The Last Rebellion—Weddings

The Last Rebellion—Weddings

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

The Last Rebellion—Weddings

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me but I think she enjoyed it.

Mark Twain

My son, now an eminent professional approaching midlife, has been mostly successful in cutting that infamous umbilical cord after a lifetime of passionate battles beginning in the playpen. For him, the phrase guilt trip was routine vocabulary when he was barely out of diapers.

“Finish your broccoli; they’re starving in Biafra,” I’d cry.

“You’re trying to give me a guilt trip,” he’d reply.

A product of the rebellious ’60s and ’70s, he caused episodic disharmony in our home as he fended off legendary guilt trips, while challenging established attitudes toward sex and marriage, money, religion, recreation, music, food or appearance. Like my mother before me, I was an overprotective and controlling parent. My son taught me “esoteric” philosophy: holding my tongue and walking on eggs. His battles for independence waged and won, some resentments lingered. The last arena of rebellion and confrontation: wedding celebrations.

Halfway into his twenties, David arrived from his home out of state to attend the wedding of my friend’s daughter and asked if I would hem his new “wedding pants.” I was relieved—and delighted to do so. The invitation had read, “black-tie optional,” and I was skeptical about his owning appropriate clothing. My husband and I wanted to buy him an outfit, but fearful of suggesting anything that could be construed as an assault upon his personhood, we remained silent.

The “wedding pants” turned out to be khaki cotton chinos! I do not attribute his choice to rebellion—not that day. Perhaps he was merely ignorant of wedding garb outside his circle of friends who were marrying on the beach, in the woods or on a mountaintop and to whom a new pair of khaki chinos would have been akin to formal attire.

“I see you want to be comfortable, but since this is a dress-up affair, chinos are inappropriate. The choice is yours of course; think about it.”

Having incorporated the walking-on-eggs philosophy, that is what I could have said, what I should have said, what I didn’t say.

Instead, I roared, “You can’t wear those pants to a wedding.”

“I can wear whatever I wish,” he roared back. “You are trying to give me a guilt trip.” The ensuing battle of wills and words was not a tribute to either his maturity or mine. He declined subsequent black-tie invitations from friends and family alike.

When it was his turn to walk down the aisle, acceding to his fiancé’s wishes, he prepared himself for an extravaganza crammed with preceremony rehearsals, luncheons and dinners, which relegated black-tie optional to the insignificant. Searching through flea markets and used clothing stores, he found a frayed but dashing Victorian cutaway that assuaged his need for nonconformity. Nevertheless, his marriage began to disintegrate, even before he chimed “I do,” during those days preceding the huge gala, as his resentments against pomp and tradition mounted. I believe the wedding gestalt contributed to his divorce not many years afterward.

“Love is nature’s second sun,” so it was not surprising when, after five years of bachelorhood, his cutaway hanging expectantly in the closet, David declared his intention to marry again.

“The wedding will be small, it will take place outdoors, and the guest list will include intimate friends and immediate relatives only,” he informed me. He wanted the most “harmonious vibes.” I nodded my head to everything, in total blissful agreement. What occasion in life is more joyful than a child’s marriage?

I then learned that a street minister, colorfully attired and barefooted, would conduct the ceremony. David was bored with ritual ceremony, a ceremony with religious and spiritual significance to me. I was distressed, but having at long last mastered the technique of addressing sensitive subjects, I quietly told him how I felt.

“Distressed?” he bellowed. “You cannot feel distressed. It is my wedding and my choice as to who performs the ceremony.”

“Distressed?” he repeated. “You can feel distressed if I have a terminal illness. You can feel distressed if I do drugs or sell drugs. You can feel distressed if I rob a bank. You are trying to give me a guilt trip.”

Two weeks later, David called and announced that if I could produce a female rabbi, with acceptable vibes, willing to go along with his concept of a meaningful ceremony, he would bow to my wishes. I never knew his motivation. Did he really want to please me? Was he influenced by his somewhat more traditional fiancé? Was he acknowledging his heritage? It didn’t matter.

Heavy rainfall and storm warnings were predicted for that memorable day in mid-October. Instead, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, then appeared in its full regalia, glorious and warming. The groom, heeding his own wedding invitation dress-code suggestions—colorful, casual and comfortable—wore a purple and black striped knit shirt with his old cutaway. From her closet, his bride had selected purple dotted tights and a print blouse that she topped with a white blazer. Together they greeted their baby-boomer guests, some of them attired in T-shirts and denim shorts. Under a grand old copper beech tree, which doubled as a chuppah, the young blonde rabbi with “acceptable vibes” and the elderly black barefoot minister presided over a two-hour ceremony, accompanied by a trio of friends on guitar, bass and drum.

Amid uproarious laughter and buckets of tears, the customary seven blessings were presented in the context of a puppet show, a flute solo, an original prayer, poetry readings, group chanting, a dramatic performance and a love story told in rap. The young couple, reciting a long scroll of wedding vows, was united in the presence of God, the glare of the sun, the scent of marigold, cooing babies and nursing mothers. I probably laughed the loudest and cried the most. No guilt trips have been exchanged since.

Ruth Lehrer

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