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ROBIN ABCARIAN

She'll Pass on Being a Bridesmaid, Thank You

July 20, 1994|ROBIN ABCARIAN

This spring and summer, we have witnessed another trickle of our friends plunge into the great, roiling sea of matrimony.

I love weddings. Almost as much as I dread them.

Or more precisely: I love attending weddings almost as much as I dread being in them.

I love the way we check our cynicism at the door, the way we believe the marriage license is signed in indelible ink, the way that hope and promise--such vaporous concepts--are distilled into potent, intoxicating kisses at ceremony's end.

But stick me in a wedding as a bridesmaid and I wilt faster than a cut tulip in a dry vase under heat lights. I can't take it.

I cannot say why; I can only say when.

In 1982, my friend Susan married a tall, handsome and, as it would turn out, hugely incompatible guy. As maid of honor, I wore a pale coral dress of silk crepe that Susan had found in an antique store and mailed to me balled up in a ripped manila envelope. Ah, to be young and carefree.

And have a waistline. Boy, does that dress look tiny today.

Susan's parents had offered her an option--a down payment on a house or a wedding fit for a princess. Well, who can begrudge the high cost of plighting an especially fervent troth?

Naturally, they took the wedding and spoke their vows in a fancy ceremony at the Claremont Hotel in the Berkeley hills. Halfway through, the groom looked at me and widened his eyes. "Nervous?" he seemed to be saying. "You'd better believe it, sister."

Suddenly, I began to channel his anxiety. My peripheral vision went hazy.

Thinking fast--or what passes for fast when you're dizzy--I delicately sat down on the edge of the riser. Guests looked on, some horrified, some curious, some believing they were witnessing a sudden religious conversion.

It was just me, trying valiantly not to pass out.

The reception line was a nightmare. People filed past murmuring: "Congratulations." "Congratulations." " Are you OK? "

Or: "Congratulations." "Congratulations." "You find Jesus up there or something?"

Susan was inhumanly gracious.

"Thank you," she said. "You made my wedding memorable."

Years later, I was able to provide my brother the same exact memory at his wedding.

*

A few years ago, my husband and I returned to the site of our wedding. We had taken our vows in the yard of a historic Ventura County adobe, under the gaze of an owl sitting in a bountiful eucalyptus tree.

I was moved to tears wandering the premises, recalling the sunny, breezy day in which we promised to . . . well, I am not exactly sure what we promised to do since we seem to have misplaced our copy of the wedding vows.

My husband looked rather emotional, too, and I remember thinking how lovely it was that he was so touched to be there.

"Isn't it amazing," I started to say, before he looked at me with an almost pained expression.

"Wow," I thought, "this guy is a sentimental fool."

"Man!" he said. "I gotta take a leak!"

You talk about your great roiling sea of matrimony.

*

In a season stained by stories about the horrible ways in which spouses inflict pain upon each other, it's tempting to see marriage as a new car, a thing that starts out shiny and perfect and inevitably rusts right through (although the decay often hides under a well-polished exterior).

My husband and I, soldered together for nearly a dozen years now, always get squishy at weddings. Often, we ice our good vibes with a big fight on the way home. The cake of love, my friends, is a many-layered thing.

One of the benefits of being married for a while is the ever-expanding view you get of the emotional landscape. Maybe the passion cools a bit (or maybe it doesn't) and maybe after a while the fights are less cataclysmic too. But what you learn with the passing of every still-married year is that each peak is followed by a valley, and every valley gives way to a higher place.

Watching a couple marry can do wonders to counteract the prevailing ill winds.

Weddings can renew your faith, and remind you--as you sit with your own spouse, if you have one--that marriage is not a shiny car waiting to be assaulted by the elements.

It is a fine and demanding instrument that needs constant burnishing and tuning, and which--the occasional broken string notwithstanding--rewards with incomparable music.

My friend Susan married again this spring, living proof you can learn from your mistakes.

To this union, she brought a certain maturity, a certain understanding of the complexities of marriage and--need I spell it out?--a new maid of honor.

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