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 It was outdated. Seriously. 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 Brilliant Blonde Future Lawyer Sister graduated from college, the “Great No Hug Debacle” occurred. Current (and then fairly new) Stepmom waited as Future Lawyer Sis hugged siblings, friends, Ex-Stepmother #1, Ex-Stepfather, Ex-Stepfather’s Wife, and even our father. Tipsy Future Lawyer Sis did not hug Current Stepmom. I don’t know if this was an alcohol-induced miss, or a deliberate slight. It will forever remain a mystery, as Lawyer Sis has no memory of that day after bottle #2 of champagne was opened. *
Current Stepmom stormed off. My father went after her. They missed the celebratory lunch and pool party. Big Brother, Future Doc Sis, and I went to their hotel to try and make amends. Our dad told us Current Stepmom was “too upset” to see us or join the festivities. We didn’t see them the rest of the weekend.
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 (some day I’ll post that story).
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.
Well, not from them, anyway. Since plus ones weren’t allowed, Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister and I wound up eyeing the lone single, straight, hot guy. He approached me first, actually, and I thought we hit it off rather well. I should know better! Brilliant Blonde Lawyer Sister swooped in, smiled, said something witty, and they were off. I reminded myself that I lived 3,000 miles away for a very good reason and came up with reason #46 for my “Why I Wish I Liked the Taste of Alcohol” list. Sorrows just can’t be drowned in club soda. I think it’s the bubbles.
But in the end, Lawyer Sis did me a favor. Andy and I became dance partners not long after that wedding. Within two years, we were planning our own wedding.
About four months before the 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. Better hope I don’t post about Santa Claus.)
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. And I felt like an ass, which I totally was. M’s father had a stroke our first month at college, not long after we met. 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.”
“No kidding. You – of all people – should know about loss.”
And I did. I’m obsessed with this one scene that plays out between almost every mother and daughter I know.
As the daughter is leaving the house, her mom says: “Take a jacket (or sweater, or umbrella).”
The daughter protests/ whines/ or even yells: “Mom! I’m fine! I don’t need one!”
The mom’s suggestion sometimes 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 jacket,” I’d say. “Why are you getting upset?”
The night M chucked the offending sweater her mother had forced on her 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. The mom tries to maintain a protective cocoon, the daughter struggles to rip her way out. It’s almost a rite of passage. A tradition.
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 stupid sweaters and jackets. And I want to say to these young women, “Take the sweater. Say thank you. And hug your mom, damn it.”
So, yeah, since I mourn silly, unfought battles, I got M’s point immediately.
That night, I called and asked my dad to walk me down the aisle.
He was very quiet for a moment. Then he cleared his throat and said, “Of course.” He cleared his throat again. “You know, I have my own tux.”
*I offer this LEETLE piece of advice to any persons newly arrived in any family: Don’t be a prima donna and expect everyone to fuss over you and make you feel welcome, especially not at SOMEONE ELSE’S big event. Instead, make yourself useful. Grab a camera and take pictures. Offer to hold mortarboards, leis, bouquets, champagne — whatever the situation requires. I’ve ironed tablecloths and polished silver when I was the newbie. Standing around believing you shall immediately be treated as an established family member is just asking for trouble.