White Wedding

Commentary: In Exile

Around the time your late twenties begin to take shape on the horizon, everyone who’s passed that benchmark will tell you that you’ll soon be going to 146 weddings a year.

I find this difficult to believe. Of all of my friends in New York, most of whom are in their late twenties and many of whom are straight, exactly two of these are stably partnered (to each other). Everyone else I know exhibits the sort of dating maturity normally found on the sixth grade playground. I remember my friends Gary and Rebecca began dating at the start of recess one day in sixth grade — by the time recess was over, so was the relationship. ”Gary,” Rebecca said soberly, ”you’ve changed.”

I’ve been to four weddings — two of them family, one of them gay, and a fourth that I bolted before the rotisserie chicken was served because the DJ, who I had befriended, tipped me off that he’d been instructed to cue up ”YMCA” during dinner and ask everyone to do the dance.

This afternoon will be wedding number five, a secular affair administered by a justice of the peace at Scopello’s, a restaurant in Brooklyn with a manicotti Bolognese that could sink a ship. It’s my cousin’s wedding, the cousin I lived with in a horrible apartment in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn when I first moved to New York over two years ago, so it’s sort of a special thing for me, too. I remember when he met this woman. They met on the Internet. He was very excited, and made her personal profile photo the default background on his computer. Two years later, they’re getting married.

Two nights ago I went to his bachelor party at Winnie’s, a karaoke trap in one of the seedier sections of Chinatown. At Winnie’s, the ceiling is literally caving in, and whenever someone wants to sing a karaoke song, the old woman working behind the bar must stop serving drinks and cue up a LaserDisc for whatever song you want to sing. The songbook hasn’t been updated since, from what we could tell, 1989. (We calculated this by noting that ”Baby, I Love Your Way” was included, but that ”Do Me!” by Bell Biv Devoe, which certainly should have been, was not.)

My cousin, gregarious as always, sang ”Sister Christian” (1983) the moment that we got there. He brought down the house. A girl at the bar actually proposed to him after he sang. That song was written by Night Ranger’s drummer, Kelly Keagy, as a warning to his sister to wait for just the right guy before getting married, as one music freak at our table informed us. We all silently noted the coincidence.

I sang Billy Joel’s ”Tell Her About It” (1983) and ”Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1989), which I always sing at karaoke because of its character as a natural crowd pleaser. We all drank loads of Tsingtao and then went to this bar that people call Double Happiness because it used to be one of those massage parlors ”with release.” I’m not sure where the ”double” comes in there, but it’s in a creepy basement with great ambient lighting.

It was my first bachelor party. There were no naked ladies, a fact that my cousin had preemptively warned (or reassured) us of in the e-mail invitation. I probably would have decided to skip it if it was going to be a naked ladies bachelor party. I’d have worried that she would have started giving me a lap dance, and then I’d either have to pretend that I was enjoying it, or act all ironic and silly while she was doing it, like really playing it up for laughs, and I didn’t want to do either of those things.

Now it’s time for the wedding, and I’m sort of impressed at how grown up my cousin suddenly seems, getting married and being all stable and refusing to have a catastrophic love life like the rest of us insist on having. My own relationship has been somewhat catastrophic lately, or at least chaotic, which has been partially my fault and partially my boyfriend’s, and this wedding today has made me feel like I want to do something about that.

My apartment faces an alley, and on the other side of that alley is a Catholic church. It’s one of the best things about this apartment, because we get to wake up to the sound of a churchful of people singing hymns every Sunday morning. But this particular morning, I can hear a wedding going on in that church. At first I thought they were just doing a sort of extra-rockin’ Sunday morning mass, because someone is playing an electric guitar along with the usual hymns, but then I just heard that ”Here Comes the Bride” song being played on the organ. There’s a couple getting married over there this very minute, their whole lives changing forever together. It’s enough to make you want to leave your sixth grade behavior behind.

Will Doig writes biweekly from his exile in New York City. He can be reached at wdoig@metroweekly.com.