When I was in 9th grade my English teacher did four things I will never forget.
- He kicked a student out just before we got to the ‘good part’ of Franco Zeffrelli’s 1968 ‘Romeo and Juliet’ movie version of s-e-x.
- He threw his keys at anyone he thought wasn’t paying sufficient attention.
- He always crossed out the first paragraph of every essay I ever wrote. Without reading it.
- He’d ask a question, call a name, then make you wait before your opened your mouth. (Or maybe did that only to me – the audio version of number 3.)
Method? Madness? Mix? I was scandalized by the first (can a teacher kick you out in advance of your behavior?), I stayed focused because of the threat of the second (no goose eggs on my forehead, thankyouverymuch). I learned how to edit from the third, and adopted think then raise your hand from the forth.
But sometimes I think too long before I speak. Why? Well, we’ve established here how much discord makes me greatly uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong. I love dialog, the exchange of ideas, a good tête-à-tête. But I need to know we are doing it in connection. The back and forth of a deep heart-to-heart. But standing on the cliff of a conversation and awaiting an echo that never returns? That makes me uneasy, bordering on queasy.
The balance is that if I don’t speak, there is still a message. The meaning of silence speaks volumes. So where’s the middle ground? For me, speaking after thinking. Speaking after reflecting. Speaking with a full heart. Speaking with respect. So I am publishing this with thought, reflection, love and respect. For all people. Because I know voters on each side of this issue.
But I also know a little girl. And a little boy. And I want to dance at their wedding.
I’ve been to all kinds of weddings. Indoor weddings, outdoor weddings, catholic weddings, country weddings. Ill-fated weddings where the groom was still drunk from the bachelor party. Twilight Zone weddings in which the priest lifted a straight arm 135 degrees in the air and invited the congregation to do the same as he blessed the bride and groom. It looked like Germany circa 1939.
And, oh, the dresses. I’ve worn long dresses and short dresses. Cream dresses and shiny green dresses. I’ve been bedecked by brides in softest pink, darkest eggplant, and garish turquoise.
I’ve had my hair professionally coiffed into a chic chignon. And I have had it teased, ratted and topped with a whale spout on one side. (sorry, no pictures, nothing to look at here folks, keep moving).
And then there’s the music. I once attended a ceremony in which the instrumental interlude during the church service was Captain and Tennille’s Muskrat Love. No Lie. There have been boom boxes, swing bands, DJ’s. YMCA, It Had To Be You, and of course, the Macarena.
I’ve been to receptions that were depressingly dry. Receptions at which the groom snuck outside to hide with his friends and another where the bride stuck her bottle of beer down the vee of her gown. All the better to hug everyone without spilling, don’t cha know. Parties that lasted long into the night, festivities that lasted longer than the unions.
There are so many ways to say I Do.
So I want to say to the parents of this little girl and that little boy – my RSVP, all these years in advance, is yes. I will. I will be there. I was there when your children learned to toddle and run and read and play. I am here as they transition into tweens, and are trying out fashions that can only be defined as statements. I will be there when they become teens, and challenge us in ways we cannot yet imagine. I’ve made meals and I’ll bring wine.
I am a villager, part of the circle raising these children. And when I arrive at the ceremony and someone tries to determine along which aisle to seat me by asking ‘which side are you on?’ I want these children to know: I am on the side of love.
Because while they may someday plan a gorgeous ceremony, their hearts will not be pledged to one another. For I think this girl will find a beautiful bride and that boy a handsome groom. And I will be there to witness and dance and laugh all in the name of love. Come with me. Wear whatever you like. Coif your hair however you please. As people in their village we’ll YMCA the night away. And as for the Macarena? Well, I’ll keep you posted.