Welcome to the Four Oh Seven Seven.
I got nuthin.
Realistically speaking, that's not even remotely true but... I got nuthin.
I have a blur. I have emotional exhaustion and moral bankruptcy. Probably I'm being a little too hard on myself with regard to the moral bankruptcy part but if I admitted half of what was going through my head the week before and most of the day and night of the wedding to ANYONE other then Cielo and Elizabeth I'd be bitch slapped at best, and publicly flogged in front of the reception barn and THEN hanged on a street light in lovely Old Wethersfield.
To be fair, I went into this thing with a mess to clean up and no time to clean and there's no reason to think a strained relationship is going to get better just because it's a wedding. That's ridiculous. The power balance has shifted as far from one side to the other as possible and any bad thing that can be said and done by one or either people (or all, if you throw in more) might be said or done. Probably will be said or done.
Mostly I didn't speak which is bad because then I just look sullen, which is unintentional. Do NOT get me started on resting bitch face because that's worth 5,000 words right there. When asked, the answer was generally, I'm very tired, which was true but I was called out on it twice; once by the innkeeper, very kindly, which was helpful, and once by my second husband's girlfriend in a way which almost left her lipless. Entirely.
Don't mess with me, Bitch. You don't KNOW me. I could be lethal, woman.
"Blink, blink" is generally as good a response as any. I did the blinky thing, removed her claw from my forearm, and walked off to retrieve my youngest daughter and her drama machine.
That's a whole other thing. I can't even. I won't even. Just, no. He had half the wedding reception enrolled in his dying of cigarette smoke business (he is NOT, I repeat, NOT allergic to ANYTHING according to several PhDs, he is NEUROTIC, according to several PhDs and that's being kind. I'm going to go with narcissist and err on the side of safety in armchair diagnosis). Didn't I just say I wasn't getting into this?
At my second wedding my mother said to me, in her most ernest and possibly beseeching tone (I'm not entirely certain my mother does beseeching):
I fail to see why I need to come to your wedding.
I was astonished.
I said, Mom, you have to be at my wedding because you are the photographer.
She came because she was the photographer. In retrospect I am quite certain that is the ONLY reason she came as I am now painfully aware there were a gazillion reasons NOT to come.
For her. For my mother specifically there were a gazillion reasons not to come, mostly unique to my mother and really only one of them was my father so let's put that aside. For every woman with a gazillion reasons not to go to her daughter's wedding, or even one or two reasons to run screaming out into traffic, each of those reasons are likely to be unique although I'm betting there's a common theme.
Mother's take it on the snout. I've been hearing mother's taking it on the snout for years. My mother, by the way, should not have taken it on the snout for the usual snout taking reasons although I'm sure I was a complete pain in the ass despite making two particular concessions which threw both families into a tizzy (too bad). I don't recall my mother doing anything even remotely controlling.
My mother was there with a checkbook.
She opened a joint account in three names: Mine, Joe's, and hers, and deposited a lump sum called the budget which covered the following:
- ALL of the dresses (it's a midwestern thing?) - Bride plus six maids plus two flowers
- My shoes & accessories (please can we just not)
- The band (please can we just not)
- The florist
- The stationary and postage (remember stationary and postage?)
- My hair
- The Stamford Marriott for I can't remember how many guests (more then 150 and maybe less then 200?) at $120 per head (in 1985 holy shit!)
- The donation to the church
- The car service that drove me and Joe from the church to the hotel
My mother's job was to pick up all the pieces I dropped on the floor. To be fair, since I had absolutely zero experience planning a wedding and had only attended weddings in Fairfield County as a young adult (this is a whole other land of expectation, my child) I was walking around in the dark. We had two fat bridal magazines and no interwebs although from what I hear you'd be better off these days with nothing.
Today's misinformation is astonishing. No. I'm sorry. Sending your invitations out twelve weeks in advance is not only unnecessary, it's outright tacky. That's what those ridiculous save the date things are for. Requesting a response back for the caterer (RSVP by WHEN?!) SIX WEEKS BEFORE THE WEDDING is not only not going to happen, it's going to piss people off, get the cards lost on the kitchen table, and people will actually forget you're having a wedding.
That did sort of happen and that's the only thing I managed to get in front of before the Lucia bus picked up steam and never looked back.
I suspect the invitation timing was broad stroke advice for weddings of 500 or more and anyone in the royal family although I'd be willing to bet a body part they'd stick to the four weeks/two weeks and no hold the date rule. If you're on the list, you know. If you don't know, you'll either clear your day or you won't.
I was on something called a standby list once. That is the list you pick from when the caterer has been paid four weeks in advance and people start backing out. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. I went to the ceremony. It was lovely. I congratulated the bride and groom and went home. I'm funny that way.
Also, did you know you can invite someone to a church wedding but not the reception? And did you also know that church weddings are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Well, more or less they are, the same way funerals aren't as private as you think they might be. I'm way off track. My archaic knowledge of wedding and funeral etiquette is disconcerting.
My wedding, my mother. My mother's job was to pick up the pieces while I decided what I wanted based on what I really didn't know in the immediate aftermath of my father's remarriage to S which was unfortunate timing but just something to work with. It's how we ended up married in January; pick another season and let the brides have their own.
My mother picked up ALL the pieces except for the pieces which ought to have dropped on the floor (my bridesmaids' fiasco the night before the wedding, me stalking out of the Stamford Yacht Club at the rehearsal dinner and telling my father I'd walk myself down the aisle - he showed up anyway, he's good about those things) and the pieces which really weren't hers to pick up (groom side shit).
I have a few distinct memories of my mother and the last two in juxtaposition are not going to make sense but you're going to have to take my word for it, and maybe I'll explain properly.
- My mother writing checks
- My mother answering questions and/or filling in blanks
- My mother's tears about being at my wedding with her ex-husband and his new wife
- My mother's request to wear a red dress which would be guest appropriate at a formal wedding but not 'quote, un-quote' even remotely appropriate for a mother of the bride; I emphatically granted that request
- My mother dancing in that red dress
- My mother, persona non grata at her daughter's wedding
Persona non grata is a little strong or maybe it just sounds that way but when I step back a few feet and look at the mothers I've known and watched, and listened to their daughters bitch about, that's pretty much what you get. It is, after all, all about the bride, right? We tell ourselves this, we've made an entire industry out of it. Look at the thousands of engagement pictures that hit social media a year before the wedding and that shit does not stop until after the honeymoon. It's constant stream of look at me or us, or something. It's marketing, up-selling, advertising of...I'm not entirely sure, something. Your life? Your dress? There is a photograph of her dress hanging from the chandelier in her room at the B&B. I have seen some lovely shots of the dress hanging on the back of the door, spread out over the bed, whatever, but I have never seen anything quite like this. It looks like a noose. She has had her dress hanged just hours before the wedding. Am I the only one noticing this? Probably. I'm not knocking the photographer; she produced some really great stuff but that dress was over the top and I think we're reacting to the marketing without thinking. Because it's all about the bride.
And for the love of God, DO NOT UPSET THE BRIDE.
When you become Bridezilla, my love, it will be because the stress has become too much and I will get in front of whomever is causing you distress.
It never occurred to me that I would be the source of her distress.
It never occurred to me to hold her accountable.
Walk softly, talk softly, try not to go anywhere near bridezilla and you might retain your body parts (I'm still looking for three of my fingers because I might have been breathing too loudly).
I have an entirely new perspective on mothers of the bride and an entirely new perspective on brides. All you brides out there? Simmer the fuck down and choose your battles. You ARE actually going to have to think about something other than yourself and believe it or not, this party is NOT actually about you. You are hosting the party which is about your guests which means you have to think about them. Don't leave your mother to sort out your shit because in this case, she will not.
I told my daughter, two days before the wedding that I was firing Slave to the Bride because Slave to the Bride was a redundant position and she seemed to have this all under control anyway. This seemed like the gentlest way to say:
Look, Bitch, I quit, OK? I've about had it with you and I'm not writing any more checks and after that last spew I'm not organizing your spreadsheet either. Do it yourself. I'm working ten hour days, you're posting photographs from the beach, and arguing with me about an agreement we made six months ago over whether or not you could have your entire bridal party in the one room I paid for at the B&B (it is VERBOTEN by the innkeeper to have the bridal party in that room) and if you'd wanted the entire bridal party together I would have put you somewhere else but this is what you chose, sweetheart. Not fifteen seconds after she snarled out that agreement (desperately needing to be with a crowed of nine) she whiplashed so hard in the other direction that she threw Cielo (who should have been with me) out of the room as well, citing the need for absolute quiet and if I hadn't had the phone on speaker with Elizabeth sitting on the couch with her jaw on the floor I'd have wondered what the hell happened to MY head. Tick tick tick tick... do NOT upset the bride... tick tick tick tick... of course, sweetheart.
I rescheduled my girl type appointments to the local salon, canceled my slot with the girls and decided to keep the rental car which existed solely for getting the bride from the B&B to the Barn. My last mistake was agreeing to make the final payment on hair and makeup for the bridal party (having still not gotten anything back from the first). I have now paid for six women to have wedding hair done and one woman to have makeup and nails. That means I got money back from three of them.
Whatever, Ma, I'll work it out.
Lucia, that's $535, when will you work it out? We agreed by 9 PM tonight, it really should have been by the rehearsal dinner and you are leaving on Monday morning. (and stop calling me Ma. where the FUCK did this come from?)
I became my mother. I arrived at the B&B after everything that could have gone wrong going wrong. The day was EPIC and we, Cielo, Mr. Cielo, and I are still digging out of the mess I've made. The day was EPIC but we DID get the car, the hair and makeup (really don't need to do that again) did get done, those effing flowers got picked up and I, with less then a quarter tank of gas in one of those 8mpg tanks made it from Fairfield to Wethersfield with five minutes to spare.
I left my cell phone charger in my car which means by using Waze my cell phone died which means I had no idea how to get where I was going and no way to call a lifeline. I should have shut it off and turned it back on outside Hartford but, people, do you have any idea how much juice that app eats? Wowza. I memorized the street address and got off the first Wethersfield exit. No. This is not it. I pulled over in a parking lot and pointed back toward the highway. I turned the phone back on. 4%. I opened Waze and said GO. It went.
I got off the next exit and HOLY SHIT THE MEADOWS!
The Meadows is where we hauled our kegs in high school. $5 will get you a plastic cup and today it would get you a wrist band. $5 gets you a plastic cup and all the beer you can drink. The meadows under the overpass had NOT changed since 1981. I wanted to pull over and run into the meadows and I think that might not have been a bad idea. But I was frantic.
When I arrived I called with my last bit of juice and Elizabeth came down three flights of stairs and let me in the back door. She was beautiful. She also didn't warn me. On the other hand, she's been used to Lucia her entire life, what's there to warn about? When I arrived I was flustered and thought I should change ASAP and thought I might have to explain why I wasn't actually dressed (wrinkled dress?) but Lucia was texting feverishly and speaking irritated her. Humor irritated her. If I sat in a chair on the other side of the room and breathed like a corpse that was for the best. I did that. I did that and waited to be photographed with my daughter.
I was waiting for that one vulnerable moment with my daughter. You know, the one you have in the room before the wedding? The one that lasts forever? The one that is never in a million years going to happen because it's not on the list and Mom, this is NOT about you. You're here because you seem to want to watch so OK, just don't get in the way. Also, please run up those three flights of stairs one more time and get me my flowers.
I sobbed in the bathroom until my waterproof mascara became a problem and lost the top half of my head in the photographer's maw (kept them waiting in the sun, apparently - WHO YELLS AT THE BRIDE'S MOTHER? REALLY?!) when I came back down. I was plotting my escape when I realized the only way I could possibly escape would be to leave Elizabeth the car and that was a no go.
It all unwound on the fourth of July on the two mile walk south on Route 53 when I received a text that read something about timing at the wedding and I'd need to choose between the mother daughter dance or the speech. My heart stopped. It didn't skip a few beats. It stopped. I kept walking. I had absolutely no idea how to respond to that.
No. No one has to choose. This is really simple. You cut 30 - 75 seconds off someone or everyone's speeches and you limit the dancing to seconds or minutes or whatever but no one EVER has to choose. It's how the three way parental pass off got handled. Her dad worked that shit out when he realized what had happened to me. He worked that out at the rehearsal dinner despite her unwillingness to listen to ANYTHING and the entire fiancé's family booing from the sidelines because we'd stopped the process (all three parents are talking to the bride suddenly and you're booing WHY, exactly?)
Back the truck up. I have never been ok with this reception business being about the fathers with the exception of the mother/son dance. I have NEVER been ok with that. I said I wanted a dance also and that I would teach her to waltz and all she had to do was be lead and that she would look, very, very good for about 20 seconds and then it would be over. I told her she would probably never look that good again in her life. She agreed. Later she said something about, well, if you want to be the dude and I took her head off about gender neutrality and in the back of my head I thought, ah, fuck, woman, your head is still up your ass and I've spent too long in North Hampton. Elizabeth would dance.
But the speech. What is that about? I don't know.
Five minutes later, still walking at a good clip, I sent back: 'neither, I didn't have a lot to say anyway'. I don't think she did the math. It wasn't actually about math. She kept asking why and I said I just couldn't bring myself to choose. Later it was about the dance and I was thinking, shit, child, what would you have done if I'd picked the dance?!!! I think it was both and you needed to limit me to one of two evils so the answer is neither. So I know what's wrong with the dancing but I don't know what's wrong with the speaking and I don't suppose I really need to know. Maybe you think I'll come unhinged and say something inappropriate.
Kids get their blinders out of cereal boxes.
It's amazing if they ever see who their parents really are at all.
I hear it was a beautiful wedding; I'm told everyone had fun. I'm being literal. I heard that all night long. There was a point when the photographer came to our table, we were at tables of five, put Cielo and Mr. Cielo together, took a picture and left. Left the mother of the bride, and the aunt and uncle of the bride sitting there. There are some formal photos but they do not include the extended family which is tragic. Her grandfather, with three years left on him best I can tell, sat on his portable cane/chair watching the entire photoshoot unroll and I wept. Her great aunt and uncle, shy people, uncomfortable at events outside of the immediate vicinity of home, remained where seated in the darkest corner of the barn. Once or twice I saw my aunt skirting the corners like a frightened cat. I got close to her exactly once and that's my fault entirely; rooted to my own chair until someone forced me onto the dance floor where I managed to lose myself for a little while.
When my father came to get me, I think he may have taken me from Elizabeth. During those few minutes I let down. He pulled me in close and I cried into his neck; soft keening, raw bottled emotion pouring up over the top, swirling into a nimbus with bits drifting off into the ether and down to the floor.
I cried for being visible
and I cried because I wasn't ever going to dance with my father again.
And we cried together and were conscious and I'll take that to the grave.
I remember looking for my daughter periodically and being told, they are still with the photographer. At 9 or 9:30 they were still with the photographer. The wedding was over at 10. I gave up. The last time I'd seen my daughter was when I'd passed her to her father during the three way toss the bride relay on the way to the groom. Apparently she'd made a drive by to the table where Cielo and Mr. Cielo were sitting while I was dancing but that was it. When we were getting ready to go, sitting on a picnic table outside the barn she came by and flopped down on the bench and asked if I was having a good time.
I have to go fetch your sister and boyfriend who has pulled his usual and then we are going home.
We had a brief conversation about hair money; she asked if I'd received cash from two of the bridesmaids and I had and indicated that I knew she'd be covering a third but what about the rest and that's when I got the wave of he bridely hand. I got up and walked toward the garden to retrieve the children; my lovely, precious last baby and that unbearable, neurotic boy.
The ride home was a bitch. I was out of gas, wired six ways to hell AND exhausted, and managed to back the rental car into a Jersey barrier at the service station on the parkway. The children were in the back doing God only knows what which I would love to have ignored except it was entirely blocking my view and the rain was torrential. The rental car was in Cielo's name. I wanted to shoot myself.
In the morning I got a text message. She was so happy. She said thank you for the room. I wondered if her sister had poked her eyes out. You're welcome. I'm glad you're happy.
I know that at some point the sting of all this will wear off. I know I will forget the heart break of being invisible to my daughter. I also know that it's time to stop being a checkbook. I am as accountable as she is in terms of making that part easy. I watched the way her father has handled her in the last ten years and while I think he should have done A LOT more then he has done, the fact that there is absolutely nothing she can take for granted changes the relationship entirely.
I was trying to figure out how to stop the hemorrhaging without just cutting an artery because a funny thing happened at her shower. Her stepmother picked up a piece of mail at my house which was addressed to her and handed it to her. It was a tax bill for her car. Stepmother naturally assumed it belonged to Lucia who is nearly 27 and one would think she'd be paying her own tax bills or at least collecting them. Lucia, slapped the envelop into my hand as if it was covered in slime and said, Stepmother gave me this, here. As if I'd done something wrong (in that it got into her hands). I reacted as if I had (I had not) and then self-corrected.
Well, please tell her to put this back where she got it.
The problem as I see it is this. If I am paying some of the expenses for a 27 year old graduate student and the 27 year old graduate student is so removed from those expenses that she doesn't even want to SEE the bill then there's a problem.
That stops ASAP, as in as soon as she gets home.
The auto insurance gets transferred to her husband's policy, her cell phone comes off my plan and goes in her name and her tax bill is, well her tax bill as well as every other expense that goes with owning a car. Whether or not I give her money for any of those expenses based on her course load for the next year remains to be seen but what isn't going to continue to happen is a blind sweep.
And there will be some transparency. I don't know who is supporting her next year. She's not saying. I asked why she didn't need to work and she said something about a donor. I didn't ask. Now I'm asking.
Is it reasonable for my done button to have popped over a wedding? Do I sound like the thirteenth fairy at Sleeping Beauty's christening? Do I care?
- If yes, then maybe we need to question perspective of the Sleeping Beauty story.
- I do not care.
Back on my mother; she did not want to be persona non grata. She asked if she could wear the red dress and I encouraged the red dress. When I showed up in a red dress (far from my mother's red dress) my brother remembered immediately and I could see the long ago judgement in everyone's eyes that the mother of the bride would show up looking like that.
I really wish I'd worn exactly what I fucking wanted to wear INCLUDING the cowboy boots and I'm pretty sure that is the very last time I dress to please anyone. Ever.
It WAS a beautiful wedding. Everyone DID have a good time. This moment, right here, is why I came. It's the handoff.
This may be why mothers work their asses off to be as involved as possible. Scratch that. This may be why mothers work their asses off in a desperate last ditch effort not to be shut out.
We've all seen those beautiful photographs in the dress ads of mothers and daughters at the mirror.
Our hearts break.