Friday, July 07, 2006

When The Young Ones Marry

Ask Mr. Long IslandBY MICHAEL WATT

Last month my sister Annie announced her engagement to a fine young man named Mark. As a family we could not be any happier for them or about the situation. But the news is tinged with just the slightest bit of melancholy because it marks the end of an era for the Watt family.

Annie, you see, is the youngest of the 13 children in my parents’ family. She was born when I was a senior in high school (1977). When I was in college my friend Pat Foley of New Jersey came to visit me on Long Island. Annie spent the better part of the evening sitting on the kitchen floor, grabbing raw potatoes from a bowl and tossing them around the kitchen. My mother retrieved them AND carried on a conversation with Pat at the same time. The skill and aplomb with which my mother executed these actions so impressed him that to this day the mere mention of Annie’s name will inspire him to relate that story. A few years later, when she met my then-girlfriend now-wife Sharon for the first time, she was wearing feetsy pajamas.

Now she’s getting married, the last of the six Watt girls to do so. My older sister Margaret got married in 1974, Joan in 1985, Mary Ann and Katie in 1994 and Jeanne in 1999. What’s a decade without a Watt family wedding or two? After this we just start marking time until the nieces and nephews start announcing their impending nuptials.

There is something special about seeing a sister married off even though there seems to be a lot more work involved. I say seems to be because fortunately for me whatever work there is to be done does not involve me. And if I were in the business of handing out free advice to brothers-in-law – and I am not – my advice to Annie’s beloved would be to plan on having as little to do with the wedding planning, as well.

Oh, he should (and does) care and he should (and will) chip in whatever elbow grease he has available, especially when it comes to licking the envelopes. But let’s face it: if it were up to most guys the “to do list” for every wedding reception would be simple – get a church, ice the beer, order the pigs in a blanket and make sure the band or DJ has some rocking tunes with “Louie Louie” and “The Worm” from “Animal House” an absolute must.

(In case you are wondering; yes – even though Mark barely remembers the Reagan Administration he is cool enough to understand and appreciate the social significance and musical magnitude of both.)

Mark is my kind of guy. When the womenfolk were discussing the wedding reception someone mentioned the seating chart. “What’s a seating chart?” he asked. Now Mark has a deadpan sense of humor so I can’t say for sure if he was kidding. I do know that by the time they get married – August 11, 2007 – he not only will know what a seating chart is, he will feel about seating charts the same way President Bush feels about polysyllabic words.

There are other phrases he will come to loathe. Color schemes. Paper stock (for the invitations). Bridal registry. Wedding photographer. Thank you cards. Bridesmaid gowns.

Ah yes, bridesmaids and bridesmaids’ gowns. I have no idea how big the wedding party is going to be, nor do I care to know. I do know that men have it so much better than women when it comes to dressing formally. Rather than fret over color schemes and accessories and whether matching shoes can be found, guys go with black tuxedos and black shoes. Oh there may be the occasional groom in a powder blue suit, but the only purpose that can possible serve is increasing the odds that a segment of the wedding video is going to show up on “America’s Funniest Videos” or “Cops.”

Then there’s the food. Again, if it were up to the groom it would be burgers all around, pass the chips and Bud and who’s pouring? Of course one of the reasons guys get married is because they realize that the bachelor lifestyle comes up a little short in the long run. If anything, the wedding reception marks the transition in a man’s life where using shot glasses for your morning dose of mouthwash is no longer an acceptable practice. The next thing you know he’s learning that it’s pronounced “crew-da-tay” and not “cru-dites” and that they are really referring to vegetables on a platter. Why would anyone voluntarily eat vegetables, much less put effort into arranging them nicely on a platter? Not even married guys know the answer to that one, but they also know not to ask.

So don’t ask, Mark. Just nod. And oh yeah, watch out for free advice from future brothers-in-law. It can be more dangerous than air-borne raw potatoes.

Thank you for reading this column.

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