Trey and I got engaged last May, hope to marry this coming May. In August, a close friend of his, who has been a very successful event planner in New York, offered to handle all the logistics of our wedding, for a generously low percentage of the total cost, because she was starting her own event business and because she considered Trey a close friend. I was guarded about this, given that I didn’t know her at all, she was a close friend of Trey’s and I agreed to meet with her, trusting in the commutative property of friendship. We met at the bar while he was working, and hit it off right away. She’s very personable and charming, and although at first my attitude was shy, I warmed to her immediately. I felt that I had made a new friend, that we were on the same page, and that everything would turn out perfectly. She swore that she would take care of everything, assured me she would watch a particular film we referenced, she laughed at my asides about Gerbera daisies. And the first month or so was awesome – phone calls every other day about this potential space in Red Hook, about logistics, etc. I loved how silly it was that I “had a wedding planner,” someone I had heretofore had assumed was something only the very rich or very creatively deficient would engage. I thought it was deliciously ironic – like I had secured the anti-wedding planner wedding planner.
But as time went on, various things started to sour. I lost my job and became panicky about money, and felt guilty about planning when I was worried about money. She kind of lost interest in calling as much. Come September, we still hadn’t found a place, and I was getting worried – about money, about logistics, should I just find the space on our own, would that interfere with what she was doing, etc. I would express reservations about her efficacy, or tell Trey I didn’t think she was into this after all, and he would feel criticized. Frankly, I think her commitment started to wane when she realized that if paying 6K just for a space was out of our price range, there was a lot less in it for her. Finally, he and I had found a space on our own, she emailed me and asked if it would be okay if she just helped with the rest of the planning and she would call me when she was back in town.
The call never came, and I gave into anger and relief – relief that this person I by now so wholly distrusted and found incredibly upsetting when her name was even mentioned to me was out of the picture, and angry that I had trusted her anyway and felt just stupid. She called me yesterday, hey, she can’t help us out after all, and I had probably figured that out already, ha ha! and then proceded when I voiced my disappointment (quite civilly, I might add) to become very patronizing, saying that we didn’t need her help after all, that we would be fine, and asked me how planning was going. I lost it at this point, at her brazen disregard for my feelings, and quietly hung up the phone. That should have been it.
But I lost it some more. I composed scathing emails and then dutifully hit “Save As Draft” after each one. I went into the ladies room and cried. I made light of it to my coworkers at lunch. I berated myself for not being able to think about anything else. I went home and talked about it with Trey, and by this time I was livid. It wasn’t that she had become overextended – it was that I felt we had been jerked around, that her whole MO was enjoying the schmooze and the pitch and that there had been no true desire to help us. That she had been patronizing and manipulative. My reaction was pretty extreme. I realized that I basically, irrational as it may be, that I wanted Trey to go beat her up, to beat her up in front of me. I realized also that this reaction was about something a lot deeper, which didn’t assuage my upset or prevent me from sending off a nasty email, and then falling on the bed weeping with such force that my nose bled. Then I passed out.
I am trying very hard to explain this correctly.
For me, to be married is not something I planned all my life. It is actually, a shocking surprise. At 22 I had decided conclusively that I should get my tubes tied, because there were enough children in the world, and that marriage was bullshit. For many people, this would be a legitimate and consistent expression of their political beliefs. For me, it was an unconscious expression of despair about the possibility of connection with anyone. It was a way of codifying my loneliness into a philosophical stance. Trust no one, say nothing, own nothing, like my own little pre-anchored Delos. Light being both wave and particle, I intended to stay diffuse, lest the great “They” obtain my position and finger me for a fool : putting the “light” in Golightly, yet not waving, but drowning, one tiny photon interfering endlessly, privately, with herself.
So, for me, marrying Trey isn’t about about falling into fear, or routine. Nobody has ever pressured me to marry or have a family. He is the person with whom I am compelled to say “yes” to the possibility that life can be beautiful, that you can have faith in another person, that you freely choose to ground yourself in order to be more than you are. It is saying “yes to living in the world, to committing the reality and interconnection of the world, saying yes to having a family, saying yes to giving my body to the child I hope to bear, who will grow out of my flesh and whose only mother I will always be. It is choosing to be the tiny, brave and vulnerable particle flying a silly flag outside of your little subatomic house. It is not just saying “I will
,” but “I will be
. I will be with you
, will be part of everything, part of the world, of the fragile world with you
I remember this one line from some Louise Gluck poem -- an image of “brides leaping from a great height.” I remember at the time knowing in my literally sophomoric way that image was a doubly resonant evocation of some kind of overwhelming, joyful, faith.
I now know that in every cell of my being. I am funny, and kind, and well regarded by my friends, and smart, and in love, and happy and in a band that is about to be a big deal. Yet for some reason being a bride to be is alternately making me elated and terrified. I’m not terrified of being with only Trey for the rest of my life. I’m not scared of only having sex with Trey for the rest of my life – I’m totally overjoyed about that. I’m not terrified of children. I’m not terrified of peak oil the way I should be or that the country is going to hell – well I am.
I am terrified that by having the temerity to wear a pretty white dress the “great They” will laugh at me, that it will have its final revenge after all the work I have done to stand up to it. That I will be like Carrie in her white dress at the prom she’d never thought she’d get to see, shining and finally relaxing into embracing the world as okay right as the bucket of blood above starts to tilt. In trusting this girl to help me, this stranger, I somehow brought this humiliation upon myself. For whatever reason, that is how this phone call made me feel. It made me feel set up – cosmically, cruelly set up. It was this hall of mirrors of every other big betrayal: my first big love that broke my heart, my mom stealing money from me and wanting me to fail, the asshole who cheated, the school friends who betray, even the fucking election, the little things that underscore that ol’ feeling that you should just stick that knife in your heart and do yourself in first because IT’S JUST LESS EMBARRASSING THAT WAY.
I understand now why women go crazy about their weddings. Hear me out. I used to look down on women who made a big deal about their wedding and laugh at the bridezillas on theknot.com. I also thought it was sad that so many people had so little sense of glamour and pageantry in their lives that their wedding had to be like the Oscars, or hearing about young couples starting their lives in upwards of $25,000 in debt. “Of course,” I used to think. “It’s the one day in someone’s life when they think they can be a star.” I’m a performer, so I have gotten lots of attention, and so I felt like I wouldn’t need that when I got married. And I don’t – not like that…
But I realized I was being unfair to those women, because it’s not about being a star, per se. It’s – it’s that your wedding day is promised to be the day that you are somehow immune from shame
. It’s not that it’s “all about you:” but that your vulnerability and commitment – your leap from a great height – is somehow sanctioned, just this once. That everyone will forgive you and love you even as you may be making a lifelong mistake, but *you* are not the mistake you might make. People are star obsessed not because stars are rich – it is because they seem to be unconditionally loved, or money helps you have enough to ward off shame
. No wonder in our culture of fear women go crazy. It takes more and more ammunition to ward off the possibility of being publicly shamed. Is my dress good enough? Am I pretty enough? Are my triceps firm enough? Why aren’t the bridesmaids helping me? Are the Jordan almonds in the right bag? All these details, that if made perfect, will ward off some kind of existential shame. God, I’m even finding myself feeling sympathy for the uber-Gorgon herself, Star Jones.
I have done scenes in the theater where I had to do full frontal nudity and was fine. I used to be terrified of singing and now front a band. I’m the star of a film on the international festival circuit. And I remember when my stepsister got married and we were helping her get ready and she had her gown on and she looked at us, terrified. Her voice was breaking as the first words out of her mouth were:
“Do I look fat?”
It was "the happiest day of her life," and I could tell she was panicking she was going to get laughed at, somehow, somewhere.
And you know what?
I am, too. That you will laugh at me, in my white dress. That its very whiteness, in fact, may be the magnet compelling the inevitable overhead bucket to list. That you, whoever you are, will laugh.
It is taking a lot more courage than I anticipated to be a happy, grown-up lady.
But I can be, and I will. "I will."
And I hope that you will, too.