between Luke and 3PO in ANH.

Andrew Leon said...

And, now, thinking about it, I think marriage is more like this thing I was saying the other day, but I wasn't saying it about marriage, but, now, I think it is like marriage. It's like going down a steep hill with a stack of boxes, and, as you walk, the top boxes start to fall, so you speed up to keep them from falling, but they continue to almost fall, and you just sort of have to keep up under them to keep them on top.

Andrew Leon said...

I agree with you about ceremonies. I was an honor's graduate, which means I graduated at the head of the class (with the other honor's graduates), and, then, everyone else that wasn't an honor's graduate had to do their walk and stuff. After we walked, we had to go upstairs to this attic place in the building where the ceremony was and wait around until the whole thing was over. Which was hours. Still, at least we were in the attic, because it was kind of cool and we got to hang out and talk unlike everyone sitting down in the auditorium who just had to make sure they stayed awake until their names were called.

Briane P said...

I like your marriage analogy. But I am not sure that our WIVES would like your marriage analogy.

Andrew Leon said...

Oh, well, I didn't tell -her.-

PT Dilloway, Grumpy Bulldog said...

I wish my family would allow me to embrace your philosophy. Though at the last family reunion I just wandered off and read my Kindle for most of it so I suppose that's almost the same.

Anyway, I wish my brother's first wife would have had your daughter's philosophy about weddings instead of it becoming an episode of Bridezillas. With the second wife they may as well have had just themselves and the priest because they didn't want to do any planning at all.