Begin with a guided meditation (you are wearing comfortable, loose clothing and are in a dimly-lit room, right?):
- Imagine a young woman.
- Imagine she is leggy and beautiful.
- Imagine she is Chinese.
- Imagine her hair done up for a wedding at which she is a guest.
- Imagine her happy.
- Imagine she is wearing a long, sequiny, blue Chinese party dress, tightly buttoned up to the throat, and slit up to her hip bones.
- Imagine her climbing out of a wildly rocking row boat.
- Imagine Mig squatting on the dock, steadying the boat at this moment.
I had so much fun at a wedding last night.
Or this: Two white-haired white men in black suits sitting in a row boat out in the middle of a lake in the middle of Vienna one sunny evening. The one rowing is me. The one not rowing is a painter I met at the reception. He has a phobia of the water, and this is his first row boat ride. “It’s okay,” I had told him, “I’m in a rowing club.”
I don’t know which is nicer: facing down a phobia and surviving it, or helping someone else do it. (Thank God we didn’t fall in).
I remember this when I make a little speech later that evening toasting the bride and groom: my friend the bride did me a great favor by giving me an opportunity to survive a public-speaking episode; but if she feels anything like the way I did out in the row boat, I also gave her a gift by letting her help me like that.
Here’s a tip on speaking at weddings, by the way: it is unlike other public speaking in several ways.
- You have a captive audience
- Everyone is drunk
- Everyone is on your side
- All that matters is what matters to you, i.e. sincerity goes over very well, especially if you follow someone more cynical or who cracked jokes that were maybe just a bit too off-color for the occasion
- Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. Rough notes allow spontaneity and naturalness that a polished speech would prevent
- Also: if it’s quite dark where you’re standing when you speak, and you take out your notes in the middle of the speech to read the poem you selected for the event this is what happens: the hot Chinese woman you helped out of the row boat comes over to you and holds a candle for you so you can read your words. There are worse things in life than this. It made me feel like a magician with a beautiful assistant. I wanted to put her in a box and saw her in half.
So I met some nice people last night. The poem I read was by Rumi, from the Coleman Barks translations, and I discovered a lot of the interesting people I’d been talking to were Rumi fans.
The wedding itself was interesting as well. It was a civil ceremony, and being a punctual person I was the second one there and struck up a conversation with the bridesmaid, another American, who was the first person there. At some point it was decided that since my car was in the shop, I would be the chauffeur and drive the couple to the reception from the wedding. I made them promise to give me directions, as I don’t know my way around Vienna.
After the wedding, I find myself standing in the hallway holding the bride’s purse, hence the title of this post. There are two things a guy can do when he finds himself holding a woman’s purse: feel emasculated, or not, or wear it around his neck like my uncle used to do to embarrass his wife when she’d give him her purse. I chose to feel like a chauffeur holding the bag for the bride, no big deal. Some things you can ask God about, like, “why, God, do my tomatoes die?” and some things, like why you often find yourself holding a purse for a woman, you don’t ask about. Plus you can’t expect a lot of sympathy from women on this topic. Also, it’s not really a big deal unless it’s like your wife giving you her purse to hold in front of your friends. And even then, if you’re securely rooted in your masculinity, as I am, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Where was I? Friend’s wedding. I had fun. I got over my shyness. People were interesting. Alpha picked me up at the train station although it was late at night when I got home.