In relating the story of my tragic third and final choice of dress for my wedding last September, I am reminded of the old saying that, before you take an aphorism to heart, you must first make sure that it is not stupid.
For example, let’s examine the saying “Dress for the job you want and not the job you have.” Sure, it sounds good on paper, but how will you take your drive-thru customer’s order if your astronaut helmet garbles sound? Will hospital scrubs on a dental hygienist ever be anything more than sad? More to the point, what if the job you want is to be Cat Deeley, the 6-foot tall, thirty-something model/hostess of the reality show “So You Think You Can Dance,” but the job you have is to be Heather Aronson, the 5-foot tall, middle-aged hostess of the reality show “Thanks For the Salty, Slow-Cooked Beef, But I’ve Decided to Become a Vegetarian”?
I know what you’re thinking, because, as a trained and board-certified psychopath, I can totally read your mind. You’re thinking: You’re a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood.
To which I say: Okay, but let me finish my point.
Here’s another aphorism that sounds okay, just before it turns out to be completely idiotic: “Everything we really needed to know we learned in kindergarten.” Please. Did you know, in kindergarten, that you have to bring both photo ID and your social security card with you when you open an account at PNC? Did you know about fibromyalgia?
Did you have any idea that a cute little 60s-style white mini-dress with an empire waist and three-quarter length sleeves could look absolutely smashing on a beautiful and willowy model/hostess on tv, but would appear sort of shapeless and dumpy on someone who is more or less the opposite of Cat Deeley, not to mention totally show your bra straps because the neckline will be too wide?
No, because in kindergarten, you knew nothing about bra straps. Nobody in kindergarten knew anything about bra straps.
Please stop thinking about your kindergarten teacher right now.
Finally, let’s parse the aphorism “You get what you pay for.” Except for those times when you’ve cheaped out and bought an inferior quality product, when has this saying ever turned out to be accurate? How many times have you paid for a giant bag of chips, but gotten only a handful of chemicals and despair? Who here has used up every last little gabillabyte allowed by the texting and data plan she paid for, without having to sign up for a gazillabyte more that she will never, ever use?
And who hasn’t gone in to Free People and paid one hundred and eighteen dollars for a white lace mini dress that looks kind of like the one Cat Deeley wore on Top Six night of So You Think You Can Dance’s season 10, only to realize, in the middle of her wedding, that what she is actually wearing is a tunic top, and no pants?
Please stop thinking about the no pants.
Which reminds me of yet another aphorism: Once bitten, twice shy.
Wait, no it doesn’t.
I guess it’s like my mother always said: I should have studied to become a telepath, instead.
(With apologies to the Talking Heads.)
(And to the estate of Phyllis Diller.)
(And to anyone who has to read this.)
I can’t see until I put my face smack
Up to the mirror, where I discover—
Not sleeping ‘cause my head’s on fire
Has turned me into something freakish and dire.
PHYLLIS DILLER! Qu’est-ce que ce?
Have I put my contacts in the wrong way? Or do I
(dun dun dun dun) really look this way??
Ohh ohh ohhh
PHYLLIS DILLER! Qu’est-ce que ce?
I fu-forgot what I was going to say. Better
um, um, um, umm…go the other way?
Oh oh oh OH. Where did I put my shoe?
I start a conversation I can’t even–Spinach?
I like it a lot! But I’m not eating anything.
What was I going to say? Oh, I’ll have the veal!
Say something once.
Say something once.
PHYLLIS DILLER! What the hey?
Fu-fu-fu-fuck! Are these spots on my face? Better
Buff buff buff buff BUFF buff them all away.
Ohhhh ohhh ohh ohh
PHYLLIS DILLER! Go away!
Why are you haunting my mirror today? I am
Done done done done done looking this way!
Oh oh oh nooo! Lie lie lie lie lie yoooouuu.
Who says I’m fat?
But my ID says–
Born in 1974.
Right, Heather. Try twleve years more.
Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah yah
You’re a pain and you’re unkind!
You hate people and you’re not contrite.
That’s my name.
And we’re practically one and the same, now that–
Hon hon hon hon—menopause done came!
Oh no. No.
Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same. Ask you
what? What what what what was I going to say?
Oh oh oh oh, I I I I don’t know.
Folks, I cannot tell you how embarrassed I am to admit this, but it looks like I might not be qualified to give you advice about mid-life marriage after all. Because, as it turns out, I have married the wrong man.
I know what you’re thinking (because, like a bug in the headline of a Buzzfeed article that you will never, ever click, I have crawled into your ear and burrowed into your skull). You’re thinking: “Their lives were ruined…ruined by the fundamental error of their matrimonial union: that of having based a permanent contract on a temporary feeling.”
To which I say: Nuh uh, Dude the Obscure.
Our lives were ruined by a fundamental error of our permanent contract, period.
As in, my “husband” forgot to sign it.
Luckily, though, it turns out that I still have a husband. Because our male witness, who later “married” our female witness, scrawled his John Hancock in the space on our ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract, which is largely ceremonial, but still) where the groom was supposed to sign.
Are you following this? Because I appear to be stuck in the part of your brain that stores recipes, and I’m not getting anything but “serve with onion and pan juices.”
(Mmm, pan juices.)
Let me explain: for our first “anniversary,” I pulled our ketubah out of its storage tube and took it to the art store to have it framed as a gift for my “husband,” because I am cheap like that. I then gave it to my “husband,” who opened it and did the appropriate oohing and thanking that one gives when receiving an only mildly thoughtful gift, and, after a couple of days, even broke his own rule about not hanging pictures on our walls until all the kids have left the house or one of us has died or something, and went to hang it up in our bedroom.
And that’s when he discovered that, in the eyes of God, at least, I was really married not to him but to John Hancock (which luckily is not his real name, because I have a teenager who can’t even say “Cochran Street” without giggling).
So you know that one friend you have where you do everything the same, at roughly the same time, and it’s not because you’re copying each other but because you’re just so much alike that this synchronicity comes naturally, so that you’re practically sisters in your head? Well, I have a handful of these. In fact, having a freakish amount of stuff in common is kind of my measure for whether I’m going to be really close to another woman—close enough to weep together and laugh together and raise glasses at one another’s weddings, and then weep together and laugh together and take the glasses out of one another’s hands so we can throw up when those marriages end only months apart.
My oldest and dearest of these sister friends, a woman I’ll call “Shirley” (if only so she can tell me not to), is getting married again next month, which means that she is actually more than a year off our previous synchronicity, when we served as bridesmaids for one another twenty years ago in the space of single month. We’ve shared clothes and beds and boxes of Cheezits, marriages and births and horrible losses and new-found love, and sometimes even I get us mixed up when I look at old pictures, because we are practically the same damn person (though one of us has better hair).
My newest of these synchronous sisters, a woman I met because of an online writers’ group and whom I’ve known for scarcely a month, turns out to share not only my rough height and age and newly married (again) status and even a new house on the exact same street, but even my identical car, down to its identical color.
(I can tell by the shiver in your medulla oblongata that like me, that shit just gives you chills, amiright?)
And then there are my two Philly sisters, a couple of women I find so easy to talk to that sometimes we type to one another on a group Facebook message all the live-long day (when we’re not working, of course, which is, you know, like all the time, of course, otherwise). Like me, they are short and mean and are parenting awesome teens, and sometimes we think so much alike that we type the same lame phrases at the exact same time, so that it feels like what I’m reading is a cartoon bubble of the thoughts in my head.
(Though I will admit, now that I’m deep in the recesses of the thoughts in your head, that what really happens in there is more like “hungryhavetopeefacebookgroupbewilderinglyfuckedupmmmpanjuiceskneehurtsmuskratlove”)
And then there’s my wedding witness friend, the one with whom I would have said I had the least in common, since she’s not only a doctor and a lab director, but is also tall and has dark, curly hair. (Yeah, yeah, C, I know you’re also a doctor, but have you measured yourself lately? Case closed, jury dismissed.) She and I met more than a dozen years ago, dandling our then-two-year daughters on our knees, our then-five-year-old sons trying to solve time travel on the playground while we wept over the recent deaths of both of our moms. We separated from our husbands just a few years later, picked up each other’s children when our exes failed to show up on time, vetted our online dates at weekly Shabbat dinners, and eventually raised our glasses to toast one another’s engagements in the space of less than a year.
But now we share not only all of that, but also a spouse.
Because it was her fiancé who signed the ketubah in the space my “husband” was supposed to. And then she “married” him a couple of months later. Which means that she is now, for all intents and Mormon purposes, my brand-new Sister-Wife.
So while I am undeniably sad about having to leave the man whose adventures and misadventures and great love and not so great sense of humor and surprisingly vast collection of cow creamers I have oft described here, I’m trying to stay positive about all that I’ve gained.
Like a ton more kids, all roughly the same age. And a dining room that has wallpaper on the ceiling. And a synchronous sister-friend who not only lives in my house, but who, because I married “Mr. Hancock” (I mean it, “Maddie,” stop it!) first, I totally get to boss around.
Though I’m probably going to have to start a completely different blog, and I still haven’t told you about the third wedding dress.
Also, I appear to be stuck in a truly awful place in your head where you’ve stored all your Captain and Tennille songs. And let me tell you right now that never has “Love Will Keep Us Together” sounded more annoying, or more tragically wrong.
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