The whole bridesmaid issue is a bitch when you’ve got a lot of sisters. I had two ex-stepsisters, one stepsister, three half-sisters, and two regular sisters. Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister was already married with a toddler. She begged to be let off the hook, even though I had been a bridesmaid for her. (I was the last one down the aisle. I paused before marching out: “Last chance. I’ve got a car outside if you wanna bolt!” She declined.)
I agreed that Doc Sis could escape being a bridesmaid. Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister informed me that she considered buying me a wedding dress suitable bridesmaid buyout. Two of my half-sisters would be singing in the reception, and so I figured I’d have Pretty Space Cadet Sister as a bridesmaid to make sure she felt included.
I met my friend KL because competitive me was determined to kick her ass on the dance floor. Sweet KL freakin’ CHEERED for me instead. She was lovely and supportive. We became friends. One evening, she danced over to me, tickled pink.
“You’re not gonna believe this,” she gushed. “That’s the third person tonight who’s asked if we’re sisters! Isn’t that cool?!”
I felt my smile slip, and I almost snapped, “No! I have enough damned sisters! I don’t need any more sisters!” Just in time, I remembered that KL had no sisters. KL had been adopted into a family with one boy. She had a special reverence for blood relations that seemed crazy to me. In my world, siblings stole boyfriends, girlfriends, clothes, food, and any scraps of parental attention they could get. Parents ignored you in favor of potential new spouses, then actual new spouses, and made sure you stayed ignored by having even more children – younger, greedier, cuter ones.
To me, friendship is the ultimate bond, because you are actively choosing to have a relationship with your friend. Every day.
Family is just a genetic accident. You have no choice. You’re stuck with them. You might choose to make them friends and call them every week, but you can’t opt out of being related.
Yet, KL imagined a world where siblings were the penultimate symbol of love and acceptance. So I kicked away my bitter soapbox, hugged her, and we’ve called each other “Sis” ever since.
KL is my sister from another mother’s ovarian blister.
So of course she would be a bridesmaid. That made 2. My friend JM would be 3.
I asked M, my BFF, to be my Maid of Honor. She said no.
I said, “What the fuck?”
She said, “I don’t know why you’re asking me. It should be one of your sisters. My mom said so.”
I yelled, “Your mom is WHACK!” M’s mom was also big on M being a Child of the American Revolution, and bloodlines — and all the stuff I consider genetic accidents, rather than legitimate accomplishments worthy of pride. You know, WHACK.
“But she says that it’s a point of etiquette –”
“No! Just no, no, no. First of all, didn’t your mom elope? So her sister wasn’t a bridesmaid, so she can be quiet. Second, which freakin’ sister would I pick without offending all the others? Finally, you are my BFF, and you are the most loyal person I know and I need you to have my back if any kind of familial shit storm hits during the wedding. Don’t make me go all Brideszilla on you!”
M said, “I think you already did.”
I said, “Get used to it, Miz Maid of Honor.”
That made four attendants. Andy picked his three close friends from high school and his brother Denny as groomsmen. All was settled.
And then we got home from dancing one night to find a ton of messages on Andy’s landline’s voicemail. They were all from Andy’s mom Sunny:
“Andy, call home. Right away. I need to talk to you.”
“It’s Ma. Where are you? You call when you get home.”
“Why you work so late? Is there problem?”
“I need work number. Why I cannot call at work?”
I freaked out. “Call her right away! Omigod, someone must be dead!”
Andy got himself a beer. “I’ll call her later. It’s still early in Hawaii.”
“But she said to call right away! Your dad could be in the hospital! What if it’s Popo?!”
Andy ignored me. He ate a snack, had a shower, and then called his mom. She was so agitated I could hear her voice across the room, but she threw in enough Cantonese phrases that I had no idea what she was saying. Once Andy rolled his eyes, though, I relaxed. No one was dying.
Well, not exactly. But death had created a problem. Not an actual death, mind you, but the Cantonese word for death. According to Andy, 4 is “sei” in Cantonese. Death is also “sei,” but with a slightly different accent that white people like myself don’t hear. Due to this similarity, the number four is bad luck in China. Very bad. Sunny had heard from Denny that Andy had four attendants and flipped out. (I thought Sunny was overreacting, but the TV show “Fresh Off the Boat” recently devoted an entire episode the bad luck that accompanies #4.)
Yes, if you added up our number of attendants, it would have totaled 8, which is good luck. But according to Sunny’s math, the attendants were instead two groups of four – bad luck doubled.
Sunny badgered us twice daily until I gave up and added a few more bridesmaids. My two youngest half-sisters were thrilled. Lawyer Sister was not. She groused, but agreed when I explained that I needed to humor my future mother-in-law and make the phone stop ringing.
But this was not enough for Sunny. We each needed 8 attendants, double good luck to cancel out the bad luck. Or something like that. It’s hard to explain a theory when it does not, in fact, make logical sense to the narrator. And no, flower girls did not count. Don’t ask me why.
Sunny kept calling. Andy’s father called and ordered us to change the numbers. When Sunny’s sister called, I finally caved.
I phoned Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister and threw myself on her mercy.
She sighed mightily. “What style are the dresses?”
“Almost the exact same as my dress, Renaissance-ish. Just a less fluffy skirt. Floor length. I swear, it’s flattering, and you can wear it again—”
“Well, I wanted to have the dresses in all different fall colors: gold, red, yellow, and orange—”
“I am not wearing orange. I look like crap in yellow. Gold is trashy.”
I capitulated. “How about dark green velvet?” Doctor Sister’s bridesmaids had all worn evergreen. I still had the dress in my closet. No, I had never worn it again.
“Green velvet might actually be pretty. Okay.”
Andy added my brothers and my best gay friend to fix his numbers. Deathly bad luck was averted. The phone calls ceased.
I always said that there were only two good things about having so many siblings: 1) Blame is harder to pin down when a bannister gets broken, and 2) You have enough players for family football. Now I finally had a reason #3: Many, many siblings might help you avoid the curse of bad luck.
I’m going to stop at three reasons, though.