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Bitter is the new black, p.17
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       Bitter is the New Black, p.17

           Jen Lancaster
 

  “I’m honestly surprised you made it out here. Don’t you need to be writing about how some athlete threw some sort of projectile through some sort of apparatus?” My brother is the sports editor at his paper, and he works constantly. What his employers don’t understand is he’d pay them to be able to write about sports all day.

  “Nope, got an intern to cover my page for a few days, so I’m good. Hey, how do I get one of those foot-long strawberry margaritas?”

  “You flip the flag up in the back like this.” I demonstrate on my own chair.

  The waitress retrieves our drink order, and Todd is soon taking contented sips, alternating his glances between the Red Sox article and the porn queens frolicking with one another in the surf.

  “I hope they’re using extra chlorine this weekend,” Todd snickers.

  “No kidding. This convention is making me nuts. Last night Mom and I were waiting in line for a cab next to a woman in an outfit fabricated from a Mylar balloon. Her dress was short enough to be worn as a tank top. A couple of men behind us made a big fuss over how nice she smelled, and it made me mad. Excuse me, but I’m the one who showered, moisturized, and perfumed myself with J’Adore Dior minutes before. She smelled like crab dip.”

  “When I called Jean last night, she wasn’t pleased to hear about the strippers, either.” Hmm, Jean’s at home managing three children under the age of six, and her husband’s at a hotel full of adult entertainers. I can’t imagine why she’d be upset.

  “Did Mom tell you about the guy with the greasy tan and a ton of gold necklaces who asked me if I was here for the convention? I said to him, ‘Pal, I’m wearing a pink Lacoste, green Capri pants, and a triple strand of pearls. Exactly what part of my countenance says, ‘I have sex with strangers on film’ to you?”

  “After a bunch of strippers got off the elevator this morning, Mom made the comment, ‘I can’t stop looking at boobs.’ I don’t think she realized other the people in the elevator were listening,” Todd tells me with a laugh. My mother and I both lack the internal firewall that keeps us from saying almost everything we think.

  “If I didn’t know better, I’d guess you were enjoying yourself. How many times have I heard you say you hated Vegas and would never, ever come out here?”

  He shrugs. “I say a lot of things I don’t mean in order to make you mad.”100

  “Once I’m married, will you’ll finally start treating me like an adult? And quit writing mean articles about me? Maybe not try to extort money every time we see each other?”

  “Can’t see it happening, but because of your wedding, I’ll make you a deal. If you give me $5, I’ll be nice to you for the rest of the week.”

  “You’re truly a prince among men.”

  “Yeah.”

  I hand him five singles. “Hey, Todd, how did you find me out here? The beach itself is something like eleven acres, not including the rest of the pool area.”

  “I looked out the window up in Mom and Dad’s room, and I tried to spot the fattest person. I saw a big blob, figured it was you, and here I am.”

  I hold out my palm and demand he return my $5.

  He complies. “It was worth it.”

  “Mom, come on. Our appointments start in a few minutes.” It’s my wedding day, and I’m standing in the hallway outside my parents’ room, banging on the door and trying to get my mother out of bed. I can’t believe I have to rally her. As anxious and excited as she’s been about today, I figured she’d have been up since dawn. “If we don’t get down to the spa now, we won’t have time for coffee and muffins.”

  My mother opens the door and I’m taken aback at how green she is. “Oh, my God! What happened to you?” I exclaim.

  “Shh, sick. Very, very sick,” she whispers, leaning on my shoulder for support. “I don’t know why. I only had one glass of wine.”

  “Mom? It’s not considered one glass if the waiter keeps refilling it.”

  She gasps. “Jennifer, that’s a lie! I don’t drink! Besides, I only had one glass. I’m sure this is a bad reaction to the tannins because it was red wine.”

  “You were sitting next to me at the table, and I saw the waiter top off your goblet at least fifteen times. Do the math: We had twenty guests at the rehearsal dinner, yet we went through fifty bottles of wine. That’s an average of about ten glasses apiece.”

  “I do not have a hangover! I’m sick! I ate too many rich foods last night, and they interacted with the tannins.”

  “Really? If you’re not hungover, you wouldn’t mind if I talked about a fatty pork chop covered with fried onions, served in a dirty ash tray?”

  “No!” she yells, dashing to the trash can by the elevator.

  “Ready to change that one glass answer?”

  “Well, maybe I had two glasses, but no more than that,” she claims. While our elevator descends to the spa level, my mother places both hands on the walls to steady herself.

  “Oh, look, it’s Julia, Queen of Denial! Mom, do you recall why Fletch and I left the rehearsal dinner so early last night?”

  “Actually, no.”

  “Remember when you and cousin Karla started singing ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home,’ and I begged you to stop? And you looked at me with your hair all disheveled and your blazer hanging off your shoulder and replied, ‘Itsch my daaay, annnd I’ll do whats I wantsss,’ so I turned to Fletch and said, ‘We’re leaving.’”

  “I would never say such a thing. And it was only one glass. Possibly two.”

  “Tell yourself that enough and it will eventually begin to feel true.”

  I check us into the spa. “Hi, I’m here for a sugar glow and this radiant mother of the bride is here for a massage.” I gesture toward my mother, who is practically grass green at this point. I collect our robes and keys, and we head to the locker room to change.

  In the waiting area, I indulge in muffins, fruit, and a mimosa while my mother clings to her bottle of water. I shake my glass at her. “Care for a little hair of the dog?” She winces and places her head in her hands. When my esthetician comes to get me, I follow her to the treatment room, calling over my shoulder, “Don’t yack on the massage table!”

  When my sugar glow ends, I rinse off and look for my mother. We planned to spend some time in the eucalyptus steam room and then the sauna before we have our manicures.

  “Jennifer?” asks the woman behind the counter.

  “Yes?”

  “Your mother said she’d meet you at the salon later. I think she went back upstairs to lie down.”

  “Thanks for telling me.”

  “Is she going to be OK? She looked pretty bad.”

  “She’ll be fine,” I reply. “After all, she only had one glass of wine.”

  I’ve pictured my wedding day a hundred thousand times. In none of these scenarios was my teetotaling mother too hungover to help me get ready. Because I didn’t want to impinge on any of my friends, I’m completely alone right now. Fletch is getting buffed and polished in the men’s spa, so it’s just me in my room, finishing a club sandwich and a Coke while watching a Real World San Francisco rerun.101

  I have to be at the chapel in a half an hour, so it’s time to put on my dress. After washing the mayo off my hands and fixing my lipstick, I slip on my gown and attempt to zip it. Because of the zipper’s placement, I can only get it up halfway. I struggle to the point of breaking a sweat and then I give up. My bridal magazines lied to me: This does not feel like the best day of my life.

  Fortunately, it looks like the best day of my life. The stylist pinned my hair in a messy up ’do, festooned with baby orchids and it’s all tousled and Brigette Bardot–like. My makeup is unbelievable, too—the artist used some kind of iridescent powder on my cheekbones, and they look amazing. I ate my lunch in front of the mirror because I couldn’t stop gazing adoringly at myself. I am one hot bride.

  I call my parents’ room, seeking help. In an amused voice, Dad informs me they’ll be over as soon as my mother finishes dry
heaving. Then he starts grousing about his cummerbund. He’s mad at my mother because she insisted he wear a white dinner jacket instead of a blazer and the Hawaiian shirt I’d bought him for the ceremony. Apparently I’m not the only one with a Mom-induced wardrobe dilemma.

  Half-dressed, but radiant, I sit on the bed and wait. Surely I won’t have to go down the aisle with my steel-plated bra showing, right?

  Here I am, about to make a covenant before God and the most important people in my life, and all I can think is the minister looks exactly like the Father Guido Sarducci character from Saturday Night Live.

  “Fletch, Guido Sarducci! He looks like Father Guido Sarducci,” I whisper without moving my lips.

  “That’s exactly what I was thinking,” he whispers back.

  “I wonder if it’s really him. When was the last time you saw him on TV? Hey, did you notice the gangbanger getting married right before us? His child bride looked about fourteen years old, and they already had a baby! And did you see the tattoo on his neck? He must have—”

  The minister begins the ceremony. Oh. We should probably not be talking. I already kind of got in trouble for stopping to chat with a couple of people on my way down the aisle.

  We opted for the religious ceremony today. I mean, just because I’m getting married in a casino doesn’t mean I’m a pagan. Even with God included, the whole thing should take less than fifteen minutes, which should be a new record for weddings I’ve attended. In high school, Carol and I went to this girl Janine’s wedding and it was sixteen minutes long. Of course, she was seventeen years old and heavily pregnant, but still…I win.

  Ever been to a Catholic ceremony with a full mass? Oy. You could grow old and die before that service ends. With a fifteen-minute ceremony, there’s no time for all the extraneous foolishness that bores everyone at weddings, like that awful “Love Is” reading or the hideous “Today I Marry My Friend” poem. Ugh. I’d rather repeat Homer Simpson’s vows from the “Milhouse Divided” episode: “Do you, Marge, take Homer, in richness and poorness—poorness is underlined—in impotence and in potence, in quiet solitude or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated—”

  Fletch pokes me. Huh? “Oh, um, yes, I do come before you today on my own free will,” I tell Father Guido.

  “Excellent,” he replies. “And now I shall read for you a verse from First Corinthians.” Father Guido whips off his glasses and I inadvertently roll my eyes. Excuse me, padre? You perform this ceremony twenty times a day and I’m willing to bet you’ve got this stuff down cold. I appreciate the dramatic effect of removing your eye-wear, but your theatrics really aren’t needed. We’ve already agreed to buy the video—no need to thespian things up, all right?

  “Ahem. Love is patient, love is kind…”

  GAH!!

  After the ceremony, Fletch and I pose for at least a thousand photos. My brother does some photography for his newspaper, so he’s also taking pictures. Todd and our photographer are having some sort of professional pissing match, seeing who can use the most lenses and capture the most angles.

  “Yo, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, can we please wrap this up? There will be plenty more photo ops during the reception and I’m melting out here,” I complain. When it’s 105 degrees, a dry heat is still awfully hot, especially in my stupid scuba-suit girdle. “I’m marinating like a pork chop. Let’s GO!”

  “These are memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime,” the hired photographer replies.

  “No, my memories are taking place INDOORS, where my friends and family are enjoying air-conditioning and cold drinks. The only memory I have right now is of sweat rolling down the crack of my ass. Can we please go inside?”

  Our hired photographer replies, “Of course!” Finally! “As soon as we shoot you by the mosaic fountains.”

  “And by the elephant statues!” my brother adds.

  “Don’t forget the iron gates!”

  “And what about those huge palm trees?”

  “Hey, you know what would be a great shot? Through the foliage. Let’s just get a couple more….”102

  I’m at least ten pounds thinner by the time we’re allowed indoors. While waiting for us, the guests have been drinking almost two hours, and a couple of our friends are completely trashed. Fletch’s old Army buddy Joel is in such rough shape that Fletch takes him upstairs to lie down in our room.

  Since everyone else has been at the reception for DAYS, we get the last two seats, against the wall, sandwiched neatly between my mother and father, and across from a couple of their neighbors. My mother insisted other guests sit at what looked like the open and accessible head table, forcing us into a tiny marital box, where it’s virtually impossible A) to get up, and B) for anyone to come over to talk to us. Momzilla has conquered her hangover and glommed on to me again. She finally appreciates all my hard work, and the second-guessing has morphed into an outpouring of physical affection. My dinner conversation consists of phrases like: “I can’t hold my glass and your hand at the same time, Mom.” “You’re smothering me! Please sit on your own chair.” “You’ve kissed me more times than my husband today. KNOCK IT OFF.” I’m actually delighted at the prospect of taking more pictures just to escape my mother-loving veal pen.

  I spend a sum total of thirty-six seconds with my friends at the reception, so we make plans to meet up after I change out of my dress. Somehow I get roped into carrying cake and flowers back to my parents’ room.103

  A good thirty minutes passes by the time I make it back down to Rum Jungle. A line has gathered outside the club but I ignore it. As I let myself in the velvet rope and walk in the door, an enormous slab of beef wearing a suit and a headset throws a meaty arm in front of me.

  “Excuse me,” I say, attempting to walk around him.

  “We’re closed until ten o’clock.”

  “Yeah, I know. You were shut down for a private party—mine.”

  “Party’s over. We’re closed till they finish tearing down the tables to convert it from restaurant seating to nightclub seating.”

  “But I see all my guests in there at the bar right now. It’s obviously not closed if they’re still having drinks.”

  “Sorry. I can’t let you in until ten p.m.”

  “Can I at least run in and tell my friends I’m here? They’ve got to wonder where I am.”

  “Sure.” I start to walk in the door, and he blocks me again.

  “At ten o’clock.”

  I see what’s happening. This ham-fisted, steroid-addled, genetic freak of nature is toying with me. Pal, today is not the day for this.

  “Are you trying to tell me that my parents spent thousands of dollars here this evening and I, the bride, am not allowed to JOIN THE REST OF MY WEDDING PARTY?”

  “Oh, you can join them.” He cracks the knuckles on his dinner plate–sized hands.

  “Thank you.”

  “At ten o’clock.”

  “Am I missing something here? Because I am obviously not effectively communicating with you. Tell me, should I dip into my wedding present money—which I need to keep my home—and find a nice big bill to give to you for the privilege of attending my own wedding reception?”

  A muscle tenses in his enormous square jaw, and he gives me a mean little grin. He shifts his eyes from side to side and leans in to quietly inform me, “Wouldn’t hurt.”

  “Trust me, it would.” I address the line of waiting patrons. “Hey, everyone? This gentleman expects me to BRIBE him to get into my own reception. Can you believe someone would stoop so low as to extort cash from a bride on her wedding day? However, I choose not to BRIBE him, but I wanted to let you all know it sounds like he’s willing to accept money under the table for early entry!” I return the bouncer’s mean smile and revel in the fact he’s gone completely pale under his tan. “How ’bout I run in and get my friends now?”

  As we exit, I wish the bouncer best of luck with the graft and let him know we’ll never be back. He doesn’t care,
but it certainly makes me feel better.

  Somewhere in the past half an hour, I seem to have lost my groom. He and a few fraternity brothers took off to look for me while I was on cake duty. Our remaining group heads to one of the lounges, and we stake out a bunch of couches. After a couple of drinks, I realize how tired I am, but I don’t want to leave until Fletch finds us. I wait and wait but he doesn’t show up. Around eleven thirty p.m., I tell my brother to make sure Fletch knows I’ve gone up to the room and to join me there.

  As I let myself into the room, the first thing I notice is the crib…but not until after I’ve fallen into it.

  Frantically, I dial the concierge. “Hi, this is Jennifer Lancaster in one of the honeymoon suites…. Fine, thanks. No, wait, I’m actually not fine. Housekeeping set up a CRIB in my room, I tripped over it, and I want it removed…. Uh-huh, yes…. You know, all the other couples I saw at the chapel today already had children, so I assume it was meant for one of their rooms…. I suggest you try Child Bride and Tattoo Neck’s room first. I’m pretty sure they don’t make a lot of good choices, and I bet they kept the baby with them tonight…. Great. Thank you.”

  Rubbing my hip where I bruised it on the crib, I survey the rest of the room. The bed is disheveled from where Joel passed out on it earlier, but not before spilling what I hope was his beer. Nice. OK, I’m not going to freak out about this because Fletch did the right thing by having him sleep it off. I don’t know why he didn’t station Joel on the COUCH, but I’m not going to get mad. It’s my special day, and everything was perfect. Granted, I didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy any of it, but everyone else did, so I guess that’s what’s important.

  Then I notice exactly how smoky the room is. Fletch must have been up here looking for me because everyone in his entourage smokes when they drink. All the ashtrays in the suite are clean so I wonder what happened to the cigarette butts. The smell of stale smoke is nauseatingly prevalent.

  Oh…I see. They chose to stub them out in the remains of my room service tray. I am trying very hard not to get mad. I repeat to myself special day, happy guests, looked pretty eating a sandwich, everything’s OK.

 
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