New York Observer, February 20, 2006
My American girlfriend Marsha’s life is dictated by weddings. Like all 30-years-oldish, she has so many friends who get married, and unfortunately invite her, that she can’t cope any longer. Her entire vacation time gets absorbed by these fruitless ceremonies, provided that the absolute majority of marriages end up in divorce.
“You know the latest about Cindy?”, she told me the other day.
“Yes, Cindy, that lovely girl living in the Upper East 80’s who got hitched to Robert in 2004. What’s new? Wasn’t she pregnant?”
“She divorced. She found out Robert’s on cocaine”.
“What? But we went to dinner with them at Le Marchelier, he looked so nice... How long had they been together for? She didn’t notice?”
“Apparently not. She found out only because money was missing regularly and massively”.
“Wow! Aren’t they the ones who met on the net?”
“No, that’s Jade, don’t you remember her wedding in Florida?”
Yes. No. Honestly, I’ve been to so many weddings in the past months that I can’t tell one from the other any longer. I only know that Marsha’s yearly schedule revolves around them. Because most of her friends, even when living in New York, pick strange and faraway places to tie the knot. Naples (Florida), Washington, Philadelphia, California, Seattle... Why they don’t just stick to the Harmony or Metropolitan Club? The father’s bride has to shell out $100,000 in any case. Please, at least spare us the travel expenses.
Plus, we have to add some extra holiday days around each marriage, otherwise what’s the point of traveling twelve hours just to get there and back? So, at the average of four days for four weddings yearly, all of Marsha’s meager two weeks vacation time gets sucked up. No more room for a trip to Europe: for us, it’s either marriages in the U.S. or vacationing overseas. No wonder Americans travel the world less than any other nationality: the blame’s on marriages.
Italian weddings are a big thing too. Many families love to squander the savings of a lifetime for their daughter’s once in a lifetime endeavour. But at least in Italy this is a one-day affair: the church, the banquet, the feast, the dance, and that’s it, we can leave before midnight. Plus, Italy is so small compared to the U.S. that you have to fly a maximum of two hours to get anywhere.
On the contrary, in America everything’s got to be humongous. The problem with Marsha is that all of her friends seem to be so close and affectionate (even if they shared only two years in college with her 15 years ago and barely met afterwards) that her presence (and mine) is required also for such a nightmare unknown to us Europeans which is called “Rehearsal dinner”. It takes place the night before the wedding, meaning you have to get the Friday off. And the day after the wedding there is usually a brunch, too, reserved for the out-of-towners (that is, everybody).
Many times Marsha is asked to be a bridesmaid. After watching so many American movies about weddings, especially the recent ones with Julia Roberts and Steve Martin, I thought I was experienced in them. Wrong. You actually have to go yourself through the plight of being the bridesmaid’s boyfriend, in order to fully understand what it means to be left alone most of the time for three consecutive days because your loved one has been restrained in order to perform rehearsals and endless fittings for dresses, hairdos, nails... I found myself with so many idle mornings and afternoons that I visited Benjamin Franklin’s house in Philadelphia, Paul Allen’s rock museum in Seattle, the Phillips Collection in Washington. In Florida there’s nothing to see, so I just walked on the beach.
In Philadelphia all of the seven impressive pink-dressed bridesmaids got literally hijacked because thay had to arrive to and live the church simultaneously in a stretched limo. It took me hours to figure out the way to ceremony and afterwards to a country club on the Main Line, tens of miles away from each other. I actually enjoyed getting lost in the same fabulous suburbs where Grace Kelly grew up, and discovering that places like Marion, Pa., are even more elegant than Greenwich, Ct., or Beverly Hills, Ca. But when I finally made to the club and its three bands (one for the cocktails, one for dinner, one for the dance), I couldn’t get a hold of Marsha either: she was again secluded for hours in a secret location for the photo session.
Apart from this, American marriages are wonderful. You get to know so many people, all of which get very excited when you tell them you’re Italian (do they know Italy is full of assholes?). There is mutual neverending fascination between Italy and the United States, we too get crazy when we meet any American in Italy. I remember that while in high school in Udine we even spoke to the mormon missionaries just because they came from the States. And now it seems that all U.S. celebrities have to go to Italy in order to meet and get married: it happened to Angelina, Brad, Tom, Katie...
At a certain point during the night many wedding guests get drunk. Which is normal at any party, but marriages offer an advantage for the romanticism involved. So, if you are single, marriages transform into paradise, as outlighted in the movie “Wedding Crashers”. Some dinner tables are reserved for them: they have time to socialize while eating, and to get closer afterwards, dancing. Girls seem more eager to find a mate and give themselves away, there are statistics about an overwhelming number of relationships started at weddings (and funerals). Sometimes behind the bushes that very night at the golf club.
The problem with us Newyorkers is that we forget that when the whole thing is over, we still have to drive back to the hotel. On a leased car, and in unfamiliar territory. In Washington I was slowing down on some Beltway to find the right exit, when a police car pulled us over.
“What have I done? I wasn’t speeding up, that’s for sure...”
“I beg your pardon?”
I felt kind of flattered, too wasted to understand “erratic”. Marsha saved me with her gentle, blue eyes imploring the merciful cop. Besides, I had an Italian driving license, our hotel was very close and the police car with the alcohol control equipment was too far away.
The next day, Marsha confessed to me that she had a discussion with her father about him setting away 75,000 dollars for her own wedding. It sounded too much like a hidden invitation to propose, so I rushed to enumerate all the failings of the wedding industry: “Listen baby, this is just a big 50 billions business devouring itself. Because young couples get in debt in order to hire a marriage consultant and all the shit, plus many already have to repay for college, then comes the house mortgage, little children are expensive too... And in the end, do you know what’s the main cause for recently married couples splitting? Financial stress. It’s a circle. So, why doesn’t your father just give you the money, and you do what you want with it? Aren’t we already happy living together like this?”
“I don’t like it when you call me ‘baby’ ”, she just replied.