Batgirl’s Wedding Bell Blues

28 Sep

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Last weekend I had to go to San Diego for a wedding of a long-time childhood friend. For as long as I can remember, we’d been promising to go to the other’s wedding, and though I don’t talk to her much anymore, I don’t break my promises.

Maybe I should have broken this one.

Have you ever been to San Diego? It’s hard to walk between neighborhoods. Downtown is a narrow range of chain stores and restaurants built for nondescript tourists. Cruise ships and military vessels dirty the water; the city in its entirety lacks substance and soul.

It was a beach wedding at a fancy hotel on Coronado Island (I was not staying anywhere close to that). The wedding itself was beautiful – a plethora of roses and carefully tied chair bows, thoughtful table centerpieces, and a graceful, three-tiered cake. Everything was understated and perfect, so controlled it made you anxious.

When did weddings become the acceptable replacement for kindergarten show and tell? The couple’s choices say, “Look what I have!” and all the guests think, “I wish I’d had that” or “Mine will be better!”

For show and tell in kindergarten, I once brought a miniature bicycle my older brother made for me. At the time I was struggling to learn how to ride a two-wheeler so Alek twisted some stray wire into a little bike that I could keep in my pocket for courage. He even spray-painted it purple, my favorite color. I loved that little bike and brought it everywhere, so naturally I thought my classmates would love it too.

When I showed it, the kids whispered as I shyly told about how Alek made it. After I sat down, Amber Bauer showed her brand new American Girl doll, with its white stockings and tiny patent leather shoes, the perfectly ribboned hair. After class, all the girls wanted to play with Amber.

This wedding was Amber’s American Girl doll: nice-looking, expensive, coveted. And I was the kid playing in the corner, wondering why no one was interested in my pocket bike.

In the two hours between the ceremony and cocktail hour, the guests freshened up and socialized in their suites. Since I didn’t have a room, and didn’t know anyone, I thought I would explore the community. At first, I enjoyed looking at the colorful beach houses of the San Diego affluent, but once I hit the main strip of independent shops and restaurants, my heels were bleeding from my shoes and my hair had became tangled in the salt-water air.

I showed up to the cocktail hour disheveled and starving. I was so hungry that I shamelessly stood near the kitchen doors so I could pounce on the appetizers as soon as the servers brought them out. When the tuna tar tare came out, I was standing too close to the doors, and I fell over when they opened, spilling my white wine all over my dress.

How could I show my face after that? The rest of the night, I felt permanently blushed. At one point, I finally found myself in a circle of women who looked about my age and didn’t seem to care that I’d just humiliated myself. I walked away less than a minute later, too bored to hear them talk about the merits of a shared bank account.

For the rest of the night, I occupied myself with memories of the wedding I was supposed to have, and the unrequited love that drove me from Boston, and how little I had to show for my life.

At dinner, I sat at a “singles” table that consisted of the bride’s 45-year-old alcoholic, chain-smoking uncle, a couple of cousins on their phones, two empty chairs and the ring bearer and his older brother.

Later, at the bar, just buzzed enough, someone asked me who I was and I told him, “The International Woman of Mystery.” He was less than intrigued.

I stayed long enough for the cake and to make an appearance in some photos to prove that I had been there. Before 10 o’clock, I was back in my rented room downtown, ruminating on the tar tare incident.

Boy did I feel sorry for myself. I am not proud of that. I wish I were the kind of woman who could have made the best of a dull situation, who could have found something interesting to do, who could have enamored guests with her mystery, who would never think about pitying herself. I wish I were the kind of woman who could turn her bike into a Batmobile.

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