My friend, Bonnie, asked me to be an usher at her wedding. I sent her the following e-mail.
Of all human lamentations, without doubt the most common is, If only I had known. But we can’t know, and so, days of death and fire so often begin no differently from those of love and warmth.
–Tom Clancy, “Debt of Honor”
This is how my mind works. On April 16, wedding bells will be ringing, which reminds me of that line from “It’s A Wonderful Life” that goes, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,” which reminds me that I’ve never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which reminds me that people are surprised when I tell them that…which means that I should announce this during the middle of your wedding ceremony. You might be saying, “Yeah it’s surprising that you’ve never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life,” but so what? Do you really think that that’s going to ruin my wedding?” No, I do not. However, I plan on hitting the audience with a one-two punch: after I announce to the congregation that I’ve never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I’m going to pause for a few seconds and let that information sink in. Then I’m going to announce that I’ve never seen “The Godfather” either. At that moment, a collective gasp will rise from the congregation, and they will begin to chat excessively. More than a few people will pass out. I will then turn back to the priest and tell him to proceed with the ceremony. By that point, your wedding will be effectively ruined. But I won’t be done yet. Waiting for the congregation to settle down, the priest will pause for a few minutes before finally proceeding. He will proceed, but nothing will be the same. By then, I would have reeked so much psychological havoc on everyone present that the entire mood of the ceremony will shift, as will be seen by the look on the priest’s face, who will silently be calling upon God to give him the strength to salvage any happiness that this day originally contained, but it will be blatantly obvious to everyone present that his prayers went unanswered.
At that point. I will let the festivities continue, unabated, for several minutes, but my calm demeanor during those brief moments of peace will leave you feeling unsettled. Your suspicions will be confirmed as I deliver the coup de grace: just before you and Bobby begin to take your vows, I will take off my shoes and socks and announce to everyone that I was only born with eight toenails. At that point, I’m expecting several people to shout, “Bullshit!” I don’t like being branded a liar though, so at that point, I will walk down the center aisle, slowly and deliberately, proving to all of my detractors that I truly am deformed. Several people (including your father) will vomit profusely. It’s not that my toes are unattractive—you’ve seen them before and managed to walk away unscathed—but the combination of seeing my missing toenails, piled onto the shocking disclosures that I have never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life,” or “The Godfather,” will just be too much for your friends and family to bare. The words I HATE YOU, YOU’VE RUINED MY WEDDING will immediately come to mind. But you won’t be able to speak those words, for at that moment, you too, will be throwing up.
An important question is probably crossing your mind right now, and that question is simply, “Why? Why would you do that to me?” That question is a valid one, and I will answer it by saying that if you and Bobby had simply invited me to your wedding, everything would’ve been fine. I would’ve quietly sat amongst the congregation and let the two of you peacefully enter the world of marital bliss. But in a moment of colossal misjudgement, you chose to make me an usher. This means that I’ll be standing in front of an audience of hundreds of people, which means that the performing artist in me will want to rear its ugly head. Basically, your decision to put me in front of an audience instead of putting me among the audience will have tremendous consequences, consequences that will make your wedding day one of the darkest days of your life.
March 28, 2005