When I was younger, I found Steve Martin’s remake of Father of the Bride ludicrous. Not just the film (though the plot was cheesy and contrived), but the idea. It was outdated. Who was attending the weddings when I was growing up? Me, and the rest of the couple’s children. A modern, fresh comedy would be Daughters of the Groom.
There you go, Hollywood. Suck on that idea for a little while, come back, and we’ll Tweet. I know this writer…
Weddings became more traditional when my siblings got married, but the level of tension got kicked up a notch. Imagine a wedding where you invite your closest friends and relatives…and all their exes. My dad doesn’t like Ex-Stepfather #1. Ex-Stepmother #1 dislikes our dad. Ex-Stepfather #1’s Wife drives Gorgeous Skinny Singing Sister straight to the bar. Current Stepmom is already at the bar, sloshed, because Current Stepmom can’t deal with my father’s horde of angry, snarky children without alcohol. And so on.
Big Brother’s wedding wasn’t so bad. Weddings are all about the bride, really. The groom’s family takes a backseat. Our family decorated the car, threw the birdseed Big Brother had expressly banned, and everyone got drunk except me. Everyone had a great time, except me. I’m pretty sure there’s a correlation. (Family weddings are reason #45 on my “Reasons Why I Wish I Didn’t Hate the Taste of Alcohol” list.)
Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister’s wedding was trickier. Doc Sis didn’t care about much, but she had the following three non-negotiable decrees:
1) The Mythical Construct known as “God” was not invited (i.e., it would be a civil ceremony and you can read how well that worked out here).
2) Costs would be kept to a bare minimum – “plus ones” were verboten. Doc Sis even called me personally to tell me I was not to bring a “random guy.” I’ve no idea why. I thought all the different random guys I brought to her regular graduation, medical school graduation, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Big Brother’s wedding were all very nice to her.
3) There was “no fucking way” our father was going to walk her down the aisle. “I got here on my own. I’m walking down the aisle on my own!”
Did you wince at #3? A little backstory:
When Doc Sis graduated from medical school, our father and Current Wife did not come to the ceremony. Doc Sis professed not to care, but in between make out sessions with the random guy I brought, I found her subdued (i.e., less critical of my outfits). And this is despite the fact she was the most honored medical school graduate EVER in the history of a Very Prestigious Medical School.
So maybe Decree #3 from Doc Sis makes a little more sense now, eh?
My father actually took it well. For once, not a single critical comment passed his lips. Not one, the entire wedding weekend. Current Stepmom was also in attendance, drinking steadily, but there was no drama.
About four months before my wedding, the whole “Walk Down the Aisle” issue reared its ugly head.
My friend JM: “Are you going to have your dad wear a tux to walk you down the aisle?”
Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister: “You’re walking down the aisle alone, right?
My dad: “What’s the dress code for the wedding? I have my own tux. Should I wear it?”
Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister: “You’re not going to have Dad ‘give you away,’ like a you’re property, are you?!”
My friend KL (backing away): “Oh, no. I don’t have an opinion. Good luck.”
I went back and forth. I wasn’t as angry at my father as I used to be, but Lawyer Sis did have a point. Most Americans see a bride being escorted down the aisle as a sweet father-daughter moment, but that tradition grew out of repressive roots. Bride = property in ye olde Anglo-Saxon days. Wedding was just her official sale from her dad to a new master. (Sorry. History majors spoil ALL TRADITIONS.)
I called my Maid of Honor, M.
I whined, “I know it would make my dad happy, but it’s creepy tradition.”
Me: “Ah, you there?”
Me: “No comment?”
M: “I can’t believe you are even thinking about not asking your dad.”
Me: “I know you’re all traditional, but I’m not and–”
M interrupted: “Do you know what I would give to have my dad walk me down the aisle?”
M’s voice broke a little at the end. I felt like an ass, which I totally was. M’s father had a stroke our first month at college, not long after I met M. I’d been through the hospital waiting room hell in high school when my mom died. So I went with M when her other friends faded away. After a long, painful period where he was bedridden, M’s father died.
“I’m sorry,” I sniffed. “I didn’t think.”
“Well, think about the sweater fight and maybe you’ll know how I feel.”
The Sweater Fight is a scene that plays out between almost every mother and daughter I know.
As the daughter is leaving the house, her mom says: “Take a sweater (or jacket, or umbrella).”
The daughter yells, “Mom! I’m fine! I don’t need one!”
This often escalates into a full-on argument. It never made any sense to me. I thought it was sweet that the mom cared about her daughter.
“Take the sweater,” I told M one night. “Why are you getting upset?”
M took the sweater, stamped out of the house and chucked it into the backseat, and yelled, “Argh! I’m old enough to know if I need a sweater!”
I finally understood. This was the quintessential fight that all mothers and daughters have, beginning in the teen years. Mom tries to maintain a protective cocoon, daughter struggles to rip her way out. The fight is a rite of passage.
It’s a fight I never got to have with my own mother. I’m jealous of all the daughters who had this fight – and even those who are STILL fighting – with their moms over sweaters. And I want to say to these young women, “Take the sweater and hug your mom, damn it.”
So, yeah, I got M’s point immediately.
That night, I called and asked my dad to walk me down the aisle.
He said nothing for several seconds. Then he cleared his throat and said, “Of course.” He cleared his throat again and said,
“You know, I have my own tux.”