I grew up on football. Sunday dinners at my mom’s house consisted of popcorn and ice-cream when Washington, the Broncos, or the Giants were playing. (The only thing that united various parental units was a universal hatred of the Dallas Cowboys.) There are two good things about having a mass of siblings: 1) Increased likelihood of another sibling being blamed for your crimes, and 2) Enough family members for 6 v. 6 football.
Sadly, there are not many chances for girls to play football outside of family gatherings. I counted down the years until I could captain the Junior Girl’s team for the Powder Puff game in High School. But the school canceled it after it dissolved into a taunting, brawling, riot when I was a sophomore. (My Judgmental Genius Future Doctor Sister was the captain of the Junior team that butchered the Seniors and instigated the melee. See? Still only two reasons to have a big family.)
So I stayed on the football sidelines. Well, the sofa. Season tickets weren’t in the budget. Also, you can’t get Washington tickets unless you inherit them or trade your firstborn. (Your firstborn, if they grew up in D.C., would totally understand.) From the sofa, I cheered on my favorite guy in the NFL – the Denver Broncos’ Ed McCaffrey. #87 has since retired to sell mustard, but back in the day, McCaffrey was the ultimate clutch player. Third and long, and John Elway would look for McCaffrey. If a pass spiraled within two feet of McCaffrey, he’d haul it in. McCaffrey got hit immediately – sometimes by multiple players – but the man NEVER lost the ball. After the pile on top of him dispersed, McCaffrey would jump up, crack his neck left, then right, toss the ball to the ref, and trot back to the huddle. Even when the Giants broke his leg in multiple places, McCaffrey held onto the ball. It was the one time he didn’t get up, though. When I realized there would be no more neck-cracking, I cried and vowed I would never root for the Giants again. Not even when they played the Cowboys.*
I hated weddings as much as I loved football. I’d been dressed up as a flower girl and dragged to far too many of my parents’ remarriages to believe any union would last. My sole purpose became glowering and gorging on cake. The last time my dad got married, I wore black. I spent the reception with my siblings in the bar, cheering on the Broncos. Wife #Whatever was ticked, but hey, the Broncos make the playoffs less frequently than my parents get divorced and remarried. Priorities!
I loathed the bouquet toss most of all. I always felt like I’m watching cows mowing each other down in order to enter the slaughterhouse first. At the last wedding I attended, I fled the dance floor when the DJ announced the bouquet toss. Well, I tried. I was a salmon flailing against a current of sequins. One frantic woman employed some vicious elbows.
“Let me through!” she shouted. “I’m almost twenty-four!”
Admittedly, that was a Southern Baptist wedding, so the sample is skewed, but one of my college classmates said something similar: “If I’m not married by the time I’m twenty-five, I’m a failure!”
I responded with, “If I AM married by the time I’m twenty-five, I’m a failure!”
When friends of my Chinese-American boyfriend Andy got married, there was the inevitable bouquet toss. But there was not a hint of shoving. There were at least three hundred wedding guests, but they were predominantly Japanese-American, and very polite. Unfortunately, the crowd was also very, very short. I am not short. And as the tallest woman in the room, I was also highly visible. Flight was not an option, not once the bouquet toss was announced. Not unless I wanted to appear rude.
But this was not my first rodeo. Next up, Plan B. I ostentatiously positioned one newly engaged woman at the front and center of the diminutive crowd, winking at the bride. Then I skirted the edge of the large dance floor until I was a good twenty yards back, as far away as I could get without sitting in the lap of an elderly gentleman.
I should have been safe. Hell, I would have been safe, if the bride hadn’t been taking ma huang diet pills to fit into her dress. Instead of a light toss, the bride heaved a bomb – backwards, in high heels – that Elway would have envied. Normally that bouquet would have hit the ceiling and ricocheted straight to the floor with an ugly splat. But this massive reception hall of windows had cathedral ceilings, the better to show off the gorgeous Hawaiian scenery outside. That bouquet sailed far over the heads of the five-foot crowd.
Alas! For a moment the roses morphed into a football spiraling toward the back of the end zone! Alas again! My competitive reflexes took over. I was Ed McCaffrey. I jumped, touched the pass with outstretched fingertips, and hauled it in, scoring the winning touchdown! I almost spiked the
ball bouquet and did victory dance before I came back to reality. McCaffrey never did victory dances. He was a class act.
And so ended my excellent bouquet avoidance record. As I looked at the sunset-colored flowers in my hand with growing horror, the women clustered around me, offering their excited congratulations.
“Um, thanks,” I said. “I was really just trying to keep it from hitting a table.”
They laughed and gave me knowing looks. But they didn’t know the truth.
Andy did. He grinned from ear to ear when I got back to our table. “Hey, 87! Nice catch!”
I cracked my neck left, then right, and lateralled the flowers at him.
* I stopped watching the NFL recently, when the media spotlight began to illuminate the traumatic brain injury cover-ups, the rampant domestic abuse, and the fact that the NFL pays no taxes. Yeah, that’s right. NO TAXES, thanks to special Congressional legislation. I know, it’s so unbelievable you’ll have to Google it. Google the petition to demand they pay taxes while you’re at it!