About a month before I was to marry my Chinese-American fiancé, the first groomsman bailed. This was Andy’s friend from high school, nicknamed “Salad.” Despite the fact that we’d been at Salad’s wedding in Hawaii the previous year, Salad wilted in the face of his new wife’s worries over the lengthy flight from Hawaii to New Hampshire. I figured Baby Greens were on the way.
Salad wasn’t Andy’s best buddy, so Andy shrugged it off. Since we had to have 8 attendants in order to make Andy’s superstitious mother happy, Andy’s cousin was pressed into service. I harassed the cousin until I could finally send the tux rental shop the new groomsman’s measurements.
But Salad’s wilting merely foreshadowed major friend crop failure. Next up was Pumpkin. Andy had flown to Pumpkin’s wedding in Seattle the year before, but suddenly Pumpkin couldn’t make it to ours. Fear of air travel, he said.
Again, Andy didn’t seem fazed. “It’s okay. String Bean will be there,” Andy insisted. String Bean was Andy’s best friend and the best man. Andy had been String Bean’s best man the year before. We’d flown to Hawaii a second time so Andy could wear a pink tux and get up at dawn to take pictures at historic places for 4 hours before the actual ceremony. String Bean also lived the closest to New Hampshire, in Minneapolis.
Two weeks before the wedding, I answered the phone at Andy’s place:
String Bean: “Hi, Autumn.”
Me: “No! Are you kidding me? You can’t!”
String Bean: “I’m so, so sorry, but—”
Me: “I cannot listen to this. Do you know what he’s been saying? I was upset about Salad and Pumpkin, but Andy stayed calm. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘String Bean will be there. He’ll be there. I just know it.’”
String Bean: “I’m so sorry—”
I couldn’t listen any more. I gave the phone to Andy. I heard him tell String Bean that he understood.
But Andy didn’t understand. And neither did I. He had gone to all of their weddings the year before. I had gone to two of those weddings, and airfare to Hawaii wasn’t cheap. The bachelor parties weren’t cheap, either. The contents of multiple red envelopes were also definitely not cheap.
In case it was Andy’s friends just being cheap, I emailed them privately and offered to pay for their airfare and hotel rooms. They never emailed me back.
String Bean could have taken a bus, the fucker.
On my side, my dad’s brother canceled when he lost his job. Since I saw my uncle about once every five years, his cancellation wasn’t a major blow. It was more like, “Oh, cool, two less guests buying booze at the open bar!”
My best friend from high school suffered financial reverses. She left her family at home, but at least she came herself, despite being five months pregnant. (When she got home, her daughters demonstrated a new joy in burping, farting, and eating nude at the dinner table. I don’t think she’s left her husband in charge again since.)
My friend KL was petrified of planes. She flew on two to get to the wedding. She only whined about it once to me.
Another friend, the one who made the jewelry for my attendants, came despite having major surgery less than a month before. She nearly passed out in the security line and used a wheelchair the rest of the trip, but she and her husband made it.
I told Andy, “If we ever have to go on the run, we’re calling my friends for help, not yours.”
Andy agreed. We speculated on the differences, but only came up with one:
All Andy’s people who canceled were Asian. They had all gotten married the previous year. I don’t know if it was the money, or the hassle in a post-wedding year, or if they didn’t approve of our mixed race marriage. Maybe the recent spate of air disasters scared them. Hell, maybe the thought of moose scared them.
Then Andy’s sister called. Mindy was a doctor. Her husband was also a doctor. Her husband had to work our wedding weekend, she said. She was nervous about flying alone with her daughter, she said.
“Your daughter is supposed to be our flower girl and Andy adores her and if you don’t come it will break his fucking heart,” I said.
“I guess we’ll come,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said. And honestly, I was mad I even HAD to say it.
Seriously. What was wrong with these people? I had been to the wedding of every parent, every sibling, every ex-stepparent, every step-sibling, every ex-step sibling, and almost every friend who ever invited me. (And, yeah, I wore black to my father’s last wedding, but I was THERE for chrissakes.) When a friend or sister asked me to be an attendant, I said yes, and I spent a fortune on ugly dresses and flying across the country. My parents, despite MANY other failings, raised me to honor my commitments. The most popular kid in class could invite you to an all-day party at King’s Dominion, and if you had already told the kid who picked his butt you were going to his house for cake and tag, you sucked it up and played tag. (And you washed your hands a lot.)
If you said you were gonna be somewhere, by God, you got there. (Usually five minutes early. Cuz our family is super anal.)
Less than two weeks before the wedding, Andy’s parents called as I rejiggered reception tables and the tux measurements for replacement groomsmen.
I caught snatches of Andy’s half of the conversation:
Andy: “Yeah…no, Salad isn’t coming…no, not Pumpkin, either…and String Bean can’t make it after all. Yeah, Denny will be the best man now, he’s still coming… Yeah, she’s coming, Autumn talked to her… Oh, okay. Hold on.”
Andy handed me the phone. While I found my future in-laws somewhat…difficult, my stomach knotted in dread. His parents had never wanted us to get married in New Hampshire. Poor Andy. Were there ONLY going to be white people at this wedding? A hundred whites and two Wongs was just wrong.
I braced myself for the next Asian cancellation and took the phone. “Hi, Sunny. How are you?”
Andy’s mom was as abrupt as ever. “Did Mindy call you?”
“Did you tell her she had to come to the wedding even though she was scared and did you use a bad word?”
Mindy was a goddamned tattle-tale. “Um…maybe?”
“Huh! Why she even think of missing her own brother’s wedding! What wrong with her?! What is wrong with all these people?! Why they scared to fly?” Sunny launched into an angry, semi-inarticulate tirade.
I waited until she paused for breath. “So…you and Jay are still coming?”
“Of course we are coming! I tell everybody, why be scared to fly? Your number’s up, your number’s up! Get on the plane!”
Sunny said a few other things, but I don’t remember them. I only remember how much, in that moment, I loved her and how much I loved Chinese fatalism.
Sunny’s sister also came, with her entire family. So did two other cousins. We didn’t have a white wedding after all. In fact, our wedding briefly increased the Asian population of rural New Hampshire by 1300%.
The locals couldn’t tell any of Andy’s family members apart, though.
But that’s another story.