After a month of shifting from place to place to place, I’ve finally arrived in Vermont, where I’ve quickly moved into the little trailer that sits at the edge of green rolling hayfields, visited local swimming holes three times in two days, and helped bring in the hay. The weather during the day has been unusually hot, but at some point each night in the trailer I wake up to turn the fan off, pull a shirt on over my head, throw a sweatshirt over my legs (I keep forgetting a blanket), and sigh my way back to sleep. It’s nice to know I’ll be in the same place for awhile.
Now that I’m finally sitting down to reflect, one thing that sticks out about the last few weeks – and indeed, the current epoch in my little life – is the number of weddings I attend. This is, after all, the new twenty: there are at least five weddings a year, sometimes more, dotting the calendar and often the country in splashes of clean white gaiety. Even in my tiny trailer I had to make room to hang a tuxedo! Some folks complain that weddings are getting too expensive, too boring, too ritualized – and I sympathize with those who can’t take time off work to turn weekends into longer vacations, those who watch obscure second cousins or estranged friends exchange preprogrammed vows in remote and undistinguished places with funny names like Schenectady or Livermore, or those who are required to buy expensive and sometimes ugly bridesmaid dresses – but I am one of the lucky ones: I make my own vacation schedule, I have chosen my friends wisely, and I am not required to wear bridesmaid dresses. And the weddings I go to are always, well, fun.
In fact, as I approach this new twenty, weddings are now the big, can’t-miss parties among many of my friends. And I’ve had a nice variety: several Quaker weddings, which are by nature always different, a few non-denominational weddings, a Persian wedding, a Jewish wedding (with another one coming up, you Bermans and Goldblatts), two same-sex weddings, a Brazilian Catholic wedding, innumerable outdoor weddings, a beach wedding, and a wedding where the reception deejay announced the entire entourage one by one to the accompaniment of loud jock rock. The parallels, on the other hand, are mostly good: all have good food, music and dancing, smiling and toasts, and I always see old friends and make new ones. So what’s not to love?
I guess just the vague paranoia that sneaks in during the long lull between the main course and the cake. It’s that feeling that all this fun and ceremony must be a cover for something more sinister, a way to distract us from the nagging reality that our friends have decided to negotiate every one of their personal, meaningful decisions with someone else – one, single someone else – for the rest of their lives. Will that really work? It sounds crazy. Sure, there’s security, and family, but what about that belligerent inner voice, the one that twists up its volume from time to time and urges us, all of us, on to something else, something unknown, something seriously compelling in its uncertainty? I wonder whether my friends have thought of that. Crap. Now I’m worried.
But there’s still this party going on. And newlyweds do make the best hosts I’ve ever seen: they know almost everyone, they are happy to meet everyone else, they are giddy and perhaps as beautiful as they will ever look. Are they worried? They don’t look worried. They drift separate ways and when they encounter each other again they smile, or kiss, or confer with their heads inclined at an angle of perfect familiarity and decide that it is time for the tables to be moved away or for the bartender to be told that Cousin Bob should not be allowed any more drinks. They anticipate these things together, the two of them, and so much more: they know childhood stories five times over, have ten times met Cousin Bob, have whispered a hundred times about when to leave the party, and a thousand times have conferred or kissed exactly like this.
I lean back in my chair. They seem to know what they are doing. The cake arrives and a fuss is made about cutting it, but there is no food fight. The couple has spent months planning and waiting, going from place to place, dealing with family and friends and rehashing each tiny detail of this exquisite party. They are happy, but they do not want cake in their faces. Very soon all they will want is to be alone, together. I take a bite from a perfect, fluffy slice of cake, looking forward to dancing. I look up and their heads are together again. Yes. It’s nice to know you’ll be in the same place for awhile.