Monday, February 12, 2007

Make that Grey Poupon, with Extra Pickles, Hold the Guilt

More often than not, I feel very young. Not as in vibrant and alive, but as in new, just born, with everything still to do in my life ahead of me, as though I were still a teenager never been anywhere but home and school. I think this has to do with my feelings about the many perceived failures and disappointments I've had in my life.

I’ve heard several people use the phrase “slipped through the cracks” in regards to me, especially with the word "career" somewhere in the sentence. I’ve had a few opportunities here and there, and came very close to having great things in my grasp, but I’ve always slipped through the cracks, and that job that seemed to be imminent remained just beyond my grasp, and all the working and straining and reaching I could do brought it no closer, until eventually, it slipped away into the distance, never to be seen again.

This concept could also describe, for me, marriage.

I was married for about three years. Dimarc and I just couldn’t work together, and we were too stubborn to admit it, I think. We were young, but not really. I was twenty-seven, he was thirty. We thought we had lived through a lot of disappointments, and that we deserved to be married, like it was something that was coming to us, dammit.

My first wedding was planned almost exclusively by my mother-in-law. Now, don't get me wrong, my mother-in-law was a wonderful, industrious, down-to-earth, generous soul, who I felt, at the time, was taking an enormous task off of my hands. She never knew how disappointed I was in my wedding, because I couldn't bear to hurt her feelings. I loved her very much.

My in-laws paid for half the wedding, and my folks paid for the other half. I was painfully aware of how much everything was costing, and riddled with guilt. It seemed like everyone around me had gotten married “on the cheap,” and everyone talked incessantly about how beautiful all those virtually free weddings were, and what a great time everyone had. Couples – and their mothers – flat-out bragged about how much they saved, how they’d made their own wedding favors, how someone’s sister’s cousin had baked this beautiful, delicious wedding cake, how someone’s uncle Sid had taken all the photos. How women had bought their wedding dresses online for less than $500. And everyone was full of condemnation for selfish, wasteful children who demanded big, expensive fancy weddings, and for parents who threw them, clearly out of a desire to show off how rich they were. Ostentatiousness was the eighth deadly sin. Funny, considering one family was Jewish and the other practically atheist.

I let the mothers make all the decisions as to which vendor to hire, and in every single case, they went with the least expensive option. I didn’t dare say a word except “thank you.” Especially since, unbeknownst to the mothers, Dimarc and I were screaming at each other, weekly, fighting and crying like the scared children we were, I suppose. I was in therapy, Dimarc refused to go, and somehow, the wedding seemed to happen around me. I just went with it.

Our outdoor ceremony was almost rained out – delayed by ½ hour. There was no ceremony music at all – that ball had been dropped altogether. If it wasn’t for a friend with a guitar and galpal’s singing, we’d have walked up the aisle in silence. The flowers were meaningless, mass-produced clusters of white and green stuff. My bridal bouquet was supposed to be red roses, but the cheap-ass florist had assembled it with small, half-open buds. It looked ridiculous. I almost wept, and then almost fainted with disappointment, but it was my wedding day before I ever saw it, and the show had to go on.

Some friends of Dimarc’s had descended upon the reception hall with the mothers to decorate it, and their decorating taste was decidedly country, and minimalist, as I’m sure nobody wanted to spend any more money on decorations. The place looked like a goddamn barn dance hall – marigolds and carnations strewn about, stuck into bits of tulle tacked to the walls. Pots of unidentifiable mustard-yellow flowers tossed into corners. People and their love of nature. How shocked they all would have been to hear that I AM SO NOT INTO THAT GINGHAM AND DAISY CRAP. What is it with city people? I grew up surrounded by woods and trees and cornfields, and I sprinted the first opportunity I got to Manhattan! This is something no one has ever gotten about me, and I am so bloody tired of explaining it. I hate camping. I hate pollen, I hate bugs, I don’t care if Tiffany’s is showing jewel encrusted dragonflies, I hate bugs! I like my flowers cut and in a vase! The only outdoors I ever need in my life is the beach!

Uh, sorry… tantrum over… where was I? Oh yeah. My wedding.

The dinner food was half-defrosted. The cake looked like something from behind the counter at Jewel-Osco. I had been talked out of the cake I wanted – it would have cost too much for the rolled fondant. My parents had provided our family’s favorite champagne, but the caterers poured it into glasses a full hour before the toast, so by the time anyone tasted it, it was warm and flat. My mother had gone to great lengths to provide mints from my hometown candy store to serve with the cake, and the damn things sat out in the heat until they turned soggy and the colors ran. I doubt anyone ate them.

I was grateful for our DJ, who had sat privately with me earlier in the day to confirm what I wanted – no chicken dancing or hokey-pokeying or fucking macarena or any of that stupid shit. “My kind of bride,” he said. He played the perfect music all night long, exactly to my specifications, and I was so busy dancing and laughing at my nieces that I managed to focus away from all the disappointment.

This was my wedding. That was it. My one chance to be a bride. To this day, I can’t talk about the clothes everyone wore. That last wound hasn’t healed.

I felt guilty for being so resentful of everything everyone tried to do for me. Oh – excuse me - tried to do for US. Nobody ever stepped forward and said "Wait a minute - this is a wedding! It's the BRIDE'S Day!" No, quite the opposite. I was reminded constantly - mostly by my groom - that I wasn’t the only one getting married, that the groom should have what he wants too. The problem there was that the groom seemed to actively hate everything I wanted. It wasn’t that he wanted anything specific, he just knew what he didn’t want, so I’d better let go of whatever thing I had my heart set on and let him pick something else. That was another thing I spent a lot of time crying on my therapist’s couch about. It was Dimarc that wanted the buttercream frosting on the cake, because he wanted it to taste good, but it was the cheap bakery that didn’t know how to make the cake look nice. I had a lot of anger towards Dimarc for blocking my choices. I partly blamed him for ruining my wedding. Maybe, if we hadn't fought so nastily over the invitations and other such things, I might have had the guts to be honest with the mothers. Maybe it wasn’t fair, but I blamed Dimarc for getting in my way.

Oh – the final boot up the ass? Our cheap photographer disappeared after the wedding for over a year. We didn’t get our albums for over a year. And they look like they were taken by a teenager in a church basement.

But you see, I shouldn't have minded any of that. The important part is that I was married to the man I loved. That should be the only thing that matters. Wanting all that frosting was just selfish of me, and greedy.

I was a selfish, greedy, angry, bitch of a person, and I carried that around for years. I never forgave myself for being so disappointed, for feeling so robbed, so cheated, for being such an ungrateful, spoiled child. Because I was ungrateful. I did feel cheated. I was furious.

And then, to cap it all off, Dimarc told me that he hadn’t been happy with the wedding either. I think he liked the taste of the cake frosting – if he hadn’t I might have stabbed him – but he admitted to me that for the most part, nothing was really what he wanted either. All that fighting, all that screaming and blocking for nothing. We used to fantasize about throwing ourselves another wedding for our tenth anniversary, and paying for it ourselves, so we could “do it right this time.”

Is it possible that, somewhere in the back of my mind, I always thought I’d get a do-over? My mind whirls with that thought. Was this in any way a factor in my decision to leave my marriage? Maybe it was. I never, ever believed that Dimarc was my one and only chance at marital bliss, but I did believe he was my best chance. I really didn’t think I’d meet anyone I liked more than him, who made my knees as weak as he did, who’d like me back enough to marry me. That had been my history, after all. So the wedding… well, that was the best we could expect. Like us.

My entire philosophy of relationships changed as a result of this – hell, of life itself. When I made the huge decision to end my marriage, I made a lot of decisions to end a lot of other things too. I started to actively pursue happiness, rather than let stuff fall into my lap by chance and convince myself that it was what I wanted. I cartwheeled out of the only stable job I’ve ever had, knowing it wasn’t worth the misery. And surprise, surprise – I’m ok! I survived! I threw myself into a relationship with a New York Apartment, knowing I might get my heart broken, and of course I did, but hey – I paid off a lot of debt there! And now…

Now I have all sorts of things I never believed I could get. I’m going to be a licensed massage therapist, and no one can take that away from me. I have the saw poised over the slave-chain that’s still around my ankle and connected to Corporate America, just waiting for the day my test results come in. Most amazingly, I have a strong, healthy, brilliant, generous, spiritual, loving man in my life, who loves me more than I ever thought possible, who wants to care for me and my children, who wants to give me a life I couldn’t bring myself to admit I wanted, because I never thought it was possible for me.

A man who wants this wedding as much as I do, who has the cash already saved to pay for the whole thing. All he was waiting for was my go-ahead.

We’re doing it. Very small, very urban, very indulgent, very private. Everyone can check their liberal guilt at the door. G and I have lived good lives, and we’ve earned this, and I’m not apologizing to anyone this time. And anyone who thinks we’re being selfish or spoiled or overly indulgent or ostentatious or just plain stupid can fuck off, because this is OUR WEDDING. Nothing is slipping through any damn cracks this time. We’re planning it and paying for everything ourselves.

And when it’s all over, the world won’t come to an end. We won’t be in credit card debt, and we’ll still have our souls. We’ll still be normal, middle-class working stiffs, contributing to causes and buying clothes off the sale rack. After a year we’ll get a 2-bedroom and have a kid. And when we’re old and grey, we’ll look at our wedding pictures and say, damn, that was one fine-assed day, wasn’t it honey?

1 comment:

Kayo Kid said...

You go, girl!