Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life in a Northern (Appalachian) Town

I went to what I think would count as a society wedding the other day.  As the unlikely wife of an accidentally prominent man, I have to go to these things sometimes, and I always dread them.  First of all, I just know that I'm going to disappoint; the local society ladies are probably expecting a Sex-and-the-City, glamorous type of New York woman, and I turn out to have no jewelry to speak of and grad-student hair.  And then I always seem to say the wrong thing.  I started talking to a Very Important Person about concertinas at one of these events, for instance, prompted by the shape of a box he was carrying, and watched his face take on that look that you get when you're trapped with someone who at first appears to be normal, but whom you slowly start to realize is preoccupied with abnormal obsessions.

My husband was unsure if we should even attend at all, because it was the third marriage of a lapsed-Catholic son of a prominent Catholic father.  Politics prevailed over theology, however, as my husband works with the father, and besides, we were only invited to the reception; and so we went.  The groom, who was fifty, was a gorgeous, tanned creature with perfectly-gelled hair, who looked ten years younger; the bride was a rangy, slightly-loopy-but-sexy blonde about half his age, just a couple of years older, in fact, than his children.  When I said the wrong thing, which didn't take long, it was to her (though she started it, by suggesting -- rather wildly, it seemed to me --  that I possessed the entrepreneurial skills to start a small business of the kind that is desperately yearned for around here, in the hopes of sparking some sort of resurrection in this fallen-on-hard-times post-industrial town):  I asked her what her plans were once she got settled into her new, married life.  It became immediately clear to me that I'd been rude, though I hadn't meant it rudely at all.  I saw the bride an attractive, energetic young woman at the cusp of her adult life, and I felt I was taking a kindly interest in her.  Though I said none of these things, my conversational gambit, I hoped, implied the questions:  would she start having children right away?  (I doubted the couple, who had lived together before their marriage, were NFP practitioners.)  Would she take a class, pursue an interest, a career?  I was disheartened when she seemed flustered and upset by my question; fortunately, she got caught up in another conversation before we were both forced to walk our own back to some other, safer topic.

One of the groom's sons presided over a table right next to ours, which seemed to be populated by theater geeks; his wavy, Botticelli-esque hair hung down below his shoulders, and he wore a fedora, reminding me pleasantly of the Devo song "Through Being Cool":

If you live in a small town
Your might meet a dozen or two
Young alien types who step out
And dare to declare:
We're through being cool

I spent a long time talking to the groom's elderly mother, who was not at all hesitant to express her concerns about the union:  "He keeps getting married," she sighed.

The food was dreadful, but the band was really fantastic, and even included a horn section.  We danced to one song, and then we went home.


Mac said...

I assert confidently, though I am unable to prove, that the combination of labels attached to this post is unique.

Oh man, I'm familiar with that "I always say the wrong thing" problem.

Pentimento said...

Ha ha! Well, those labels should probably be thrown together a little more often.

Anonymous said...

I would not have gone, It I could not have with an open heart. The bride, as you have described her, has been judged enough and deserved good wishes. She wasn't married three times previously, she did not have children the groom's age. Yet, writing those words, I wonder if It would bother people less? Had it been that she was older, and he was the pretty young thing, would we judge less?

Pentimento said...

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who gets married deserves good wishes. And Samuel Johnson said of second marriages -- he probably would have said it of third marriages too -- that they represent the triumph of hope over experience.