The Awful Truth

Marriage: The Embalmment of Love

Published November 18, 1996 10:05AM (EST)

my best friend and old roommate got married the other day. We used
to live like two grubby skater hags, in one big warehouse room with essentially no privacy, and spent our unkempt
evenings together drinking beer on the couch and socking each other in the arm and cackling wildly. This was a
state of bliss and excellence I always held dear, and figured if nothing else in my life worked out, Chirt and I could
be two old filthy cackling women and live in some big cluttered house and renounce everything but books and beer
and possibly a dog together.

However, this fantasy escape route has been completely obliterated by her getting
married. "Can you believe it?" she was saying to me, weeks before. "I'm buying a dress. I'm buying
shoes. What's happening to me?"

Indeed, a shock larger and perhaps more life-altering than
puberty, even. The lashing of herself to the mainmast of another. The renouncing of sexless cackling. The
renouncing of renouncing everything.

A wedding is an unspeakable ordeal. I have been a bridesmaid before, and
I know. It is one small disaster after the next. "Everything, everything cost two hundred dollars more than
everybody said it would," lamented the groom, days before the ceremony. "I just had to squash all my rage and
write checks. Just smile and write the checks. Checks, checks. Everybody took advantage of me because they
knew I was over a barrel, and I couldn't just tell them to fuck off and punch their lights out, or I'd risk losing the
space, the catering ..."

Poor guy, I thought. People getting married, like people having children, have no idea
what's about to happen to them. They suffer and shell out money, so they can suffer and shell out more money,
and have no life and no freedom, etc. etc. forever and ever, Amen. Yet once they do it, they all seem to think it was
all a great idea.

I was thrust into the role of "Maid of Honor." This meant that I had to do things like Get My
Hair Done With The Bride early in the morning, and wear a pink dress that I normally would have looked at with the
evil alacrity of a group of Orinda skinheads discovering an unconscious drag queen lying in their parking lot.

mocked and taunted Chirt all morning. "Bridey! Bridey!" I hollered, to which she smiled and groaned, helpless in the
undertow of impending events. I brought her a beer as she was sitting in the stylist's chair with her curlers. "Here,
you'll need this," I said. She looked at me, puzzled and amused. "You brought me a beer?!" she asked. The
obviousness of needing a beer at 9 a.m. on her wedding day had become a mystery to her. I realized that an
enormous steel door was slamming shut on our lives, forever. "Well, YEAH!" I blurted out, somehow defensive.
She ended up understanding the beer and drinking it, for which I was grateful.

"I'm so nervous," she
said, which I found surprising. "He won't back out now," I told the Bride-to-Be. "He's written too many

"Wedding is theatre," my mother said. "For most girls, this is the only time they're ever really onstage."
It's true: Bride as Ingenue. Bride as the Embodiment of Beauty. Groom as Respectable Future Personified.
Innocence and Beauty Weds Stolid and Secure Respectability in Mutual Bond of Legally Fortified Love. Ideally.
Theatre, I guess. Ritual, really. The difference between Ritual and Theatre being that Ritual will cost you a whole lot

We all managed to get through the short, utilitarian ceremony with a minimum of pain.

midway through the wedding day, the groom leaned over to me and said "Hey, somebody has to trash the car." I
rushed out with holly fronds and doilies from the buffet table. Lumpy (his real name), the Best Man, had a bar of
Zest from his shaving kit and we proceeded to write "Just Married" and "Suckers" all over the Groom's Honda. We
festooned it with toilet paper, we tied soda cans off the back bumper. This societally condoned vandalism had a
wholesome worthlessness about it, like a non-alcoholic beer. It's hard to get a true vandal's hard-on for an act
steeped in Tradition  getting away with something that is a time-honored tradition that you're
supposed to get away with doesn't pack the same creative emotional wallop as doing something that will
truly dismay the victims. But oh, hee hee hee. We trashed the car, us wedding party adults. Boola Boola, won't the
rival college be shocked we stole their goat. Titter titter. Wheee.

The bride's oldest brother is one of these guys who never says a word and lurks around in the background and
looks like he might be dangerously crazy, until you throw him up in front of a group of people and announce that
he's going to make a speech. Then he becomes this fluid genius, like Dylan Thomas on a fresh drunk, rolling into
lyrical free-prose. "Marital partners need to be worthy opponents," he said, wisely. "Your partner is somebody
you're going to need to battle with for the cause of self-improvement for the rest of your lives. The bride and the
groom in this case are pretty evenly matched. If either of them were marrying anybody else, I'd be terrified for the
other person."

Absolutely true, I thought. The worthiest opponent. Somebody with whom you can relentlessly
wage a War on Truth and Love, a socko mate with whom to knock each other's blocks off, then pop them back on
again. Someone who won't flee from the ring whining at the first taste of blood. A psychic animal of the same size
and weight. 'Til death do you part.

Weddings make one want to get married. But one thing has to be self-evident, before one can do it  the
It Is Obvious That We Should Be Married thing. There shouldn't be a shadow of doubt about it, because marriage is
an ordeal of mythological proportions. A Circus of Need. I wish I was needed by somebody. It brought a tear of
self-pity to my eye later, driving home, thinking that the only person who ever said they needed me was dead. But
life is funny and cool, and I have faith in its weird magnetic logic, and eventualities.

When Chirt and I lived
together, I got an emergency phone call one day at the theatre from her mother. "Do you know where Chirt is? I've
got some news..." As it turned out, the younger of her 2 brothers had just fallen through some thin ice in Sweden
with his girlfriend, and both of them had died. I watched Chirt go through this terrible grief for around a year and a
half  she was torn through with devastation. She and her brother were very close. They had language
between them like twins  some long alphabet of non-sequiturs that could reduce them to red explosions of
tearful laughter. He was one of the main anchors into the world for her.

The other person most affected by
Chirt's brother's death was the late brother's best friend. The best friend and Chirt became pals through coping with
the loss together  they did a lot of crying and walking and talking and remembering. Then the other day
they got married. Unreasonable pain turned itself inside out, and through it came astonishing joy.

"He cried all
the way to Calistoga," said Chirt of her groom, a few days after the honeymoon. "He said he'd never been that
happy before; he'd never cried because he was happy. He didn't know he could be that happy." The whiplash agony
and ecstacy of human life, exemplified. Up, down. Up, down. A little higher up, if you're lucky, every time.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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