I was mad

Maybe this was a few days before

What I saw: it was thirty years ago the other night (if you know what I mean by that), and I had arrived at the wedding rehearsal at the church. I’m not sure who told me, though I assume it was my fiancé, but neither his father nor one of his sisters were there for the rehearsal, and they weren’t going to be coming to the wedding. 

What I wore: I don’t remember. I know what I wore to our engagement party (a purple silk abstract floral dress with puffy sleeves and a dropped waist). I know what I wore to the wedding shower (a bright royal blue silk shift with pleats at the shoulders and cap sleeves). I know what I put on after I changed out of my wedding dress (a two-piece, abstract-striped tan, gray and dusky blue dress with long sleeves and a long, flowy skirt). Clothes were very important to me in those days, right up there with mathematics and smoking.

What I did beforehand: there was some excitement around which of our college friends showed up, and where they should stay, and I think other people handled it. I probably sat in the sun, snuck off for a drive and a smoke, and spent a long time drying my hair. Maybe I got my nails done; it was the first time I had gotten my nails done by someone else. I went with my mom. I thought it was weird. I didn’t get my nails done again until New Year’s Eve, ten years later.

Who went with me: my mother and father and brothers were there at the rehearsal, along with my two maids of honor and my fiancé’s mother and the one of his sisters who came, and his brother, who was his best man. 
Why we got married: we were 23. I was in graduate school. I think we thought we would have been perfectly happy to keep living together, but once my boyfriend’s mother suggested it, getting married became this new thing we talked about all the time. I remember going out to dinner and our decision to get engaged, and spending the rest of the evening planning our engagement, which was to occur formally on another night when we would go out to dinner. We had to budget for this.
Things that were sad: when I told my parents that we were getting married, they were probably on the verge of telling me they were getting divorced. They did not say anything about getting divorced until we returned from our honeymoon. They were married 26 years. 

Things that were funny: I knew, when I found out I was missing a bridesmaid, that this was going to be the Thing That Went Wrong at my wedding, because there was always a Thing That Went Wrong at every wedding.  I thought that worse things could go wrong at a wedding. So I accepted it. But I stayed mad.
Things that were not funny: I was pretty angry at my fiancé’s family for not telling us sooner, or not trying harder to be there, and took it as a personal slight for many years. I do not know when I stopped being angry about it. Sometime between 1986 and now, definitely.

What it is: someone not showing up at your wedding is always their loss, and not yours.

Who should see it: If you are invited to a wedding, you should go. If you can’t go, express your regrets in a note. If you know you’re supposed to go,  but can’t, say so. 
What I saw on the way home: at our wedding ceremony, the next day, I got dressed at the church because I guess it’s easier to transport a big, fancy dress like that in a car and have it arrive looking perfect than it is to transport a woman wearing it. My grandmother made my dress for me, so it was new. (She also made the bridesmaid’s dresses, including the one for the bridesmaid who didn’t show up). She lent me an antique beaded purse for the day (old and borrowed), and gave me a blue-trimmed handkerchief to carry inside. One of the Church Ladies who helped with weddings did not approve of my choice of dusky mauve lipstick, and attacked me with frosty pink. 

I attended a wedding

What I saw:  my cousin’s wedding at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City, Missouri. 

What I wore: black Fluevog stranger-friendly heels, new blue abstract-patterned Brooks Brothers dress that I may, on reflection, have purchased in a size too large, pantyhose  that makes my pale legs look so pale they glow in the dark, gold jewelry given to me by the Bacon Provider and my mother, eye-makeup, and, briefly, lipstick.

What I did beforehand: drove to Jeff City in a rented Cadillac, with my brothers first complaining that it smelled like cigarettes (it did), then navigating with only occasional input from technology, and everywhere urging me to back into parking spaces or to go faster.

Who went with me: my brothers and a hundred others.

How I got invited: I received a “Save the Date” card last summer, and an invitation in the mail this winter. In the End Times, will wedding invitations be the last items sent via U.S. Mail? 

Why I went: I think my mother would have wanted us to go.

Where I sat: in the third row of pews, on the bride’s side.

Things that were sad: my mother would have been there, in a flowy floral dress or maybe a navy skirt and a crisp white blouse with interesting buttons and a long jacket with just enough unusual silver jewelry (but never too much) showing off the gleam of her now snowy-white hair. She died in 2004.

Things that were funny: a six-year old relative, whose mom was the bride, did his part in the procession, holding a baby by the hand and leading her down the aisle in her peach tulle skirt only to fall deeply asleep himself in the pew ahead of us, and there he remained, silent and still, until roused to leave during the recessional organ music, Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

Things that were not funny: one of the readings during the wedding mass was from the Letter to the Ephesians, and I laughed audibly when the brides aunties, recruited to go to the podium, read the words, “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.”  I am one of those radical feminists that thinks women are actually people. What can I say?

What it is: I mean. What even is a wedding? Now we have gay marriage in America, so everyone can make an expensive, bad life choice. 

Who should see it: go to your cousins’ weddings, people. Read books about feminism on the plane on the way there, and essays about the failure of the American Peace Movement on the way home. 

What I saw on the way home: the air above America was a great, green-gray spill, the color of industrial waste, flecked with the white foam of real clouds.

I saw "Familiar"

What I saw: “Familiar,” at Playwrights Horizons, Main Stage at 416 W 42nd St. in NYC


What I wore: quilted black Barbour parka (for the second time this winter), favorite black Fluevog “Guides,” Wolford fishnet knee-highs that are totally worth the price, the way-too-long black jeans, Lilith silk blouse that is cream with tiny faces on it, and no makeup at all because I ran out of time

What I did beforehand: ate a lobster roll at one of the food vendors at City Kitchen. I had rootbeer

Who went with me: a new friend from the new barn

How I got tickets: online, full price (and my friend reimbursed me, so now I have a coat-pocket full of cash, woo hoo)

Why I saw this show: to the extent that a living playwright can, Danai Gurira has captured people’s attention;  I got this text from a friend who saw an interview with her and she was all, “You should see her plays,” and I’m like, yeah, ok. Also, I was looking for something family-dram-comedy but not too dysfunctional-family-ish to see with a new friend that might not appreciate, say, blood explosions or plays about rape victims.

Where I sat: Row E, seat 14, between my friend and a pair of ladies of a certain age who howled and laughed at all the same things as me

What it is: a funny drama, set in a midwestern American home, by Danai Gurira, performed in two acts, with one 15 minute intermission. The multi-racial cast of eight was the first cast that seemed to me to have the perfect actor in each role. 

Things that were sad: remembering my own wedding dramas insofar as they resembled the ones portrayed

Things that were funny: the play has a lot of laughs built in

Things that were not funny: I was promised, by a guy seated behind me at “American Psycho,” that “Eclipsed” was the better and more important of Danai Gurira’s plays in production right now. I disagree. He did, however, tell me I had excellent taste in plays when I told him “Hungry” was the best play I’d seen this spring.

Who should see it: fans of Danai Gurira, people from Minnesota, artists who feel their families don’t understand them, anyone with a sister who has unexpectedly embraced Christianity, people from Zimbabwe, people who have relatives in other countries

What I saw on the way home: garbage

The Cat in the Ceiling

The summer that I was getting married, I spent a few weeks at my parents’ house in St. Louis, having my dress fittings, tasting cakes and lying in the sun.  I brought my two cats with me, and they stayed with my parents while we were on our honeymoon.

The house I grew up in was built in 1929. It is brick, with a slate roof, plaster walls, and oak floors. The bathrooms had all the original tile and enameled cast-iron fixtures. The basement had its original asbestos covered heat pipes serving the radiators. Summer in St. Louis means air-conditioning, all day, every day, and our old house had yet to get central air. Growing up, we slept with the windows wide and the attic fan on, wiping down our arms and legs with a wet washcloth to cool off enough to go to sleep. Later, we got window-unit ACs, and I cranked mine to the coldest setting I could get, even if it meant having to sleep in a sweatshirt. Once you adjusted to the noise of it, the AC created a zone of privacy; you kept your door closed and the shades drawn.
I had both of my cats with me, in my room, so they did not disturb Sugar, the cat of the house. It seemed they could not get into any trouble this way. One night, the black and white tuxedo cat found her way into the plumbing access panel in the back of my closet. This panel was perhaps intended to be fastened to the wall, but had been simply propped there for all the years that it was my room. Once inside the wall, the cat ventured further in, ending up about ten or twelve feet away in the floor of my room. In the morning I could hear her calling.  You could also hear her calling from inside the living room ceiling.
I do not actually remember being hysterical about the cat being trapped in the wall. My brother says I was, and I believe him.  My point of conflict centered around the fact that my mother would not commit to ripping up the floorboards.  I threatened to call off the wedding. While I do not recall saying this, I trust my brother’s memory, and agree that it sounds like something I would have said when I was 23.
Mom and her handyman were sure the cat would find its way out. I was sure it would die there, create a stink, and the floor would need to be ripped up anyway. After about 30 hours, the cat appeared, close to dawn, unrecognizably black from head to toe. I gave her a bath, restoring her to white and black, whereupon she was attacked by the other cat; he no longer recognized her smell. My solution was to also bathe the attacking cat, to level the score anyway.