Sharkey gets me a glass of red wine because after three martinis I slur the absolute truth – and no one needs that until after the food’s served. During the cocktail hour, while we wait for the bridal limo to circumvent the accident on Route 1 by scaring the same sheep Sharkey narrowly avoided turning into fender-kebabs, we nibble bits of salmon, crostini, pineapple and mozzarella. The room has too few chairs. I have one eye on the doorway and one on the guests, who continue to arrive in waves. Catering at the Pines Manor does a mediocre job of keeping the appetizer trays filled. I’m nervous about my role here, but I needn’t be.
Traditionally, Mothers of Brides plan weddings and execute anyone who crosses them. When Lacy Peterson went missing, 19,000 other people were unaccounted for in California alone. I bet at least half of them refused to serve proper canapes or wear seafoam green dyeables. With help from my sisters and the professional planner, Miss Sasha planned her own wedding; technically my responsibilities end at chewing with my mouth closed. As I look around the room, I see my family talking to everyone. Dad, who has been in a mood, turns into Maurice Chevalier in the presence of guests, as he always does. He charms young and old. friend and stranger alike. Mom, who’s fretting because the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm)’s girlfriend is wearing the same ensemble, talks to guests about the choir, the ceremony and her look-alike granddaughter. My uncle, whose oldest daughter – my first cousin – is engaged, practices on the family of the groom. It’s like the Ice Capades in a warm room with tuxedos.
As an aside: we must take note of the obvious. The groom’s mother wears a shiny, blue dress that is in no way described by the words “shiny,” “blue” or “dress.” It’s a giant, formless, potato sack of a garment made of get-well-soon balloon mylar on a nice-looking woman who ought to know better. Now, back to the reception.
The limo arrives. Doors to the reception room open and guests shuffle toward their tables. I put my formal cigar box purse down on the table and dash off to join the bridal party. The wedding planner lines us up. I’m first, and I’m escorted by Tippycanoe and Tyler Two, who passed their nap-needing social peak an hour ago. They don’t want to hold my hand. They want to fight like superheroes. The wedding planner says the boys and I walk across the dance floor and I leave them with their moms, Sisters #1 and #3.
Tata: Boys, hold still and listen to Auntie Kathleen.
Tyler Two: No! I’m a bad guy getter!
Tata: We have to be good for five more minutes, then we can get all the bad guys.
Tippycanoe: Act like a gentleman!
Tyler Two: Okay.
Tata: Huh! Wonder why I didn’t say that…
The doors open. It’s all I can do to get two five-year-olds across the dance floor, between two tables and back to their moms before the kicking starts again. I barely notice the DJ’s playing “Who Let the Dogs Out.” My Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm)’s introduced, the groom’s parents, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen. I find my own chair with Sharkey, Lala, Ben, Trout, Mamie, Uncle James, Creese and Ned. It’s a good thing I’m sitting down with my oldest, dearest friends (minus a few important people) because when the happy couple is introduced as “Mr. & Mrs. [insert groom’s name here]” my entire family has a collective aneurysm, and I feel like I’ve been punched in the face.
The next few minutes of who-dances-with-whom are kind of a blur. Toasts are made. I don’t actually care. The highly flammable maid of honor – another of my first cousins – gives a little speech about Miss Sasha. They were born eight months apart and have been fighting over accessories all their lives. My mother, who is demure and ladylike in public comes to my chair and speaks firmly.
Mom: At last, someone mentioned the bride at this wedding.
Mom: This has all been about the groom.
Fortunately, the bar is open and my friends have lined up glasses of red wine in front of me. Mamie’s downed a few and hates the music. A person we don’t know approaches the table.
Stranger: Hey, you’re supposed to open the disposable camera and take pictures –
He takes a picture of himself.
Mamie: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
Stranger: No, you take pictures of yourselves and –
Mamie: NO, REALLY. WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
Laughing nervously, he backs away with his hands where we can see them.
Mamie: Lala! Meet me under the table!
Nobody argues. We all climb under the table and take pictures of each other. Well, mostly.
Mamie: My knees hurt so only my upper body was under there. I hope the camera was behind me so Miss Sasha sees video of my giant ass sticking out.
We do this twice more before my family notices. We know we’ve been caught when we hear Sister #1 gasp, “They’re all under the table!” We get up in a hurry. Ned adjusts his clothes theatrically.
Ned: I FOUND IT!
We’re creative boredom fighters and we have a camera.
Mamie: Ben, do you think you can carry Tata on your shoulders?
Mamie: To the Pines Manor sign, away!
As a table, we bolt from the room and outside. The rain’s stopped, the sun’s out. I climb on Ben’s shoulders and pull myself up to the best spot on the sign. Mamie takes pictures. A passerby shouts, “Does that mean you’re on the menu?”
Lala: You can’t afford to pick up the check.
Uncle James climbs on Mamie’s back for more pictures. We return to a party in need of food in a hurry. The banquet line is moving too slowly for our taste. The music takes a turn for the better with some Bobby Darin, then Dean Martin. After we eat, we all decide we’ve had enough to drink so we go back to the bar.
Tata: The only way this Hell could be fresher is if the DJ plays “The Electric Slide.”
(Less than 10 seconds later, I swear.)
Uncle James: Coming right up!
Tata: If only I’d asked for your head on a platter full of Jell-O.
Mamie: I LOVE A LINE DANCE!
Mamie grabs Lala and makes for the dance floor, where every female member of the groom’s family demonstrates the idea that rhythm might be subjective. If I slap my forehead any harder I might hear my brain go splat against the back of my skull. Everyone twists to Chubby Checker. Miss Sasha plays a tremendous trick on us all by requesting “Rock Lobster.” Miss Sasha knows her parents, her aunties, and our friends. Though I have been reasonably well-behaved until now, now I am a New Wave girl, surrounded by the same people I danced with in high school. When Fred shouts, “DOWN! DOWN!” I do the backstroke lying on the floor, as Miss Sasha knew I would, and I am not alone. When the song ends, we are breathless and exuberant – until we realize the DJ’s started “Hava Nagila.” The groom’s family stares as my family – not Jewish except me – and her Dad’s family – all Jewish – dance the hora. The bride sits on a chair her male relatives hoist up on their shoulders. Everybody shouts! Mamie’s shouting out dance steps. When the song ends, we are thrilled! Plainly, it’s time for another drink. You know – to rehydrate.
Now that we’ve eaten, had a few drinks and danced ourselves lightheaded, we’re having a good time. The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and his brother – two of the funniest pranksters I’ve ever known – are tangoing cheek to cheek as I cross the dance floor. A person I shook hands with in the receiving line grabs me by the arm. There’s an ax-grinding look in her eye as she tosses her head in their direction.
Steffie: DID YOU KNOW?
I burst out laughing and point at her as I walk the last three feet to the dancing brothers, where I tell them what just happened, and they burst out laughing as we realize what the groom’s family thinks.
Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm): “Did you KNOW those brothers were QUEER FOR EACH OTHER?”
We gasp for breath and they go back to dancing together. This moment, more than any other, encapsulates the evening for me later on. As the music of the last song winds down, the DJ tells us the party’s over. A microphone ends up inexplicably in the hands of a member of the groom’s family, who drunkenly warbles the Stone Temple Pilots song “Plush.” If you’re not acquainted with this song, it’s the musings of a serial killer about the girl he’s left on a hillside.
Tata: Sharkey, drop me home, willya?
Friends, Sharkey does.