Authors: Theresa Alan
“Sounds great!” I swallow hard as my heart sinks into the pit of my stomach.
he next day, I try to continue doing research for my meeting with the execs from Woodruff Pharmaceuticals, but I just can’t focus. Instead, I sit in my study at my big desk and spend my afternoon trying to figure out if I want a wedding. On the one hand, I love weddings. Especially in an era when families are spread out across the country (if not the globe), weddings are a great excuse to get everybody together. On the other hand, I’m a chronic worrier, and I’ve seen women who are much stronger than me crack under the pressure of planning a wedding. I’m not sure I want to put myself through that. Also, when I was in college I worked at a country club as a waitress and the experience gave me insight into the unsavory dark side of matrimony. The club hosted many a wedding reception and almost without exception, every bride went through the day in a kind of stressed-out trance, constantly snapping at her friends and family. And it’s not just strangers who I’ve known to have a less than paradisiacal wedding day. After Mom married Frank, she and her two sisters didn’t talk for two years. Her sisters had been Mom’s bridesmaids, and Mom yelled at them over something stupid—because they didn’t walk down the aisle just so or something—and boy-oh-boy did they get pissed at her. She was stressed out, and what happened was understandable, but it taught me that a wedding might be the most expensive party you ever throw in your life, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have any fun at it.
I needed a mother’s advice, so I run downstairs, grab the cordless phone off the wall in the kitchen, and give Mom a call.
“Eva, darling, how are you?”
“I’m good,” I say, pacing around my kitchen. I have an ultramodern kitchen, with a refrigerator with stainless steel doors, a stainless steel cooktop, and a matching washing machine. I have shiny black Corian countertops and white stone tile floors that match the white windowframes and white cabinets. I love this kitchen. It almost makes me wish I could cook so I had an excuse to spend more time in it—almost.
“How are things with Will?”
“Really good. In fact, I think Will and I might get married some day, and I wondered—”
“That’s so exciting! When do you think you’ll set a date?”
“I don’t know. It’s not official or anything.”
“I’m so happy for you. I have to say I’m still amazed at how quickly everything has been moving with him. Wasn’t it after the second date that you started looking at bridesmaid dresses online? That just floored me. After all those years of you thinking you didn’t want to get married.”
“Well, I still have a lot of fears about it, but it turns out that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to get married, it was that I didn’t want to get married to any of the guys I dated before Will. But Mom, I need to get your advice. I’m thinking I don’t want to have a wedding. What do you think?”
“You know how stressed out I get about stuff. I think a wedding might just put me over the edge.”
“Honey, your father and I eloped and it just never felt right. It felt like something shameful that we sneaked off to do. You can have just a very small wedding with your family in Bermuda or something, but if you don’t have some kind of ceremony, I really think you’ll regret it.”
“I don’t know, Mom. I don’t want you guys to have to spend a lot of money on a plane ticket to the tropics. Maybe we’ll just elope and have a really casual party. A barbeque or something.”
“Why don’t you let me plan the wedding?”
“What? Mom, don’t be ridiculous. You don’t have time to plan a wedding that’ll take place a thousand miles away from where you live.”
“Sure I do. It’ll be fun.”
“Did you suddenly stop working fourteen-hour days?”
“Well, no…but it would be fun. Come on, let me plan it. I’ll take care of everything.”
Ha-ha, ha-ha. That’s a good one. Mom and I have completely different taste in everything. I like ethnic food; she lives off meat and potatoes. I like silver jewelry; she likes gold. I’m a voracious reader; she doesn’t have the attention span to read a greeting card. And while her wedding to Frank six years ago was a beautiful one, let me tell you a little story about it that I think illustrates why I don’t want to hire her as my wedding planner. After Sienna followed me to Colorado, my mother moved out here from Chicago as well, taking her boyfriend, Frank, with her. They had only been in Colorado a few months when they got hitched, and they wanted a symbolic gesture that brought together their Chicago roots with their new life in the west. So Mom came up with this idea to force her wedding party to dance the first dance to the Blues Brothers’ “Rawhide” while galloping on stick ponies. (The Blues Brothers are from Chicago, and “Rawhide” has a western theme, get it?) Mind you, we bridesmaids were wearing floor-length gowns and high heels and were
cavorting on stick ponies in front of all of our friends and family.
Also, you never really realize just how long the song “Rawhide” is until
you have to get up in front of all your friends and family while astride a stick pony while you’re wearing a ball gown.
It’s four and a half minutes long. It was the longest four and a half minutes of my life, and I was plenty liquored up at the time, so that’s saying something. But she was the bride, so we had to do what she said. Brides have all the power. You can just imagine their evil bwah-ha-ha laughs as they contrive ways to humiliate the people they love.
So did I want my mother planning my wedding? Not so much. Somehow I imagined that if she planned it, Will and I would end up in get-ups involving sombreros and tutus.
“Okay, Will and I will have a small wedding. I’ll plan it, though. And it’s going to be very nontraditional.”
“That’s fine.” I can hear the smirk in her voice. She’s won. But not really, because like I said, I do love weddings and there is a part of me that wants to proclaim from the rooftops that I’ve found this wonderful man and for whatever reason he seems to want to spend his life with me. I want to vow to be with him forever and ever in front of all the people I care about.
“So…” I say. “How are things with you?”
“I’m ready to kill my husband, that’s how things are with me.”
“What did Frank do this time?”
My mom married a younger man. Frank is a fun guy, and after the divorce, Mom was ready for some fun. She felt like she’d gotten married too young so she never got to do the fun things young people do. With Frank, she went water-skiing on his boat, riding on the back of his motorcycle, dancing at clubs late into the night. It’s his very sense of boyish playfulness that attracted her to him in the first place that drives her absolutely insane now. She’s always complaining about him not doing his share of the housework, sleeping in on the weekends, and goofing off when he should be doing whatever chore Mom feels he should be doing.
“I’m going to have to pay hundreds of dollars to have a handyman come in and do some housework because my husband is too lazy to do it.” Mom launches into a litany of chores Frank hasn’t done: He still hasn’t cleaned up the painting supplies from the study. How many times does she have to ask him? And his second car has been taking up half the driveway for weeks with parts strewn everywhere. They look like they belong in a doublewide! What must the neighbors think?!
“I’m sorry, Mom. I know it’s tough. How are things with the job going? Weren’t you going to meet with that new client? How did that go?” I sit down at my large kitchen table. I spent a bundle to get comfortable kitchen chairs with cushy seats, but I almost never use my table. I either eat at my desk in the study or in front of the TV. I think I had an image of myself being some goddess of entertaining, when in fact I’m more of a solitary TV-dinner sort of girl.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you?” She laughs.
“So I met with these two stodgy men, really high muckymucks. I met in the one man’s office, and he has those big, big leather chairs for six-foot-tall men that little me just drowns in. I felt like that little girl character Lily Tomlin played. So I went to show them my portfolio,” she giggles again. “And they have that kind of plastic mat that goes over the carpet so you can easily wheel around in your chair. Somehow the wheel of my chair got caught under the mat, and I went crashing down with the chair coming right over my head, trapping me. It was a huge chair. I couldn’t get it off me. So I say…I say…” she’s laughing so hard she’s having trouble getting the words out. “Excuse me. Can you help me get this chair off my head?”
This strikes me as the most wildly hilarious thing I’ve heard in months. The image of my petite mother trying to make a good impression on clients, only to go flying upside down, landing with a chair on her head, and then saying in a voice muted by acres of leather chair, “Excuse me. Can you help me get this chair off my head?” It’s classic.
Mom and I laugh and laugh. I love that my mother can laugh at herself. She’s unlike my father in that way. Dad always pretends he knows everything and has never made a mistake in his life. Mom is fully willing to admit she’s a flawed human being, and it’s her genuineness and down-to-earth-y-ness that I love so much about her.
We say our good-byes and instead of getting to work I go back to my study and jot down my guest list. I want to start figuring out how much a wedding is going to cost. I’ve got money in the bank, but as an independent contractor, I have no economic security whatsoever. When Will and I move in together, that will save me a lot of money on mortgage payments, but until then, I just can’t help being stressed out that my savings account is too anemic to fund a wedding. And I don’t want Mom and Dad to help out because then they’ll want to get involved in planning it, and I’m telling you, that would be disastrous. It doesn’t take me long to write out the list. My bridesmaids are obvious: Sienna will be the maid of honor and Rachel and my girlfriend Gabrielle will be the bridesmaids. My list has fifty people on it. I’m guessing that’s about what Will would put on his, but it’s really inconvenient that I can’t ask him to write his list out so I could know for sure. It’s really going to hinder my ability to plan this thing if the groom doesn’t know that we’re going to have a wedding. I look at the clock. It’s nearly six o’clock. I’ve managed to squander my entire day with dreams of wedding bliss rather than doing my job. That’s one of the really hard things about owning your own business. When you slack off, you’re the only one who pays for it. It’s not like you’re sticking it to the man, you’re just sticking it to yourself. Alas.
Will and I see each other just about every night, unless we have a girls only or boys only kind of event with friends. He usually gets home from work around six, so I drive to his house in downtown Denver and wait for him there; he gave me keys to his place after we’d just been dating about a couple of weeks. With any other guy, I would have thought it was too fast, but everything just felt so right with Will.
Will’s condo is a small, nicely decorated place. He’s got the same taste in furniture and decorations that I do. Light wood floors, classy paintings, and a modern pale green couch. His hallway is lined with pictures of him and his friends. I hate, hate, hate the pictures where I can see his gold wedding ring. I hate having photographic evidence that he was married to somebody else. If we get married, he’ll have to get a platinum ring so we’ll have color-coded evidence to be able to figure out who he was married to at the time the picture was taken. Of course, the fact that he’s lost a good portion of the hair on his head would also be a clue, but the wedding ring color will be the ultimate test.
As I stand in the hallway, looking at him wearing a wedding ring representing a marriage to another woman, my mood just sinks. Suddenly I don’t know if I can marry a man who was married to someone else, even if I do have a guest list all written out back home. I want a guy without a past, without entanglements. Everything seems too hard and too messy and I want to break up with him and run away from the pain I feel when I think about him and X together.
Will opens the door, and I feel a flush of guilt for speculating on the possible demise of our relationship. I wish I could just believe in happily-ever-after without having bursts of doubt and insecurity.
We kiss and hug. I love the first after-work kiss and hug of the day. All the fears I battle all day rush out for that moment and I feel happy and safe and secure.
“I’m starving,” I report.
“Good. I was thinking I’d take you to this little hole-in-the-wall Greek restaurant.”
“Okay. Sounds great.”
“I can’t believe I haven’t taken you to it before. You’re going to love it.”
He’s right about the restaurant. It’s great. We have saganaki and Greek salad to start and then share a nice meal. We discuss how we spent our day, except I have to lie about how I spent mine since I can’t exactly tell him I’ve been plotting our wedding plans all day. Then, just as we’re about done with our meal, he says, “So, I wanted to ask you something.”
Immediately, visions of an engagement ring and Will on his knee and declarations of “Oopa!” filling the restaurant flood my imagination. Will I react in a suitably teary-eyed, delirious-with-happiness way? These are the things I worry about.
“We spend nearly every night together, and I love waking up to you more than anything. I was thinking maybe we could move in together.”
I smile. It’s not a wedding proposal, but it’s not bad. “I would love that. I would love that a lot. Which one of us should sell our place do you think?”
“Well, your place is bigger, so I think it would make sense for me to sell mine and move in with you. What do you think?”
“I think that would be great. When do you think you’d want to move in?”
“Well, as soon as you want me to, I guess. And then I’ll work on selling my place.”
“You can start moving in tonight!”
He chuckles. “Well, I do have to pack.”
“Details, details.” I smile moonily at him. We stare at each other in silence for a moment as the conversation ebbs. Then I think of something else we can talk about—my phone conversation with Mom. I tell him the story about the chair and he laughs.