After about 2.5 hours into our flight from Toronto to Vancouver for my cousin's wedding, I punched my husband Rob and said: "Oh my God…I bet that I am the only one of the seven bridesmaids who decided that wearing a dress the colour of tinfoil was super tacky. I bet that I am the only one who decided to avoid looking like a freak and used the non-shiny side of the material to make my dress." And Rob said: "Yeah...probably..whatever", and went to sleep.
"Carol…Carol…" I am hyperventilating into the phone.
"Who is this calling? Is this a crank call because if it is I'm calling the police."
"Carol…its me, its Natalie. I need help."
"Who the fuck is this."
"Carol…its Natalie. Remember me from three years ago…red hair, big boobs, you made my wedding dress."
"Oh Natalie. Right. What's up."
"Carol." I gasp.
"Ok girl, chill out. What's the problem."
What's the problem. OK. Here's the problem. I'm lying on my bed in the fetal position holding the phone in one hand and a piece of what I think is aluminum foil in the other.
"I need you to make me a dress out of tinfoil."
"I need you to make me a dress out of tinfoil."
"Are you going to a drag queen's coming out party or a Jewish wedding."
Oh Carol…I love you.
"The latter…" I said. "My cousin is getting married in Vancouver. There are seven bridesmaids. I need to wear a silver dress."
"Silver on red hair.." Now Carol is gasping into the phone.
"Yes." I manage.
"Come and see me immediately."
"Silver on red hair." Carol is holding the material up to my face, my pale, pale, skin. "Oy and Veh."
Carol is a 6ft1 absolutely gorgeous black woman. When she says "Oy Veh", she means it.
"I know." I said.
"OK…right." She thinks for a minute. "I can't make this dress."
"Can you get sick for the wedding."
"Wait…I have an idea…lets use the other side."
She turns the material over. The other side is atrocious but in a less disturbing way.
"What do you call this colour?" I asked trying to figure out how to explain this to my cousin.
"I call it Grey Matte."
Grey Matte. I repeat this over in my head a few times.
"Joyce, hey its me". Can I wear the Grey Matte side of the material to the wedding."
"Yeah sure…that's fine."
"What's everyone else doing…"
"Um…I don't know exactly…but that's totally cool if you wear the other side."
On the West Coast, everything is preceded by "totally". It’s the East Coast's version of "like."
"Thanks…that's great..how are you doing with all this wedding stuff." I ask.
"Its totally awesome. I'm so happy, y'know. Its going to be totally great."
I hang up the phone relieved.
After about 3.5 hours into our flight from Toronto to Vancouver for my cousin's wedding, I said to Rob: "Rob...I bet you this is going to be some totally flaky, totally pseudo hippie feel the love type wedding ." And Rob said: "Yeah...probably...whatever", and turned on the French news channel even though he doesn't understand French.
When we finally got to Vancouver, we went right to my cousin's house where everyone was completely hung over from being at the strip club the night before. I was quickly briefed as to what the deal was with this wedding. Apparently, my cousin had spent the previous evening in not one, but two strip clubs. However, prior to going to the second strip club, she had decided to go to the mikvah a ritual bath that ultra-religious Jewish women go to purify themselves before they get married.
OK...let me give you a little context. These two go to synagogue less than I do. They do not observe any Jewish rituals to the best of my knowledge. Thus, her decision to do the mikvah thing was somewhat interesting to me. However, I said nothing. I showed restraint. I did however, roll my right eye slightly into the back of my head but I don't think anyone noticed.
I was then informed that my cousin Joyce had recently discovered and/or decided that she came from a particular sect of Judaism that has this tradition of putting a henna tattoo on one's hands and feet. This was all brand new to me but since I know squat about this kind of stuff, I said nothing. I showed restraint. I did not roll my eyes. But then that familiar feeling that starts at the base of my digestive tract and winds itself into the base of my gut started to emerge. And in such a moment of direness; in such a moment of distress, I resorted to habit and began composing a letter to Prudence, my beloved college roomate.
Oh my Jesus Christ Lord and the saints and their wives and mistresses. I am about to commit a fashion faux pas the size of Manhattan including all boroughs and White Plains. I know you thought it bad taste when I wore sweaters the colour of the residuals of a bad stomach ache but this is beyond even that.
"They" are making me put this red shit on my hands and feet. My hands and feet are going to be exactly the same colour as my hair. With a little grey matte added in for extra effect….
I paused mid-sentence and scrounged around the house for a cigarette, tossing their diminutive dog out the window in the process. No smokes. And why would there be… this is flippen Vancouver. There is anti-smoking legislation up the wing-wang.
The West Coast is uptight you know-they just hide it behind a thin mask of pseudo sophisticated mellow-ness. Inside, they are all seething-seething like the anal retentive a-typed coffee obsessed crazed maniacs that they are. How do I know this, you ask naively. Well, I answer you. Think about it. Who lives on the West Coast. In California---its all ex-New Yorkers. In Vancouver, its all ex-Torontonians. All this means is that you have a bundle of nerves concentrated in an area condemned to certain death by unfixable fault lines. What could be more hellish--I ask you thusly. What could be more hellish.
I found an old butt and sat on the step when Joyce came out. She asked me how I minded going barefoot for the ceremony and I almost kissed the ground. Finally...a tradition that works for me. I had previously been told that I needed to wear heels which was the closest thing to a sure guarantee of a broken ankle. No shoes sounded good to me. I did however inquire politely if I could wear my white Chuck T's.
That was Friday: I had been in Vancouver exactly 3 hours. I had lived a lifetime.
Saturday morning, we all took the ferry to Galiano Island (Galiano being the key ingredient along with vodka and orange juice in a Harvey Wallbanger). We got to this island which was, and I quote, "picture perfect." Things that are picture perfect are frightening. Especially when they are deliberately picture perfect because you have to take a moment and wonder how it got that way. What are they hiding exactly? Contemplating that thought, I headed out to the Bed and Breakfast thing where the wedding was supposed to be.
People who own bed and breakfasts are all axe-murderers. Every time I wind up in a place like this, I take a moment and look around the grounds for potential hiding places for dead bodies. It is at times like this where Rob just sighs quietly to himself.
Saturday afternoon: we have a rehearsal for the wedding at 2:00. At 3:30, we are still waiting to start. This guy named William is running the show. William is Joyce's best friend. William has recently decided he is gay and has decided that everyone needs to know. I want to ask William desperately if he's a top or bottom, a giver rather than a taker, but once again I keep quiet.
I notice right off the bat that in fact I was right. I am the only bridesmaid wearing the other side of the tinfoil material. I am also the only bridesmaid not wearing a strapless dress. I am also the only bridesmaid with hair past her shoulders.
"Dear Prudence: Oh boy, did I fuck up. All the other bridesmaids are wearing strapless tinfoil dresses. They look like leftovers from dinner…OK..that wasn't nice, I know. But this sucks rocks, like rocks the size of Stonehenge. And get this…these chicks are all Jews but they are all kinds of blonde with little perky boobs. How is that possible, I ask you? They have mange-cake boobs. And to go along with their perky little boobs, they have perky little voices. And their hair is perfect. How can you have perfect bobby-pinned up hair with the wisps exactly positioned to blow sweetly in the wind. I haven't brushed my hair in months, much less cut it. Who wears bobby pins in the year 2001 anyway-didn't that go out with blue eyeliner?
Normally, wedding rehearsals take about 30 minutes. This one took 2 hours. It took 2 hours because there were 20 people in the wedding party. It took 2 hours because Gabe and Joyce had seemingly bought a book on Jewish weddings and arbitrarily decided what rituals they were including. Apparently, this had all been approved by the rabbi whom, we were told, was quite a character- a "free spirit" were the actual words used.
I did roll my eyes noticeably when I heard that. I had to.
Then there was the consummation business. Apparently, after the ceremony, the bride and groom were going to leave the wedding scene for about 20 minutes and go upstairs somewhere and "consummate" their marriage. Apparently, this ritual is done to show that the bride was in fact a virgin at the time of her wedding.
As this was being announced to us, another cousin, Beth, and I looked at each other. Beth and I are complete opposites. Beth is very tall, very thin, very beautiful: a very well put together by-product of the Jewish community. But at that moment, we had a total meeting of the minds. She said: "I know exactly what you are thinking." And I said, "I know exactly what you're thinking." And she said: "Are you going to say something?" And I said: "Oh, do I want to." And she said. "Oh, do I want to." And I said: "Ok, you're older, you say it." And she said: "No, you saw it...you say it." And I said: "OK." And I looked toward the wedding party, on that beautiful rainy afternoon, overlooking some flippen' West Coast water body, and I said very loudly and very clearly. "Ladies and Gentleman, I am hear to share with all of you a very important piece of information that may come as a big surprise to you. Gabe and Joyce live together. They have been doing so for the last 3 years. There is exactly one bed in that apartment and they share it. And even if some of you may think that for the last three years, they have done nothing but sleep in that bed, I am here to tell you that you are deeply mistaken....I know that you are mistaken...Why do I know that...I know because one night about two years ago, I went downstairs to get something and I saw them having sex. Yes...caught them right in the act. I have indeed borne witness."
You would have thought there may have been silence. You would have thought that maybe there was a point to my little soliloquy. But no...no...I was told that in fact, this little twenty minutes of whatever was, are you ready for this, a symbol of them consummating their marriage.
And then it was evening
And then it was morning
The day of the wedding.
I decided within exactly 25 seconds that I did not like Rabbi Yitzchak Horowitz. At the age of about 55, Rabbi Horowitz was still cultivating a very serious, very pretentious, very self-righteous, self-centered hippie look that in my somewhat intolerant frame of mind was just stupid.
When I got married, the ceremony from beginning to end was exactly 17 minutes.
About 45 minutes into this ceremony, Rob totally forgot that he was standing in front of about 100 people and began a fascinating conversation with himself about something that only he can tell you about. About 60 minutes into the ceremony, Rabbi Horowitz had read from about 5 books including something by Judy Blume and was now talking about his mentor Father Moshe who had taught him everything he knew. About 75 minutes into the ceremony, Rabbi Horowitz pointed to the musicians and introduced Brother Shugie. Brother Shugie was the musician playing the hand drums with the coolest, longest braids I have seen outside of the NBA. As I was counting Brother Shugie's braids, one of the perky boobed blonde bridesmaids started laughing. And then the perky boobed blonde bridesmaid standing next to her started laughing and so on and so on until it got to me and even though my boobs haven't been perky since puberty, I started laughing also. Rabbi Horowitz was not pleased with us. Rabbi Horowitz decided to make us all suffer a little longer.
90 minutes later...the wedding ceremony is over. A woman comes around with champagne. I needed something stronger. I located the bottle of scotch Rob had brought for emergencies like this. Looked for a glass, couldn't find one. Didn't care. These were desperate times. Took the bottle in hand and downed it. Forgot that scotch is strong. Forgot I had not eaten in about 6 hours. Felt great. Went to find Rabbi Horowitz. Had a question for him.
Rabbi Horowitz was jamming with the band. That's exactly what he said to me when I said hello. "Hey Holy Sister," he said to me, I'm jamming with the band.
Don’t you $#$#$@ call me Holy Sister, sweetheart or I’m going to stuff your Birkenstocks down your throat.
I didn’t say that.
I said: “Hey Rabbi…listen…I totally dug your service man and I really gotta ask you where all that groovy talk comes from”
And he said: “Hey holy sister… let me finish this tune and we can hang by the tree over there.”
I gave him the two thumbs up and proceeded to sit under the designated tree.
Rabbi Horowitz saunters over to tree and he puts his hand on my shoulder and looks at me soulfully right in the eyes and says. "So holy sister what’s on your mind."
I gently slide my shoulder out from under his hand and look at him soulfully right in the eyes and I say: "So Rabbi…I know a bit about Judaism though obviously not as much as yourself and I’m just curious as to what kind of Judaism you practice? Is it Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Humanist, Reconstruction, Deconstruction, Egalitarian, , make-it-up-as-you-go-along?"
"Holy sister," he says, "its all of those. It’s the whole thing. Its anything. Its everything. It’s the whole Garden of Eden."
"Really. So, what school did you graduate from?"
"Well…sweet sister …its like this see…I was ordained as a rabbi three times. Three times. The last time, I was ordained by Father Moshe right hear on Galiano Island."
"There is a rabbinical school on Galiano Island?"
"Sweet Sister, there is a rabbinical school wherever you want there to be a rabbinical school. God is everywhere, on this island; on that island, in between all the islands-He is everywhere."
Did you know that God is everywhere. I think one night you decided that you saw God. I think we had decided to take mushrooms that night and you gave into primal instinct and began cleaning our room for the first time that year. I think when you got to my hairbrush and saw that in fact it contained enough hair to help the patients down at the Mayo Clinic, you announced that you had seen the Lord himself.
"So would you consider yourself to be a real rabbi?"
"I am whatever you want me to be sister. I can be whomever you want me to be. I can be your Adam, your Eve…"
I finished his thought in my head: your Sonny, your Cher, your Donny, your Marie, your Captain, your Tenille.
"That’s beautiful," I replied. "That is really really beautiful. I need to go inside and write all of that down."
Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy. And its not over yet. Not by a long shot. Remember my friend Danny. You know, the one who slept with everything that walked, that did it with some married chick on the airplane on the way to my wedding; who at my nice Jewish camp in the middle of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin got caught sleeping with a 15 year old. Yes him…He's getting married next week and so I get to do this all over again on some flippen beach in Southern California, on yet another West Coast waterbody, in yet some other tacky coloured dress.
When will it end, dear Prudence, I ask you: when will it end.