When my daughter announced that she was getting married I had to pretend that it was happy news. Truth be told, I couldn’t understand why she was doing it. It wasn’t as if someone was forcing her. It was a real puzzle; I thought I’d raised her better than that. Then a dear friend announced she was getting married too.
What the hell?
Weddings—they make me queasy.
The middle of winter—long, long ago—in a land far, far away…
The acrid scent of chlorine fills my head. It burns. I am just coming in for a turn and my brain is not engaged. Nor, apparently, are my auto-reflexes. I’ve managed to inhale a lot of water. My entire sinus cavity is filled with pool. Hanging upside-down isn’t a good place to be when your mind is focused somewhere else. The distraction? My upcoming nuptials.
I come up sputtering and coughing. The water feels as if it is corroding me. It seeps into places where it shouldn’t be. It runs down the back of my throat and I choke. My swim partner is almost at the far side of the lane before I push off the wall again. I have to haul ass. I spend the rest of the set playing catch-up.
I’ve spent the last several weeks trying to figure out how the hell I got into this mess. I can’t see any way out. I’m suffocating, and not just from pool water. I feel trapped. But I’m so immature that it doesn’t occur to me to just say no. The funny thing is that I don’t want to say no to my fiancé; he’s a great guy. I really just want to say no to the parental units.
I don’t want to get married. I’ve never wanted to get married. I don’t recall a single second of my life ever thinking about the whole sordid practice. Any time I hear the nonsense of girls dreaming and planning their wedding day, I gag, just a little.
We’ve only been engaged seven months. That’s not nearly long enough. We don’t even know each other. My arms pull the water and I do lazy kicks to keep my body streamlined. Pull, push, breathe, exhale, flip, push, and kick. Four thousand meters and the only moment I remember is when I tried to drown myself. My sinuses still ache.
The shower clunks every time the water stops. It’s one of those timed things. I lather strawberry scented shampoo over my entire body in a futile effort to scrub the smell of chlorine off my skin. It doesn’t work. Any time I sweat, I smell like bleach. The lather also doesn’t help my dilemma. The stupid wedding ceremony. How do I get out of it? I can’t wash that away either.
I open the door and exit the pool in a mist of warm, humid air that turns to ice crystals and coats my exposed skin. I am covered in tiny snowflakes as I walk across the parking lot. My boyfriend—no fiancé—is waiting for me. He rolls his window down and smiles. “You should have dried your hair. It’s -35 degrees out here.” My hair feels like an ice helmet protecting my head. I smile back and get into the truck and immediately start to thaw, and then drip. It matches the drip from my nose.
“We can’t get married that weekend,” I tell my parents. “I have a swim meet in Toronto.”
My mom flutters about and my dad scowls. “Well what about the next weekend?” he asks.
“We’re going on an ice fishing trip for the week,” I reply.
Dad’s face turns a dark, red hue. I see the storm coming. He smashes his fist onto the table and bellows, “Well you can’t get married the weekend after that because I have a curling bonspiel.”
“Sure,” I say. I shrug my shoulders and a little spark of hope ignites. This thing may not happen.
He turns to my mom. “We have no other choice. It has to be that weekend.” The spark drowns. He looks at me and glowers. “You’re not taking this seriously!”
You bet your ass I’m not taking this serious. In fact, I’m the antithesis of serious. I want none of it. I want out. But I don’t say it. Why don’t I say it? Instead I agree on a date. Dread settles across my shoulders like a black cape. It’s as if I’ve just agreed to my execution day.
I go shopping for a dress looking like someone who’s been lost in the bush for two weeks. Torn jeans, plaid shirt, bandana wrapped around my head, and lint covered wool socks bunched around my ankles. I grab two dresses off a hanger and stalk off into a change room. I pull the first one over my head, roll up my jeans, and then pull it down over my legs. I look exactly like I feel, awkward, unhappy, uncomfortable and stupid. Except for the wool socks. They look good.
People want to come to the wedding. I cannot fathom it. Sure, my family is coming, but they have to because they’re family. But other people want to come, people who aren’t even related to me. My fiancé’s family is coming. I don’t understand it. Why would they want to come? The whole thing is a mystery to me.
The wedding day dawns bright, blue and fucking cold. The hairdresser does my hair and sticks little white flowers into it. I look ridiculous. I smile and thank her. She primps, sprays some kind of shellac into it and, BAM, I’ve got wedding hair helmet. I pace around and look at the clock every five seconds. Mom smiles and thinks that I’m excited. In reality, I figure that if I’m going to do this, let’s just get it over and done with. The proud parents and the bristling bride finally leave for the church. We’re being married by a friend who works at the pool to make extra money, because apparently, being his particular God’s rep doesn’t pay well.
I have almost no memories of the actual ceremony. All I remember is wanting to get the hell out of there and being somewhat proud of myself for not tripping in my heels. I don’t even remember the reception. They say it was a good one. That’s thanks to Mom. She coordinated the whole thing.
We somehow end up in my fiancé’s—excuse me—husband’s brother’s car. I’m wearing some kind of hideous outfit that I changed into just before we left the reception. We are heading to a hotel for two days. I strip down to my underwear and throw the outfit out the window and pull on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. It’s the first time in weeks that I feel normal. It’s probably because I don’t have the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. By the time we get to the hotel we are both laughing. My husband walks into the lobby wearing his baby-blue wedding suit; I look like the woman version of Grizzly Adams with a bandana wrapped around her rigid hair. We look more like escapees from Deliverance than a newlywed couple and receive more than one raised eyebrow while checking in.
We both give big sighs when we finally get into our room. “I’m never doing that again,” I tell my husband.
Now, if I could just talk everyone else into it…
“Bridal Kneesocks” by Lemonjenny. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.