"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Monday, July 26, 2010


Two weeks before one's wedding one may experience a certain amount of nervousness. One may have dreams in which all of the above happen: the wedding dress is accidentally dyed green, a cat attacks the bride, the bride's house burns down, the bride's brother drives the bride's car into a lake as a joke, the bride becomes allergic to her lipstick while trying to say vows, an attic full of starving cats monopolizes the brides time and she misses the wedding, the bride falls into the lake, the bride's students show up randomly at the wedding and do annoying things, the starving cats are thrown in a giant dumpster against the bride's will, the reception dinner has giant tufts of hair in it.

Two things are clear. One, I have a perplexing issue with cats. Two, I am a little anxious.

It isn't surprising. In a sense, it's a big performance in front of people who, if you screw it up, will be around to make fun of you for it the rest of your life. In another, it's a photo shoot and the pictures are going to be all over the place for, again, the rest of your life. It's a big party that you HOPE people will remember fondly for, you guessed it, the rest of your life. Really it's that all of a sudden you keep ending sentences with "the rest of your life" and it's a bit unnerving. The only time I used that phrase before this was when I got a tattoo, and no one knows I have it unless I'm naked or wearing a particularly unfortunate outfit. Just I will forever be a person who got a tattoo, I will now forever be a married person. A whole new me.

Now I know that this is an exaggeration. I can hear people clucking their tongues and saying something about marriage completing your identity, not compromising it. Fine. I think that marriage probably will do that, actually. However, being a bride, near as I can tell, has nothing to do with being a wife. And so far, my Bridentity continues to surprise me.

First off, I never EVER thought I would be susceptible to the marketing machine that is American weddings. I avoided fancy invitations. I dodged an expensive, white dress. I borrowed stuff. I left the tables blank without placecards and centerpieces. Yet...it wore me down. Thanks to the information age, I don't have to tell anyone except Facebook that I am engaged, and marketers send me stuff via mail, email, pop up ads, phone...it's endless. At first I didn't care. I didn't even click on something that said, "wedding cake trends you'll love" or "we've got the secret to a perfect wedding day". Then slowly but surely I became intrigued. What wasn't I doing that other brides were? What was I going to forget?

They had me. My ass was ordering personalized chocolates within a week. I had checklists. I bought ribbons. Colors began to match. The more I planned, the more anxious I became. I had dreams about being trapped in a basement while the reception went on without me. Lost in a jungle getting eaten by bugs. The wedding takes place in my school's gym (which doesn't exist) and all the parents are there but none of my friends. I get ridiculed during the ceremony for lack of support for our troops.

It goes on and on and on.

One of the most exciting things for a bride, if you ask the internet, is changing her name. I had always insisted that I would keep my name. Recently, upon applying for our marriage license, I had to make it official. We drove to City Hall and held hands on our way into the building. That was sweet, but I had iced coffee, which gets cold, so I kind of wanted to let go in order to switch grips.

I've been to City Hall twice, not counting protests directly outside of it. The first time was when I lost my passport on the way to Germany. I kept thinking about that on the way over there. Was this marriage thing another instance of lost identity?

We walked into the giant zoo of a building, and needed directions. We felt weird asking. It was sort of like asking how to make out with someone. Like we were childish in our inability to get married without assistance. City workers make it easy to be unashamed, however, and barely acknowledge you while pointing to an escalator.

The registration area kind of reminded me of the Kentucky Derby; all of these lines leading to windows half covered with grates like city store fronts. I was betting it all on one horse. We scanned the signs. Registration: Births. Registration: Births. Registration: Births. Registration: Births. Registration: Births. Registration: Births. Registration: Parking clerk.

Hmm. The window for marriages was wedged between parking and birthing window number 1. We waited in line behind several people who seemed either very put out or just as confused as we were. The women behind the counter traded places, handed out papers and pointed to other windows without ever speaking or looking at one another. A bureaucratic ballet. When we finally arrived at our turn, we again felt strange.

"Uh, we want to get married."

She handed us a clipboard, made rapid x marks where we sign, and told us, "has to be in black ink. Bring it back when you're done."

I opted to fill in my portion first. I filled in the whole thing, excepting one spot. Was I going to keep my name? I didn't want his name, I wanted my name. But why was I hesitating? What was this antiquated bullshit doing in my brain?

I stared at the thing for a minute or so, doing an inner check in. My fiance was pacing and moving his coffee around and looking over my shoulder and checking his iPhone.

My inner self said, "you already bought the chocolates, don't let the machine change your mind on this one." So I didn't.

[braveheart voice]
You may take 49.95 for some lame chocolates, wedding machine, but you can't have my name!