Monthly Archives: July 2012

21. A disastrous wedding

We arrived at the rehearsal at the church just in time.  At one point, I got so angry with my sister that I  said, “You are no longer my Maid of Honor,  Linda is!”  Linda was the best friend from second grade who should have been Maid of Honor in the first place.

We all arrive at a quaint, small restaurant for the rehearsal dinner.  Although we confirmed it, there’s no reservation for us.  They give us free gin and tonics and tell us to go stand outside in the parking lot.  The restaurant is packed.

To the waitress’s chagrin, two friends of mine crash the rehearsal dinner.

We slept at a bed and breakfast and I slipped into my wedding gown, the best thing about the wedding.  It had off the shoulder short sleeves, and was embroidered with beads, with a long train.  I had been working on my Ph.D. while planning the wedding 3,000 miles away, and I had been so frazzled that when I picked up the gown, I left my car running and l9cked myself out of it.

The veil had a headband over the top of my head.  A bridesmaid helped pull half my hair back and curled the rest of my hair.  I wore a single pearl  on a gold neckless from my mom and a garner belt of blue.

In the limo on the way to the wedding, I did shots–not a great idea.  I had written my own vows and was terrified that I would forget them.

When I walked down the aisle alone to Handel’s  water music, holding a large bouquet of lavender and peach flowers, my Brown friends turned and revealed that they were all wearing Groucho Marx noses and eyebrows.  I thought it funny at the time, but now I consider it inappropriate and offensive at a traditional church wedding.

We then headed to the reception which was held at a large shingled colonial inn that overlooked three bodies of water.  “Bolero” was playing loudly as we arrived.

My mother made a speech about her own town hall wedding.  Nothing about how much she loved me, how much she loved Josh, why we were so good together.  The best man, who had come to Seattle to spend a few days getting to know me, did not like me.  He made a brief statement of congratulations, no speech.

My mom then gave the toast–and got my name wrong.  She called me “Catherine,” a name she had on her mind because my freshman roommate Catherine had not bothered to R.S.V.P. and my Mom didn’t know whether to pay for her dinner.

Afterwards. slightly drunk, I went over to my Mother’s table and threw a napkin down, “The least you could do was remember my name!”

Then I started bawling.  Mascara was running down my face and making raccoon circles around my eyes.  “My mom is ruining my wedding” I sobbed.

“It’s your day, ” Linda’s parents told me, “Go have fun and enjoy yourself.”

We danced the first dance to our song, “Darling you send me,” by Sam Cook.

One game we played was tossing the garter belt.  My cousin Billy caught it, and somehow my lesbian Brown friend’s leg was chosen.  Connie hemmed and hawed at the political incorrectness, not realizing Billy’s brain had been damaged in a car accident.  She finally begrudgingly went along with it, and Billy slipped the garter belt on her thigh.  This from a woman who asked me sardonically if I would wear white to my wedding.

The wedding was over too soon, I had barely spoken to everyone during  my rounds.

My mom had read somewhere that each guest should take home a gift, so she chose African violets, which no one really wanted.  She had many left-over violets piled in her car.

“There’s no room in the car for me to take you to the airport,” she said.

I got  a phone book and on the eve of my wedding day I was calling taxis, coaches, and limos trying to get a ride to the airport.  No one would come to the Island.  We were stressed.

That night I excitedly opened the gifts.  There were joke gifts.  Connie and her girlfriend had given us a cardboard cut out of a baby and some cans containing fake snakes that jumped out.  Someone gave us cheap beads that a psychic might hang.  Someone else gave us a picnic basket with an egg in it which I wanted to smash against the wall.  A good friend gave me a wooden rooster.  I had registered china and silver and kitchen ware, all of which we desperately needed, at Bloomingdale’s.  Only my old boss gave me some of the china I wanted.  Again, I was in tears my wedding night.  We did not make love and turned in early.  We left the window open a little resulting in Josh waking up with a cold.

The next morning at breakfast my mom was still adamant that we couldn’t ride in her car.  Her precious violets were more important than us.  My mom’s house was overrun with plants, some cuttings that were scrawny and ugly looking.

Finally I got in the driver’s seat, told Josh and my mom to get in, and demanded the keys.  I was so furious and determined that my mother gave in.  I drove like a bat out of hell, my teeth gritted, to JFK airport.  We boarded a plane back to Seattle: we would spend one night there before flying to Puerta Vallarta.

When we returned to Seattle we were exhausted.  The phone rang and I answered it.  It was the chairman of the theater department.  He said that because I was missing the orientation party, he would dock my pay.  The orientation party was a stupid, unnecessary shindig  where the graduate students met each other.  I hung up on him.

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20. A Nice Day for a White Wedding

My mother wore a long white lace gown for my wedding.  I was only 25, and barely educated in wedding etiquette.  I hadn’t been to many weddings.  So when we shopped together at Nordstrom, I didn’t stop her when she found
“the perfect dress.”

Mom was paying for the wedding, as my alcoholic Dad and I were estranged.  When he heard I was getting married, he said I’d be divorced a year later.  I still hated him for leaving my Mother for his long time mistress, his secretary.  He left the day of my high school graduation, so I “acted out” to put it mildly.

I stood on the honors platform and glared at the audience with scorn, like I was Stephen King’s Carrie.  I was disgusted with the topic of the valedictorian’s speech, which was about the positive effects of nuclear energy.  When we got outside and were throwing our hats into the air, I attacked the school bully, screaming that she was “a nothing, a nobody.”  I was still mad at her for overhearing her in the bathroom saying, “Who invited her to the party?” And other mean things about me.

I made my sister the maid of honor, which was a mistake.  I lived in Seattle, she lived in Chicago, and the wedding  would be held in Shelter Island, New York,  in the church in the green across the street from our summer house.  I had never been close to my sister.  She wasn’t excited about the wedding or eager to perform her duties.  As a result, there was no shower, no engagement party, no bachelorette party.

In fact, no one was excited about my wedding except my best friend from second grade, who oohed and aaaahed and was thrilled for me. I had just graduated with a Masters in creative writing from Brown, and my friends from Brown comprised most of the guests.  I was known for being an outspoken feminist at Brown, so my friends were in shock that I was getting married so young to a man who proposed to me four months after we met.  At a get-together in New York City, my friends interrrogated me.  Why was I doing this?  Why was I being so hasty?  I replied that I was in love.  They treated that as a flimsy excuse.

When we announced our nuptials to Josh’s parents and family, no one said anything.  Finally my soon-to-be sister-in-law piped up and turned to Josh’s brother and said, “When are we getting married?”stealing the focus.  No one congratulated us.  Soon after, Josh’s brother proposed to Jan, and their wedding plans superceded ours.  They were married a week before our wedding.

My mom, who was excited about the wedding, set into full gear, taking courses in calligraphy (she made ink blots on the envelopes) and wedding planning.  But when I visited her with a gay friend of mine, Jay, she flew into a rage.

“Why did Josh move to  Seattle from New York City?  He couldn’t make it in New York?”  She shrieked in front of Jay and me.  She was pacing back and forth, in a rage, railing against my fiance.  “You’re mother’s crazy, completely nuts,” said Jay.  Until he said that, I hadn’t really thought of my mother that way.  It was always my Dad who was the crazy one.  I remembered a saying, “If you think one parent is the problem, the real problem is the other one.”

Shelter Island is about three hours away from my Mom’s house on Long Island.  I was sitting in the salon, my hair highlighted and curled, waiting for my Mother to pick me up for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Finally, my sister arrived, and said coldly and dryly, “Mom is using Bob Dob’s old station wagon to drive with the dress so it won’t get wrinkled, and the station wagon isn’t working.”

“We have to leave now to make it to the rehearsal!”

“I’ll take you home now.”

When we arrived home, my mother was waving her hands wildly in the air, flagging down the car.

“Have you seen my purse?!!  I’ve lost my purse!   It had ten thousand dollars in it to pay for the wedding!”  My mother was hysterical.  After frantically calling every store she’d been to that day, she tried retracing her steps.  Finally, she found the purse in the back yard, where she had dropped it when taking a photo.

We convinced her to forget about wrinkling the dress and to just put it in her toyota corolla.  We had about one and a half hours to get to the church.  My mother flew down the highway, and we got into a huge fight, with me screaming at her about Bob Dob and the time and losing her purse and carrying that amount of cash.  She said something scornful about “Me and my rich friends.”  At one point I was sure she was going to leave me on the side of the highway with my dress.

(to be continued…)

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19. A Botched Make Over

I returned from Paris two weeks before Dudface and Hayden, and set about finding a new place to live.  A room opened up at Marvin Gardens, a brick Victorian building.  It was a vegetarian co-op with thirteen other people.

I had to cook dinner for us all every two weeks, which I thought would be easy.  I chose to make spinach lasagne from the Moosewood Cookbook, and spent a long time washing each piece of spinach, so that dinner was served at 10 p.m. amidst loud complaints.

In my mind, I was still together with Hayden, although people assumed we had broken up.

It wasn’t until I told my friend Isabella, who had yellow blonde hair and a turned up nose and was very beautiful and plump, that Hayden wouldn’t sleep with me, that I heard myself admit this for the first time and realized how crazy it sounded. Isabella advised me to break up right away.

I saw Hayden coming out of the doorway of the theatre building.  “Karen!” he yelled excitedly, and held out his arms. “‘We’re done.  You won’t sleep with me!”  I said with determination.

Soon Hayden and Dudface became lovers in a master/slave relationship, whereas I had no one.

The first rule of a breakup:  do a complete makeover.

Isabella insisted that my long thick blonde hair was pulling my face down and that I needed a haircut that lifted my hair up, as she put it.

“I know just the place to go.  The Wilhelmina student salon.”  So, on break, I went to the student salon by myself in New York City.  I repeated what Isabella said to the student.

First she did a perm, that didn’t come out very well, and then…she started chopping, everywhere, with  no rhyme or reason to it.  I looked in the mirror and was so horrified that I couldn’t react at all.  My best feature, my crowning mantle, horribly chopped up and ruined.  It was too much to think about.  I wore a cap and hoped my mother wouldn’t notice.

I called my other friend, Rachel, who despised Isabella and all my “flaky” bohemian friends, said, “I knew this would happen,” and got me an appointment with a famous hairdresser the next day.

“What is this?” The hairdresser said, looking at my hair, “This makes no sense.”

He had to shave the back of my head and make the front pieces longer, so it looked like a short bob in front, with the tips of my hair curled on my cheek.  It was sort of 80’s chic, sort of flapper hair, but it wasn’t my style.

When I got back to school I told a friend I was depressed, and he said, “About your hair?”  That was cruel.  It took a year to grow out, and two years to hit my shoulder again.

Isabella got me involved in the divestment protests, demanding that Cornell divest its holdings in South Africa because of apartheid.  We had sit ins, the quad was turned into a campground, we wore armbands.  Some announced they would go on a hunger strike.  I figured I needed to lose weight anyway, so I joined the hunger strike and lived on juice.  The extra weight fell off me quickly (only to return just as quickly).

All the while Hayden and I were wrecked without each other.  Hayden stopped going to classes, afraid to run into me.  I sent him letters I shouldn’t have, and heard that he said I was kicking him when he was down.

One night I got drunk on a bottle of wine and went over to Hayden’s house.  I stormed in and started yelling that he was impotent.  Dudface and Hayden physically pushed me out the door, onto the concrete steps.  I could have fallen on my head, they pushed me so forcefully.  “No one would ever want to fuck you,” Hayden yelled at me.

Another  night I got drunk and thought of overdosing on my asthma pills.  Luckily I knocked on the door next door and told the couple I was thinking of killing myself. They talked me down.  The woman said she was a witch, and had an extra nipple to prove it, which she showed me.  I asked her to put a spell on Hayden.

“You don’t want me to do that.  If I release negative energy, it will eventually come back to you, like karma,” she warned.

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18. Red Light District

18. Red Light District.

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18. Red Light District

Dudface invited Hayden to Amsterdam, and Hayden invited me.  We got on a train on Friday and arrived late afternoon, checking into a bed and breakfast.  We didn’t have the money for two rooms so we took one room instead.  I wonder what the owner thought of that.

I loved the architecture of Amsterdam, with its beautiful fanciful fascades along the canal.  We ate at an Indonesian restaurant that night, and I remember the plates were divided into little sections with small pieces of food in each one.

We went to the Red Light District, so called because of the prostitutes who displayed themselves in red lights in glass rooms.  Prostitution and drugs are legal in Amsterdam, so we bought some hashish and smoked it.

The hashish made me randy and that night in bed I forgot Dudface was there.  I have no memory of what happened, but Dudface did.

“You got kind of wild last night, Karen.”  I still wonder what I did with Hayden that night.

The next day we split up and Hayden and I went to the Riks museum and stood marveling in front of the gigantic canvas of Nightwatch.  I stood there a long time, wanting to remember every detail of Rembrandt’s masterpiece.

But my favorite museum in the world was the Van Gogh museum.  They had every period of Van Gogh’s work, and many colorful canvases that I had never seen before.  Then art historians still believed Van Gogh killed himself, whereas today there is speculation that he was murdered by a local bully.

That night Dudface revealed that while we were at the museums, he had visited a prostitute.  I don’t know if the prostitute was male or female, but I suspect he was male.  Apparently the night before had made Dudface excited.  I was disgusted.

On Sunday we were scheduled to leave by train that night so we could get back to class on Monday.  Dudface and Hayden wanted to rent bikes, so we biked into Holland’s countryside, past a brewery.  I was falling behind, until I could no longer see the boys.  The roads were flat and lined with perfectly symmetrical trees.  I had come to a fork in the road, and panicked.  I was holding everyone’s passports and money, so it was not only rude, but incredibly stupid, not to wait for me.  I decided not to turn but to go relatively straight.  I came across an old man with a black hat.  He didn’t speak English, and I tried in vain to act out if he had seen two boys, one in a long black shirt that looked like a coat, Hayden’s favorite bizarre outfit.  I was getting more and more upset, acutely aware that I was alone in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and I didn’t know my way back to Amsterdam.  I turned around and went back to the fork, sat down and waited for a long time.

Finally, the boys reached me.  I was furious; they were nonchalant.  I still wonder if they left me to have sex.  What’s worse was that we missed the last train back to Paris.  I became incensed.  “I have never in my life missed a train!”  I yelled at them.  They acted like I was a lunatic.  We would miss class and we would have to figure out a place to stay another night.

Of course, I wasn’t really angry about missing a train.  I was angry because I suspected what had really happened between Dudface and Hayden.

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17. A Movable Feast

The three bedroom house we had rented had no shower, only a bathtub with a hand held shower.  We had to be up so early to go sit in that cold tub and try to wash with one hand while holding the shower head, take the train to Paris, and then the metro, which we soon memorized, to the school for french class.  I was in the intermediate class, Hayden was in the beginner’s class.  I was afraid to open my mouth and speak french outside of class.  I ordered a “Oiel frite”, a fried eye, instead of an  “oeuf frite.”  While at the cheese shop, I tried to say, “go ahead of me” and said instead “on y va”–shall we go.

What I remember most–though I loved the museums, especially the musee d’Orsay–are the croque monsieurs ( a kind of grilled cheese sandwich) and croque madames (grilled cheese with egg on top) I ordered for breakfast each day.  The bread was fried, but it didn’t taste like French toast, and you just can’t get it in the states.  I would eat them in nondescript corner cafes with a big bowl of cafe au lait (another delicacy, as this was years before Starbucks).

We wouldn’t be like anyone else: we hadn’t brought cameras, choosing instead to live in the moment.  In hindsight, this was a terrible mistake.  We were unabashedly precocious.

In class, the bespectled teacher with his grey-brown curly hair asked me who I was.  I said in French,  “I am a nymphomaniac!’  Everyone’s jaws dropped.  No one ever looked at me the same way again.  I was, in fact, becoming some kind of nymphomaniac hopelessly in love with a beautiful  gay man. We were like Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, coupled yet uncoupled.

“Karen, you’re a gem, ” he would say.  He professed undying love for me constantly.  I didn’t really know anything about gay men, it was never spoken about.  In high school, we would call unpopular people “fags.”  We didn’t know it was short for faggots, the sticks used to burn homosexuals while “witches” were being drowned.

A pretty, thin girl in Hayden’s class had a crush on him.  She would stand between Hayden and I after school and say she was going on a diet, every day.

My favorite outfit to wear in Paris was a blue dress from the future.  I got it on Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.  It had a mock turtleneck, and a button on one side.  It hung over a short, hip hugging pleated skirt.  Hayden dubbed me “the blueberry girl.”

Water was the same price as wine so, as in “The Sun Also Rises”, we ate steak frites and got drunk.  I learned to love my steaks incredibly rare.  We went to “Le Shok Hitchcok” movies because, being young, we got homesick.

We had befriended an attractive couple from N.Y.U., Tom, and Wendy and their friend Gina.  “Gina puts her girdle out to dry on the shower rod,” Wendy told me in confidence.  I didn’t know you could even still buy a girdle.  Gina would sleep with French  men who spoke no English.

“The best position is woman on top!”  Gina gushed, and proceeded to explain why  in graphic detail.

When I told them the story of the sex abuse trial, Tom got visibly disturbed. He was flushing and fidgeting and looking sick.  Finally, he excused himself.  I silently concluded that he had been abused…or was he an abuser?

We all took the train out to Versailles, and took rowboats out  and had a water fight.  We had met Wendy’s friend Hans there, a tall, goofy looking guy wearing birkinstocks.  Hans slipped me a note.

“Meet me in the room of mirrors.  I want to kiss you,” it read.

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16. Itchy Puss

Here I was in Paris, with venereal disease, like Boswell in his biography of Samuel Johnson.  Who had given me chlymydia  since I wasn’t sleeping with Hayden?

During Christmas break, I met a preppy, good looking guy on the Long Island Railroad, who I knew because he was my high school boyfriend’s friend.  We flirted and I gave him my number.  We went out to drinks, where he admitted he would like to try hang gliding.  He took me back to his place, and quickly proceeded to insert himself inside me.

“Do you have protection?” I asked.

“No,” he said, breathlessly.

“Then GET OUT!  GET OUT NOW!”  I screamed.  “How stupid do you think I am?  I don’t want to get pregnant!”

“Shit, now I have blue balls.”

He drove me home in hostile silence.

I was itching like crazy.  My mom took me to a gynecologist all her friends raved about, named after a famous sadist.

“Who ever did this to you is a cruel jerk.  Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No,” I said, because Hayden wasn’t sleeping with me.

“What a shame, you have such a beeeoootiful body.”   Did he say this to all of my Mom’s friends?  Today he would probably be in prison.

“You might not be able to have children,” he said.  I went numb, pretending not to hear this.  Later, another male gynecologist told me the same thing.  Then a female gynecologist asked me if a male gynecologist had told me I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant.  “Yes, ” I said.  “‘Well that’s not true.”  She said.  When I was forty-three and trying to get pregnant, I was told that my reproductive organs had been traumatized, and I might not be able to get pregnant.  Then I read in Oprah magazine that if you were treated immediately, you could still get pregnant.

So there I was in Paris, having to shove yellow suppositories the size of eggs into my vagina every night, wearing a maxi pad, which feels like a diaper.

“No sex for two months, ”  The doctor said, which was ironic, since Hayden didn’t want to ever have sex.

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