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2004-07-05 - 5:05 p.m.

"Are you guys ready for your bride and groom? Are you ready for your BRIDE and GROOM?!"

The music that usually accompanies the Knicks taking the floor at Madison Square Garden started thumping through the speakers.

"Ladies and gentlemen..."

The lights were dimmed outside of a pair of spots pointed at the doorway. Had there been a little dry ice, or maybe some lasers it could have easily been an entrance worthy of Hulk Hogan, or Stone Cold Steve Austin. Get a few signs to hand out amongst the constituency. "The Groom rocks!" "Long live the Bride!" "Matrimony mother-f***er!"

The pair in question came in dancing, or at least trying as best they could to dance, encumbered by a cummerbund and a train respectively.

I've never much liked the pomp and circumstance of weddings, despite having been to many more of them than anyone else I know my age.

I'm the odd man out in my family. My eldest nephew is ten years younger than me, and my youngest cousin is eight years older than me. About five years ago weddings were all the rage. One of the hundreds of cousins I have seemed to be getting married every other Sunday. So regular was the process, that while I've never been taught or participated in the Electric Slide, I could probably teach a class to geriatrics at nursing homes if my current gig falls through. (Come on now, dip, Mrs. Henderson. Dip! I don't care if you broke that hip. Work it!)

Between the cavalcade of traditions most couples try to slam into a five hour reception including, but not limited to: The dollar dance, the newlywed's first dance, the father of the bride dance, the dance of the sugarplums, the tossing of bouquet, garter, tax forms, cutting the cake, clinking the glasses...I think it's the clinking of the glasses that annoys me most. Is there nothing less romantic than having your relatives scream in the high-pitched clanging, "Kiss, damnit!"

Still, I have some level of understanding. The asking, the proposal, that's for the couple themselves. The wedding is an invitation for everyone else to jump on the bandwagon and enjoy the love. It's a day to revel in it. A wedding is to love, what rolling around naked in a pile of money is to sudden wealth. And I can understand the desire for both impulses, though I'd worry about getting a rather high priced bill wedged in an area from whence it could not return.

While I sat, watching the home edited photo slide show, set to the love ballads of Enrique Englasias, I noticed the woman working the open bar mouthing the words to each of the songs. She didn't seem the Enrique type so I could only guess that she'd learned the words from wedding after wedding after wedding. One man's "special day" is another's "Whadda ya mean I gotta work on Sunday, again? You're giving me overtime on this one, or I fucking quit."

Both of my sisters are married, so now, ever the Martha Stewart disciple, my mother's inner party planner is looking to me to tie the knot, so she can start picking out floral arrangements.

"So is it going to be long before you're walking down the aisle?"

"By the time I get married, Dick Clark will be dead."


"We'll be partying like it's 2099, because it will be."

"Oh, come on."

"Mom, I don't like big weddings. I'm figuring on getting a few friends together under the arch in Washington Square Park for, like, thirty minutes with a Justice of the Peace. Maybe someone will do a reading from Being and Nothingness, but mostly we'll just slam through it and duck into a bar for the rest of the evening."

"Come on..."

"And the wedding party will all be wearing those t-shirts with the tux ironed on."

"You know you're not the only one involved in the wedding plans."

"Girl I marry will want it the same way."

"We'll see. We'll see."

As I sat outside, escaping for a moment for a cigarette, I find all the kids in the bridal party playing tag in the garden. The girls clawing at their skirts trying to run after the boys who've already lost the jackets and vests.

After the marriage run kids came into style, and suddenly our family gatherings have an undertow of what seems like hundreds of little 'uns.

My eldest sister got married last year. When one of the kids in the bridal party made his entrance, he pumped hands in the air, asking for more applause. I played patty cake with one of the girls before we started the reception. The image of my other sister slow dancing with her husband while their one year old pushed a garbage can on wheels around behind them will hang in my mind for years to come. Then again, so will the image of my brother in law singing Meatloaf. And so will the image of her...the image of her smiling at me.

This wedding was in Jersey, so after I got a ride from a co-worker, I jumped a train in South Brooklyn, headed home. The platform was empty and quiet, as was the train. The car was mine and mine alone. I've only had this luxury once before in my time in New York. It was five in the morning, and I was outlandishly drunk. I listened to my music and full bore, and danced my way up and down the train, swinging around the poles.

I wasn't drunk tonight, and I didn't feel like dancing. I stared out the window until I fell asleep. That is, I slept until a subway worker kicked my feet off the seat in front of me.

"End of the line, kid."

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