Talk of the Town - Moon, June, goon June 24 2004

Groom with a view

Everyone blubbers over a June bride, but who's minding the groom? An outbreak of marriage takes place across America this month; as usual, the male side of the cake is short on frosting.

Basically, a groom resembles a kidnap victim. You're crucial to the procedure, but there isn't much to do.

To truly comprehend the anonymous nature of groomdom, consider the jewelry factor. Every bride has a wedding ring that is unique, a thing of beauty subject to diligent search, selection (the "three Cs" of diamond acquisition are "cut, clarity, cuss at the bill"), design modification and, frequently, a World Bank loan.

Now consider the man's fing-a-ma-bob, downgraded to a "band," like shortwave radio. It's a plain, gold-colored washer. Every guy in history gets the same one.

Once a couple is cleared to taxi toward the altar, all planning falls to the prospective wife. Five minutes after I proposed, my fiancee whipped out a 536-page tome titled Modern Bride. It is to matrimony what Jane's Fighting Ships is to naval warfare.

Within it is a hoard of adverts for wedding gear: dresses, headpieces, gloves, veils, mantillas, belts, buckles and shoes. There are no prices, because this could induce latent male heart symptoms best left undiscovered until the honeymoon.

There are also articles with headlines such as, "100 Details You Can't Forget." I can't even remember my Social Security number.

Through inattention and sheer inertia, a man can get through much of the prenuptial planning process with little inconvenience to himself. If you've ever had dental work done under light anesthesia, the experience is similar.

By way of evidence, I submit the following transcript of a telephone conversation with the future Gnadigefrau Slattery, six months prior to our getting hitched:

She: And I was thinking about the bridesmaids' shoes.

Me: Mmm?

She: I mean, what color they should be?

Me: (clears throat)

She: Fuchsia would be nice, but not a real plum shade.

Me: Unnnh.

She: But not too pale, either. Nothing mauvy.

Me: Mmmm.

She: You know, the color of the dress I wore to my brother's wedding five years ago?

Me: Fmmph?

She: Well, just a little darker than the earrings I wore with that.

Me: Arrggh.

She: I guess you don't need to hear all this, do you?

Fact is, gentlemen, you do need to hear this. It's good training for what's to come. Because one thing I've learned about women — OK, the only thing I've learned about women — is that they often think out loud.

I also adjure guys to beware of the last-minute contretemps, the prenuptial argument enveloping all the anxieties and phobias that may simmer beneath the surface. Most guys don't see it coming.

My cousin didn't, although he did see an engagement ring hurled at his head the night of the wedding rehearsal. While a reconciliation was quickly implemented, the rest of the evening was spent pawing through dirty banquet hall dishes in search of the missing bling.

When my blowup came, I thought it would be about one of the big-ticket issues: commitment, love, a 401(k) plan.

Instead, it was about goldfish. Again, I refer to the transcripts:

She: And my cousin said she'd do all the table decorations.

Me: Sure.

She: We were thinking we'd have a glass bowl at each table, filled with water, with flowers floating on top.

Me: Right.

She: And along with the flowers, we could put a goldfish in each bowl.

This struck a disturbing chord of memory. A goldfish had been my very first pet. My grandparents brought it over on a snowy Christmas Eve when I was about 6. The trip left the fish in less than robust health, because it was doing the dead man's float by Christmas night.

My fiancee could not have known about this childhood trauma, so she was taken aback when I denounced the use of goldfish with all the righteous wrath of a televangelist. I pointed out that:

1) One of the goldfish would probably keel over during the wedding reception.

2) Some hungry relative might mistake a living party favor for sushi and eat one.

3) A kid in attendance would want to take the finned curiosities home and goldfish would be leaping out of cars along the interstate.

4) How would you like to be stuck in a bowl with eight people gawking at you?

Any one of those objections would have been enough to make my point. Deploying the entire quartet caused my affianced one to say, "Fine, fine!" The dreaded Double Fine is to marital discourse what a tornado warning is to meteorology. But we did make up.

And since marriage thrives on compromise, there were fish at the wedding reception. As an entree.


Glen Slattery is just fine, fine in Alpharetta.