Weddings are emotional events, and the days and months leading up to them typically times of very special family togetherness. The process of conceptualising, organising and implementing the ceremony, the fact that a son or daughter is going off to start a whole new family, the enthusiastic opinions of pretty much anyone with a mouth and tongue—all of it guarantees a precious kind of bonding and a good deal of blood on the flower arrangements.
I can’t think of many downsides to being in Bhutan this October 3, but there is at least one big one: that I could not be at the wedding of a college friend, one of the most extraordinary and incandescently bright women I’ve ever known. I’m not exaggerating. She majored in some rarefied form of biology; put on dramatic solo recitations of Longfellow to entertain us; composed and sang music; is an outstanding artist; and to this day is a superb athlete who completed a triathlon a couple of months ago.
This totally amazing woman, who is now a reverend, is getting married in upstate New York today. I’ve never met the man who will become her husband later today, but I wish I could take him out for a cup of coffee, sit him down and talk to him about what an amazing person she is, and what an honour he should think it to have her in his life. He knows, of course—everyone who knows her knows—but I’d still like to make sure he understands this well.
The closest I ever get to feeling like a parent is when my friends and relatives get married, at which time I also congratulate myself on having opted out of parenthood, because I’d be terrible at it. For one thing, whenever I stand over a newborn I feel like the Wicked Witch of the East, because right after cooing and feeling pleased about baby’s peerless cuteness, I think, Oh god, poor benighted little soul, it’s going to have to learn so many things, and wake up early to go to school for years and years, and then work all its life, and put up with lots of little cruelties, and suffer various heartbreaks, and then get old and croak. And that’s if all goes well.
Similarly, while everyone is busy beaming at the bride and groom and being thrilled about wedding food and love and other perishable items, I sit there worrying about whether they’ve examined their decision, whether they know what they’re doing, whether they’ve seen the dark side of their beloved, whether they will be treated right, and whether they understand how much sleep children deprive you of.
That makes me well up with worry, and then people misunderstand. I remember bawling years ago because my friend the groom was all grown up and embarking on the wonderful but difficult journey of his own life; but his other friends thought I was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t his bride.
It goes without saying that the urge to protect people from their (often perfectly pleasant) lives is an idiotic, fruitless project, no matter how well intentioned. The whole idea is to let go, and cheer them on from the sidelines even if the race they’re running seems perilous. That’s why the reactions we institutionalise tend to hug the safe shores of platitude. In India, that’s usually the safe shores of incredibly ungrammatical platitude.
So congratulations, Kiri and Marcus, and be happy. I may be stuck on this Bhutanese mountainside when I should have been at your wedding, but let me just say: May Heaven’s Choicest Blessing Fall Upon Happy Couple.