Monday, October 23, 2006

You Can't Make It Better

The last wedding I attended was one of the fanciest ones I've ever seen. Every man had either a dark suit or a tux on, every woman was wearing a black dress. This ostentatious parade could have easily been turned to a celebrity funeral.

I could not believe how many variations of a black dress there were: strapless, spaghetti, off the shoulder short, off the shoulder long, one sleeve sling, deep V front, deep V back, backless, sashes, bows, ripples, wraps with varying pleats and side hip gathers for every kind of material possible, sheer, satin, taffeta, silk, stretchy, translucent. There were different layers and swaying hemlines at the floor, ankle, calf, knee and thigh. And there were stiff hems inching upward, curving the buttuck region. The strapless women tugged at the top of their breasts all night [super attractive, don't think anyone's watching?] and the loose straps were yanked impatiently all night as they fell off a dipping left shoulder blade.

Another detail I noticed about weddings and fancy places in general is women's footwear. Part of the revolution, I hope, is the ability to claim comfort for our feet. Apparently, these guests didn't want that part of freedom's walk, or at least, they will step gingerly on freedom's walk in tight shoes. Being the flat footed, no arched, excessively pronated person I am, I have a hard time reconciling stilettos and high heels that yell CONQUER from across the room. I sport them once in a great while. But then these women try and do limbo in them. [brows furrow]

And then there's the dancing...

Ok, this is going to sound extremely racist, but what IS it with white people and music? For the most part, white folks CANNOT dance for shit. Are they impervious to bass and percussion? Do they not hear the natural beat and instruction of the rhythm? And WHAT IS UP WITH THE INEVITABLE DANCE CIRCLE? That thing where everyone tries to be inclusive and in this effort ends up with offbeat clapping and hooting and hollering? Why running in place? The numb looking feet shifting from left to right intrigue me. Adonis insists this is cross cultural and says that even Filipinos do the dance circle thing. Yes, but we, for the most part, can dance, I counter.

And why, why, why is it considered appropriate to do bad lip-syncing to your dance partner one millimeter from their face before they both collapse into fits of high pitched squeals and laugh like they're on ecstasy? Of course, there is the token flower girl doing round-offs and twirls by herself and the one [really] drunk, hapless guy trying to grind with the bride.

Wedding receptions at the Hilton are weird.

There were almost as many photographers, all women, as there are bridesmaids, reminding me of a feminist paparazi. The acoustics were terrible in this temple of a ballroom; the dance floor was the size of my apartment.

The filet mignon and bearnaise sauce was brilliant. From my assigned table on the balcony, I watched the crowd below while my table guestimated the cost of the wedding. Adonis, as usual, was way off in his underestimation and I made a mental note to argue with him about that later.

I counted four or five dozen white roses on one centerpiece alone, amid several circular tables. Some of the centerpieces were as tall as me. I eagerly flagged one women of color in the room. She wore red, instead of black, and I realized, was busy taking care of Table 28.

While our unfortunate server was suffering (and therefore we were suffering) of intense body odor, I counted the guests to keep my mind occupied. He was like a walking sour stick of old balsamic vinaigrette.

All my life, I've naturalized the fact that I am often the Other in any given room. I've also naturalized the fact that no one gives a damn about that and no one cares to find out if I give a damn either. Well, I do.

My parents come from a country that exports millions of women to become domestic workers across the seas and professionals leave for better opportunity. The Philippines has both a brain and care drain and it lives on the precipice of economically imploding. I ruminate this as I unblinkingly stare at the white rose petals scattering around the skyscraper cake. Who am I to dine in velvet and toast a couple I've never met and then politely ask for another linen napkin? Whose pink lips are these, with lavender lidded eyes and bronze rouge? Lancome, with its caucasian consultants, told me to use this combo. Why do I listen?

Bracing myself against the balcony, the powerful rum surges to my brain. My ability to metabolize alcohol is horrendously slow and am quickly drunk. I absent-mindedly text my sister on my cell phone while I eavesdrop on a women talking to my husband. She's telling Adonis how she doubts her white male son will get into Harvard because of the non-white women, women in general, minorities, and "the internationals" that have to be admitted first. Right.

To my left, a woman is thanking two gushing admirers of her necklace, made, of course, by her very own sister. She has another shipment coming in soon, do you want her information? Oh, yes.

And a cool eye drops down my outfit, I sense. I look away from her, losing my confidence, losing my self. This foreign world with made-up faces and privileged parties deemed normative quiets me. I look for the black woman. I don't know why. I hastily scan the crowd and drink in her busy-ness, her round brown eyes and young skin. I want to talk to her, but she's clearing away the burned-out votive candles while the DJ skips around as Cotton Eyed Joe wails from the speakers.

I look down at my placecard. Well, at least they got the hyphenation right. But I can do without the M-R-S stuff. 'Lisa' is just fine.

As I become fixated on the bare and gyrating backs of dancers and the male clusters of sipping drunks, I tune out the part-time shimmying, part-time kissy facing couple next to me. Suddenly, the bride appears. She looks like a beautiful white lacy mermaid and Jarod's the handsome merman with a boasting, muscled chest. I appreciated those muscles in the brief, fierce hug we shared.

Adonis' aunt is there; a kind woman who loves me with a lot of energy. She pulls up a chair and I breathe. An unrecognizable man interrupts and sits in front of her and misdirects her attention. This man has her now. My time is over. His eyes shift to me momentarily before he indulges her with updates. I am ignored.


I try to catch Adonis' eye, signaling my white flag, but he's occupied with his uncle.

A bathroom break is needed.

Grabbing my red wrap, I make my way to the bathroom. The Palm Court is a golden haven for expensive dates and wealthy business folks who need a steak in their bellies before bed. I keep my eyes downward and notice, for the 1000th time, the perpetual catch-22 I exist in: I fear being seen, I fear being invisible.

There are mirrors everywhere and out of my peripheral vision, can scope out my hurried walk, sidestepping slow walkers and loud talkers. The mirrors soar to the top of the ornate ceiling, giving the illusion of even more space in this fairytale room. Everything, all of this, is an illusion.

My feet dangle from the handicapped toilet seat and I have trouble getting back down the throne. Not built for me, I guess. Keeping my eyes downward, I nearly run back to the wedding, feeling irrationally uncomfortable.

Adonis is smiling at my return and asks me to dance. I accept. His frame blocks my vision to see over his shoulder, so I sneak a peak around his elbow and watch us in a mirror that stands next to a framed picture of Jacqui Kennedy Onasis. I observe, "I'm the shortest person over ten years old in this room. And I'm wearing heels."

"No," Adonis disagrees, drawing out the long ooooooo, "there's a woman behind you, dancing with a guy in a yellow tie. I think she's shorter."

I barely listened to his reply, I already felt like anyone in this room could step on me from the top of my head if they really wanted to. My eyes drew upward and thought of Paris Hilton's inheritance.

"Are you alright? You look really emotional," Adonis cares openly.

I give a no-teeth smile and kissed him before I buried my head in his chest and fought a rising sadness.

45 minutes later we head home. Trying to warm my sore cold toes in the flannel red bedsheets, I asked Adonis with my back to him, "Do you ever wish you'd have married someone normal?"

"No. Never. I wanted you. Someone extraordinary."

A silence that drifted five minutes passed.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," he softly implored, trying, though he didn't entirely understand.

A pregnant silence.

"You can't make it better," I finally reminded him and myself.

Our eyes met in the dark room once more before they closed and the complex sadness finally quieted, too.

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