February 20, 2008

What Not To Mention

As this blog becomes more and more popular, it illustrates a paradox between my alter ego, Mr. Grudge, and the real me. Here, I write articles, stories, and personal essays, and no one seems to get too rankled by the content of any subject I broach. Contrast that with my social life, and the differences are glaring.

You may be surprised to learn that I have the unerring ability to stick my foot in my mouth in any social situation. It’s not my fault as I am being chastised by unseen forces in the universe which are out to get me. When my wife and I are with people we are meeting for the first time, or with family, or even close friends, predictably, I'll say something which should have been left off the table, if you will. It’s not that I want to hurt anyone’s feelings; it’s because I’m a bit of a social oaf. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting others and having a good laugh with friends, but my mouth often operates before my brain has a chance to put itself into gear. As a result, I’ve had some awkward moments.

Before we go to a party or dinner with other couples, my darling spouse covers a list of things I probably shouldn’t mention since it may cause a bit of an uncomfortable situation with those who will be present. She’ll say things like “Gary lost his job so don’t ask him about work, John and Teresa are getting divorced so don't ask if they are going to have kids, and the doctors have no idea what that hairy, bulbous thing is growing our of Ron's forehead so don't stare at it, and God help you if you point to him and ask him what he's going to do about that.” You get the idea. Do you think I get the hint? Most of the time; but, there are always items which slip past even my wife who spends an awful lot of time compiling her list of “don’t say that’s” before we go to a social event.

Long ago, when we were planning our wedding, my “then fiancĂ©” and I were at a diner with friends discussing our plans. The couple we were with, Millie and Ted, knew my wife long before the two of us met. In fact, the girlfriend, Millie, and my wife went to high school together. This couple was with my wife on the night we met for the first time. It is also important to note that we attended their wedding.

I hated Millie and Ted’s wedding. The party was such a crashing bore that I counted fire extinguishers, ceiling tiles, and checked out the cute, young women in the crowd to entertain myself. I even played my favorite wedding game “spot the old bridesmaids dress” where I look at a female guest and determine if the gown she is wearing was in fact a recycled bridesmaids evening dress she wore at another nuptial as a member of the bridal party.

You know what I am talking about. These are dresses fashioned out of material which Hollywood uses for space traveler costumes in low budget science fiction films. Many of these garments have an enormous bow, which for some reason designers place on the back of each dress just above the buttocks making it difficult for the woman to sit. I guess they figure that any girl in the bridal party is going to be whooping it up on the dance floor all night and they won’t need a chair. Also, the colors these dresses come in disregard God’s natural rainbow with a defiant fist, as they are never used for any other type of clothing. They include: Burnt Orange, Apricot, Chianti, Buttercup, Dusty Lavender, Kiwi, and my favorite, Lipstick. Only a friend would wear these colors out in public for another friend. And, I don’t blame a woman for wanting to get more mileage out of a few yards of satin that she shelled out $350 for just to wear for a few hours. But, I digress.

Their wedding was so bad that even the Dee Jay they hired was appalling enough to make one uncomfortable. He was an older gentleman who not only played music from the 1940’s most of the evening; his mixing console used cassette tapes. Not CDs, not vinyl records, but cassette tapes. He’d speak into his Omni directional microphone to announce a tune, and if his head veered an inch to the right or left you couldn’t hear him. What you could hear was the sound of him plopping in the tape over the P.A. system, and then the sibilant hiss of the tape winding across the tape heads before the song played. It was appalling.

I was seated at a table with my wife and all of her friends from high school and I didn’t know a single one of them. They didn’t even want to talk to me as they laughed and giggled about their "rebellious" teenaged exploits such as when in the tenth grade they all jumped into Bobby Johnson’s father’s station wagon and went to the barn dance and drank beer in the parking lot. What a truckload of dorks. It was stories like that one which made me rethink our engagement. Nevertheless, I was absolutely writhing in boredom. My eyes held a morbid curiosity with the fumbling, unskilled, Dee Jay as he whipped out another timeless classic from "The Andrews Sisters." Incredulous, I turned to the young lady next to me, pointed to the man with my thumb and chuckled “Do you believe this guy?” Suggesting that he was some sort of clown. She leaned towards me and said, “Yeah, he’s my uncle.”

What are the chances of me choosing his niece out of an auditorium full of two hundred people to make that comment to? If I had those types of odds playing in my favor while playing the lottery, I wouldn’t be blogging right now; I’d have servants doing it.

That brings me back to two years after Millie and Ted’s dreadful wedding. The four of us were in the diner discussing our wedding plans. By coincidence, and after investigating dozens of wedding halls, my wife and I settled on the same venue where Millie and Ted had their reception. There were two options for a cocktail hour. You can host one indoors with a small band and a bar. Or, you can have the cocktail hour outside under a large awning on the side of the building. Millie lobbied hard for us to host the cocktail hour outdoors.

“Are you kidding?” my mouth said. “Like I want to sit outside under a converted car port, next to the chain link fence where the valets park the guests’ cars on the other side, and have exhaust fumes seeping into the hors dourves, and then everyone can marvel at the portable, electric, plastic, fountain which they wheel out on a drink cart and place next to the waxy, yellow, cheese dish.”

I sat back and watched Millie squirm. My wife’s head hanged low. Then Millie spoke. “We had the cocktail hour outside and it was nice.”

Oops, I forgot. I had completely erased their wedding from my memory. Lucky for me Millie brushed my comment off. She was more accommodating than perhaps I would have been if I were on the receiving end of such an ill-mannered remark.

I don’t know if I’ll change. At my age, maybe I don’t want to. After writing this post, I can make the argument that I am merely creating material for my novels and for this blog. But, we’re still friends with Millie and Ted. I’m just not allowed to mention their reception with them around. In fact all weddings are off limits. And, if I ever embarrass my wife like that ever again, she told me that I'd find myself eligible to marry some other woman who may be willing to put up with my constant slip-ups. That’s okay, as long as we don’t have the cocktail hour outdoors.

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