Sometimes I hear myself telling stories about how I grew up and the things I did that seemed so normal to me then, and I think, really, how did I get here?
I have been a bridesmaid twice in my life (I think. God, I hope I’m not forgetting one.) When I was 18, I was maid of honor for my adolescent best friend, M, who married her high school sweetheart, and then became a crack addict and got a divorce and lost custody of her kids, and then found Jesus and married him again. (The high school sweetheart, not Jesus.) It seems rude to say this, because I really loved M. and her family, but she was the most promiscuous person I have ever known (and let me tell you, there is some pretty stiff competition for that title) so I have a hard time picturing her in her new guise as super-Christian. We are Facebook friends now, and man alive, does that girl love Jesus. She tells the world about it at least five times a day. Here is a recent status update example: “I love to sit on my Daddy Jesus’ lap and feel his love for me.”
Yeah. I think I saw a clip of that once on the internet. And it burned.
The second time I was a bridesmaid, also at age 18, it was in a wedding built entirely on lies. The happy couple, Kelly and Roger, met when she helped console him through the tragic death (car accident) of his fiancee. She consoled him so well that she married him, in a little country town, in a very nice double-wide trailer owned by someone’s aunt. I wore a fire engine-red satin dress with a scratchy lace bodice, purchased for $10 at the JCPenney outlet. This lovely dress was complemented by black stockings, black pumps, and a barrette with seed pearls and a big black bow in my French-braided hair. It was 1992. My escort in the wedding party was a man named Squirrel. Squirrel was about 5’4, and throughout the evening, he took every opportunity to mash his face into my breasts, as they were right at his eye level. I did not enjoy it.
Anyway, Roger’s family–very nice, very country people who collected the toys from McDonald’s happy meals as a hobby–cried and cried throughout the ceremony. And the reception. We thought it was sweet that they were so verklempt about the whole scene, but it turns out they were just really sad that Roger was marrying such a nice girl under such very false pretenses. As Kelly found out a year later, there never was any fiancee, nor any car crash. Roger told that lie to avoid getting fired from his job (where Kelly’s old boyfriend was the manager) and it just snowballed on him. I knew and loved Roger for years before it all unraveled, and I thought he was a really good guy. The idea that he had been harboring such a huge secret–and embroidering it, with the help of his whole family–was a complete mind-fuck. People lie, yo.
To help her get over the divorce, Kelly got a small, tasteful tattoo. Then she swiftly fell in love with the tattoo artist, and ended up with four kids and about 50 tattoos before they split up, years later. (The kids all have crazy animalistic names too; I wish I could share them with you, but they are entirely too Google-able.) Kelly opened a pet store, and kept a lot of the stock in her trailer home, including lynx, bobcats, a dozen different kind of snakes, a wallaby, several exotic goats, a Great Dane (that was eventually euthanized for eating a goat that had been tied to a tree for the afternoon), hundreds and hundreds of fish, and some Angora rabbits that I accidentally killed with my mind one night. (Long story short: I have a well-known fear of rabbits. People think it’s funny. One night I stayed over at Kelly’s, and the rabbits were housed in their little pen…box…thing right by my bed. I got a little drunk and performed a whole comedy routine about how much I hated those rabbits, with their rodent-like teeth and beady little eyes. In the morning, they were inexplicably dead in their cage. I did not kill the rabbits, but it really was bad timing on my part for the extended rant about how much I hated them. ) (Don’t even get me started on birds.)
Kelly also owned a lion. It’s hard to know where to insert that detail, but it simply can’t be left out. They kept him in a pen behind the trailer, and named him Hope, because “they hoped he didn’t get too big, ha ha.” He did, of course.
And, to summarize this tale, I live in DC now.
Forever and ever, amen.