Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Wedding

At a good wedding, love radiates into the hearts and minds of everyone in attendance. This particular ceremony, with its ritual mix of Buddhist invocations beneath a Chuppah traditionally used in Jewish weddings, was sublime. I was aware that these two new friends of mine were destined to be together for a very long time.

At weddings, the synergistic mix of love and alcohol often fuels late night hook-ups for single guests. However, in this crowd of 150 people, I was one of just a handful of single folks (note that the use of the word “folks” has been popularized by our current President to dumb down his Ivy league pedigree for the average American). In this sea of married couples huddled together beneath umbrellas in the backyard of the betrothed, thunder punctuated every line of poetry exchanged between bride and groom. Me and my 3 other unattached friends formed an island of singledom, united by our knowledge that we’d be going to bed alone inebriated in the wee hours of the next day.

The most intriguing experience I had was with a 90 year old woman. She wouldn’t bust out any moves on the dance floor to “Thriller” but we had great conversations spanning two days. With her crystal clear mind and rock solid countenance, she told me of her years in New York and subsequent move to rural South Carolina.

I think it’s easier to be a single woman at a wedding: women aren’t afraid to throw down the moves with and upon (yes, one intrepid dancer rode the Bride’s lap) each other. Guys only dance together if they’re completely piss-ass drunk or spent their frat boy years together and have fond memories of making fools of themselves. Not wanting to potentially offend any husbands watching from the sidelines, I remained aloof until the vodka took effect. As extroverted as I am, I fear female rejection. I’m also no Patrick Swayze on the dance floor– I make up my moves on the fly, just like we did to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in the 70s. It’s a form of creative flailing that shows just how vanilla I am (well, I’m not as bad as some wedding dancers).

This wedding left me with questions about why I’ve never married despite having been in several long term relationships and what inner demons I must exorcise in order to enter the highest union. When the bride and groom shared their inspirations before exchanging vows, one thing the bride said stuck in my mind. She said that he had discovered her in a way that she could never see within herself. In loving her for who she is, in holding up a mirror to her soul, she could manifest her being in a way more profound and beautiful than she could have imagined.

What is the mystic calculus that enables two people to challenge one another, bring out the best and worst in one another, survive the inevitable clashing of egos, to weather the slings and arrows of matrimony and emerge greater than the sum of two parts? My grandmother, a wise woman with a twinkle in her cerulean blue eyes once told me the true triangle was two human beings joined together with God above. Although she wasn’t especially religious, her words stuck with me. It evokes the New Testament passage, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I also.”

Being at a special wedding reaffirms my desire to take the leap into the dark, numinous state of marriage. I’m old enough now to have overcome my earlier fantasies of ending up with a woman who looks like Jennifer Connelly. Whoever the ONE is that emerges from the ethers, I want to jump into the crucible and be transformed into a greater element than I could ever be alone.

With thunder rumbling above, and rain showers blessing the ceremony, the groom read this poem “La Pregunta” by Pablo Neruda:

Love, a question
has destroyed you.

I have come back to you
from thorny uncertainty.

I want you straight as
the sword or the road.

But you insist
on keeping a nook
of shadow that I do not want.

My love,
understand me,
I love all of you,
from eyes to feet, to toenails,
all the brightness, which you kept.

It is I, my love,
who knocks at your door.
It is not the ghost, it is not
the one who once stopped
at your window.
I knock down the door:
I enter your life:
I come to live in your soul:
you cannot cope with me.

You must open door to door,
you must obey me,
you must open your eyes
so that I may search in them,
you must see how I walk
with heavy steps
along all the roads
that, blind, were waiting for me.

Do not fear,
I am yours,
I am not the passenger or the beggar,
I am your master,
the one you were waiting for,
and now I enter
your life,
no more to leave it,
love, love, love,
but to stay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sartorial Adventures

Every few years my cousin from NYC, a writer, producer and former fashion model comes out to help me shop for clothing. On this day, her face lights up with glee when I mention that we have a Nordstrom Rack 15 minutes from my house. She wants me to look good to attract my future wife – I just wanted a linen suit for the 3 weddings I have to go to this summer. She’s been working on me for 2 decades to shed years of self-effacement, starting in the late 70s with my waist length hair hippie persona that evolved into the REI guy look….loose clothing suited for outdoor living. Here in Boulder , Colorado no one has to dress up – you can wear shorts and a T-shirt to all but the most high end restaurants and no one cares. Women care more. It’s common in this town to see a guy with a backwards baseball cap, shorts and an ill fitting t-shirt show up with his well dressed date to any given restaurant. At nearly 50, I’m still part savage. I work as a carpenter in clothing stained with caulk, wood sap and dirt so ingrained it can’t be laundered. But at night, particularly on the weekends, a crisp stylish shirt and good pair of jeans goes a long way in this town. The “playah” clothing my cuz helped me purchase 3 years ago, mostly at Urban Outfitters and Billabong, served to alienate my Ex as she believed I was trying to be single; well, she was right: part of me did. Now I get to do it full time and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. More on that later – back to Nordstrom’s Rack with our golf pro salesman who I’m going to call Chuck even though that’s not his real name. He looks like a Chuck – ruddy faced, red haired, middle aged with a small paunch beneath his tucked in shirt. He’s the nicest guy: a former car salesman turned golf pro turned clothing guy. Maybe in New York in the 1920s his job would be more esteemed – he be a Haberdasher- but in 2010 he’s just a guy hawking deeply discounted stuff at an outlet store. My cousin is a whiz at this. I swear she should quit all of her media ventures and hire out as a PFA – my acronym for personal fashion assistant. Her fingers move so quickly through stacks of jeans and racks of shirts I can’t keep up with her. I wasn’t able to change my jeans and shirts as fast as she brought stuff to the dressing room. I had so much shit in there they gave me the wheelchair accessible changing room. It was like renting a double wide trailer for two hours. I could have installed plumbing and a make-up mirror and felt like a rock star for a day. The problem with me shopping by myself is that I’ve bought size XL for many years. My cuz reprimanded me for trying to hide my burly torso in clothes roomy enough to have a roommate in. She’s also addressed my protruding nipple issues by insisting I wear undershirts. I told her how “east coast” that was and that most guys except for my buddy Jeff (a New Yorker) go raw skin underneath. Today I discovered nipple covers at a local pharmacy – well, for women who generally have double the nippleage as me. They should make them for men. I now know my chest size (42 L), shirt size and have my first pair of tailored pants in my life. I’m gonna look sharp for these weddings. I even have a matching straw hat and belt not to mention cuff links, handkerchiefs and new, tighter fitting undies to hide my junk from the wedding guests. I dropped $56 on a tie that I’ll probably wear once in the next 5 years. I’m o.k. with that. I’ve only worn a tie once in the past 30 years for my college graduation last year. I've had to Google diagrams on how to tie a tie. I’m the guy who didn’t learn to tie my shoelaces until I was 9 years old. My cuz told me if I’m really going to attract the right woman I need to dress my best. But then, what happens when she gets into my dusty pick- up truck and comes to see my Spartan home with my 1970s stereo components and futon couch? A buddy told me that futons scream “non-committal.” I’m new at this game. The problem with a partial makeover is that it makes the rest of your stuff look shabby. If my continually improving image doesn’t have its complement at home, am I just a poser? Well, yes, I’m terribly image conscious despite the fact I walk around with a semi-kempt shock of hair, cuts from mountain bike crashes all over my legs and remnants of salad usually stuck in my impossible to floss teeth. I’m working on it. I grew up like Greystoke or that boy who was raised by wolves. I love my folks, but I had to learn the basics of self-care as an adult. One friend admonishes me for spitting while I talk and blowing too large a volume of wind from my mouth. I swear it would be easier just to be a slob. My inner JewBu wants a woman just to love me for my soul. Why should these clothes, bits of cotton, polyester, wool and lycra that have been draped on my body make one iota of difference in who I am? Well, they don’t. But how we dress and how it makes us feel is as important as anything else in life. It simply feels good to look good.