Here’s an obvious statement: my wife and I are different. We have such elegant and extreme differences though, that the basic declaration doesn’t do it justice. For example, in all the years that we’ve been together, we’ve never yet bought a clock because we can’t agree on one. If it hadn’t been for a providential accident, we might not have silverware, because for two years we couldn’t agree on that either. If we have another daughter, she might never be named.
Fortunately, one of the joys of marriage is that we’re slowly growing together. Prolonged exposure is wearing us down, but in a good way. Less like erosion and more like polish. (See how I spun that? I get a lot of practice because I never know when to stop talking.) Someday we’ll be shiny diamonds. When we got married we were just rocks, two very different sorts of rocks.
It made wedding plans fun to discuss.
My wife is from a place where weddings are elaborate society events, and spectacle is a means of expressing affection and joy. People rent tuxes if they’re just going to be nearby, because that’s a sign of respect. Someone even polishes the curb so that it won’t make the limousines look shabby. (Okay, I might be exaggerating slightly.)
I’m from a place where weddings frequently involve barbeque, and spectacle is what you call the distant relation who snuck in alcohol then lost the ability to stay in his chair. The groom wears a sport coat and most of the guests agree not to come in shorts. People express their joy by being relaxed and loud. (I’m not exaggerating at all.)
Thus, when I first thought about our wedding, I thought it would be nice to wear jeans, because I had a really comfortable pair at the time. When my wife first thought about our wedding however, it involved a castle that was visible from space.
Of course, as the groom I generally expected to acquiesce more than assert when it came to expectations. I figured that my role was to go along for the ride. (I was right as it turned out, but in an entirely different way than I anticipated. I’ll tell that story another time.) My wife is a sensitive, generous, and kind woman though, and she wanted to make sure that our wedding made me happy too.
That was why she made the mistake of asking for my input.
When my sister got married, she made a similar mistake: she asked if I had any ideas about how to make her wedding special. I suggested that she fill the church altar rails with oil so that she could get married between giant walls of flame. I was mostly joking, but only mostly. I’m a sucker for fire; what can I say? Not surprisingly though, my sister has not asked for my advice since. It’s been years and there’s no sign of change.
Luckily, I matured a bit over the next years. Also my wife’s question was more focused; my mind sometimes benefits from enclosed spaces. She asked me if there was anything specific I wanted from our reception.
I tried really hard to take the question seriously, because I appreciated her efforts on my behalf. Being a man though, I had never really thought about receptions before. In fact it may not have occurred to me that we were going to have one. It’s possible that my understanding of weddings was formed entirely by watching old cartoons. After the ceremony, the movie always ended. What was I supposed to ask for, closing credits?
Again my wife was kind: she gave me time to consider. Consider, I did. I thought deeply, exploring the depths of my heart and aesthetic, and discerned a threefold response: I wanted the reception to be short, quiet, and small.
In addition to being generous and such as I’ve described above, my wife is direct. It’s probably better described as a complete inability to be subtle, or to hide her responses. Her every thought is displayed on her face, and she says what she thinks. Her diplomatic style is a bit like strapping cymbals to an octopus and rolling it down stairs, but without the animal cruelty. It isn’t pretty and it won’t sneak up on anyone.
When I told her what I wanted, she smiled as though I were a bit dense, then rephrased, “What do you want that you think you might actually get?”
In general circumstances I have a limited reservoir of seriousness. (More on that another time too.) It’s more of a puddle, actually, than a reservoir, and I’d exhausted it with my first answer. I didn’t have any more deep reflections, so I just said what came to mind:
Yes, I even said it as a question. Apparently, when waffles come to my mind, they’re shrouded with the syrup of mystery and the butter of confused surprise. I think, of all the possible requests I could have made, neither my wife nor I expected that one.
To her credit though, my wife fought relentlessly to make sure that it was granted. Everyone else was more than a little uncertain about it. Nevertheless, in amongst the buffet of elegant and delicious gourmet food, our reception featured a waffle station. It was a hit, too.
Also it turned into a really pleasant memory, and something to bring my wife and I closer together. I don’t think either of us was particularly passionate about them before, but to this day we both enjoy eating waffles.
If only they made waffle clocks.