This is a post in a week-long series about a writer’s life. Read the first post, Monday and Tuesday, here, Wednesday’s “A Hundred Indecisions” here, Thursday’s “A Little Mirror” here, Friday’s “The Outer Boroughs” here. Compared to Friday, Saturday sounds like it’ll be a painless whirl of a time. I don’t yet know what it has in store.
The bride is backstroking in time to Lady Gaga. She hitches up her skirts’ many layers and swings her hips. I’ve never seen Astra happier or more relaxed.
The wedding is Groupon themed. The menus are edged in purple and each table is labelled with a different deal-finding website. There are white and purple macarons on each plate, wrapped as favors.
To see the bride and groom kiss, each table can answer a quiz question correctly or sing a song with the word “love” in it. The wedding singer is at our table, as is another friend of the bride who’s just released a CD. My roommate and his girlfriend are musical theatre people by trade. Kristina sings in a choir. The maitre’ d comes around to tell us we have no choice as to our challenge. We smile politely as someone other table sings the theme from Barney, off-key. We’re already googling lyrics on our smartphones and deciding on tempo.
Inevitably, the conversation around the table falls to weddings. Weddings we’ve recently attended, what song we’ll have playing at our own wedding, memorable weddings, how our parents married. We comment on the couple’s choice of theme and colour scheme, the risotto, the vegetarian entrée, the mousse. “I’d audition all the servers for my wedding,” my roommate’s girlfriend says.
Another friend of the bride’s has gone through her undergrad, pre-med, medical school and her residency thinking she “still had time”, and now at 31, feels like she’s lagged behind. We’re the same age. She’s attended two weddings this spring already. “If I’d just met you,” I said, “I would think you were marriage obsessed.” She’s been actively dating. She seems to be doing everything right. On top of that, she’s tall with honey-brown hair, an attractive doctor with an apartment of her own, yet makes fun of the fact that she’s a single girl with a cat.
I turn the conversation to Pinterest to smooth over my rudeness. But every topic of conversation I bring up– our sailing crew, my degree, her work schedule, elicits a flat response until we talk of dating. Then her face lights up. “What about you? Seeing anyone?” “Oh no, I’ve been much too busy,” I answer quickly. This seems unsatisfactory. I bring up that there were a couple of cute guys at a large-scale installation workshop I’m taking part in. I hint at possibilities. But I’m not telling the truth. I was more interested in what the other artists were saying about reverse-archeology.
It surprises me that the friend that I’ve invited to attend with me has considered his own wedding. He tells me his favourite was one held in a theatre where the couples’ names were up on the marquee, and every table had an old film poster-theme. I suddenly get the sense he may have already picked out music. Lots of Dean Martin, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra. I mention how Chinese brides usually have several cheongsams made, as a show of prosperity. There are specific rituals, too, for the groom, who on the day of the wedding goes to the brides’ parents’ house, and must bang loudly on the door to announce that he’s there to ask for the daughter of the house.
Strangely, I never thought much about my own wedding, what kind of dress I’d wear, how many bridesmaids. In my head, I see lots of cream-coloured linen and long tables, peonies and bare feet on the grass, or is it sand? It’s like looking at a picture that hasn’t yet been taken. It’s a blur of sun-spots. Or am I confusing imaginings of my wedding with my future house? I think it would be lovely to have a cheongsam made, only because I read about it in a magazine, but this seems like something I’d do anyway, because I love any craft on the brink of being lost.
My own parents got married at City Hall in Toronto after a few weeks of having met, then their families threw them a big reception back in Hong Kong about a year later when they went back to visit. My grandmother on my father’s side was a second wife and did not marry until after first wife’s death in the 60s. On the other side, my grandmother became pregnant with my mother and so got married. She had plans to become a nurse until the Japanese invaded. So I have no precedent to go by.
I realize I envision my future book the way that other women envision their weddings. I pour in the same amount of care and obsessiveness with line-breaks and publishing houses as others do with silk ribbons, honeymoon locations, and guest lists. I’ve been working on my manuscript for ten years, during which many other women have dated and met their future husbands. I can envision its cover, its contents, how I’ll feel when I finally have it on the shelf. It seems less like a thing that I want, than a thing that I need to exist so that I can move on, and work on the next project.
For the thousandth time, I wonder if it’s worth it. Worth living with roommates in my thirties so I can afford to go on writing retreats, or worth not having health benefits when I graduate. A few days after the weekend, the arch of my feet still aching from dancing for hours, I slip a large brown envelope in the post, addressed to a small but respected publishing house. I’ll be waiting for an answer.