Thursday, July 26, 2007

The big day

I tried not to spend too much time thinking about what the wedding, the marriage, meant to my niece. She's marrying a guy she's met maybe five or six times and who she hasn't seen for two full weeks prior to the wedding. What the? So crazy. But, not wrong. Well, it's wrong too, but not necessarily worse, or at least that's what I said to B1 after we got home. He talked about trying not to judge. I said it was ok to judge and I could even tell him what was wrong with their way (for one, it's horribly oppressive to women), but it's not necessarily worse, mostly different. Their marriages are no more or less unhappy than ours--they just happen a lot earlier and involve many more children. Better or worse? Who says? I don't have a problem with arranged marriage outside of a strict patriarchy, but they don't tend to exist otherwise. (Orthodox Judaism is an extremely strict patriarchy.) I argued that when the economic power or women increases, marriage loses its (traditional) meaning. B1 raised the point that most of the women in B2's world work, because the men sit and study torah all day. I said the men still had the decision making power. We tossed that one back and forth with no resolution.

The day of the wedding was crazy, as expected. I was late to my hair appointment, but the scheduled was off by just a little (as expected). The oldest girls, Avital (niece-in-law), and Tikvah (sister-in-law) took turns getting their make-up done. The make-up was applied with a very heavy hand, as though they were going on the stage rather than preparing to dance frantically all night. Such make-up is good for photos but not much else. I declined the make-up.

A close friend loaned me a necklace since I forgot to pack any jewelry. People ran in and out of the house getting things and bringing things. Neighbor girls festooned the entrance to the house with ribbons and waited for the bride to appear. I drove Adina down the block to pick up her dress, which was being altered. I drove B2 to Ora's so he could put up the mezzuzot. He forgot the key. I drove home, got the key, drove back to Ora's, getting grumpier all the time in the 95 degree heat. No time was left for mezzuzot--we stopped by again on the way to the hall.

I tried to get Spesh to come, but he refused on the grounds that the hall was in a settlement. The real reason, I think, is that he's shy. Plus, this kind of event isn't social for folks like us who are not part of the community. My business there is purely symbolic. But it's important to me, so I do it. It's part of my "try to make everyone happy" philosophy. Right. It means something to the family that I'm there, so I'm there. That's the best I can do. It's moderately selfless, since none of them will come to any wedding of mine, at least if I marry a non-Jew. I'm doing for them with no expectation that they'll do for me. That's ok. I can feel morally superior.

Everyone fully dressed was quite impressive. The sisters and their sister-in-law all wore dresses made from the same material, but in different designs. My sister-in-law, Tikvah, had designed the dresses (they hired a seamstress to sew them). They were frothy prom-like confections, but cute enough. Oh, and green, "apple green," according to Ahuva, the youngest.

I drove to the wedding with Dad, B2 and B1. It was longer than usual due to an informal checkpoint, which we were waved through. We still arrived in plenty of time to greet the guests. I got a lot of mazel tov and many chances to practice my one line of Hebrew, "Ani doda shel Ora." "I am Ora's aunt." Awesome!

The wedding was much like Yehuda's, but a little calmer. It was less crowded and there was more time to eat. The music was loud and I danced quite a bit. I mostly observed, took pictures and played with little kids. Pretty much like any wedding I attend. I had a good time, but was never fully part of things. But how could I be? I did get a blessing from the bride. She was handing out challah, after the ceremony and the required hour in seclusion with the new husband. I went up to get my piece. Ora asked me, "Do you want to get a husband?"

I said, "Yes."

She said, "Then I will make you a blessing." She put her free hand on my shoulder and said something about finding a husband easily and him being the right one. I thanked her and gave her a big hug and kiss. Hey, who knows, maybe this is what I've been waiting for. Um, maybe not, but it was very sweet.

The real dancing started some time after my blessing. It was finished by 12:30, but we didn't leave until 1:30am because of another round of formal picture taking after the guests left. We had pictures before the wedding, but without the groom. After, the groom was included. The after pictures won't be so great since everyone was exhausted and sweaty. The make-up was clinging to faces, but just barely.

Overall, a good time. Yet, it confirms more than ever that my secret wedding fantasy is to elope. I'm a rebel.

Grateful for: my blessing.

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