The Competition

February 5, 2010

Planning my daughter’s wedding has become a family affair. We talk about it all the time. I’m just as involved in the discussion as my wife and two daughters. When we were discussing the wedding dress, I said, “Why do you have to have a wedding dress?” When the subject of a cake came up, I said, “Why do you have to have a cake?” When Aegis tossed around a few ideas about dresses for her bridesmaids, I said, “Why do you have to have bridesmaids?”

“Why do you have to buy M a ring?”

“Why do have to go on a honeymoon?”

“Why do you have to have a bridal shower?”

Oh, how I love to plan. Not that it does any good. They unanimously voted down my idea for a big pancake breakfast at the altar.

Everyone at Aegis’s work loves to talk about her upcoming wedding. A rep who frequently stops at the office got wind of my daughter’s engagement and immediately got into the spirit of planning.

“Do you have a photographer yet?” she said. My daughter does not, so the rep told her about a  photographer with reasonable rates who did incredible work. Now keep in mind that Aegis is wearing her mother’s wedding dress, which K will tailor. The reception hall is free. The church my wife and daughters attend will loan tables and white tablecloths. K is making the cake. This wedding is shaping up to be so modestly priced that we have yet to meet a corner that needs cutting.  “I’m going to give you this photographer’s number, and I want you to promise me that you will call him,” the rep said. “A word of advice: get married at sunrise. That’s what me and my husband did. We were married on the beach at Cabo. The sun was rising in the east and a full moon was setting in the west, and this photographer was able to capture both in one shot. It was magnificent. At the reception I made all of the guests wear nothing but white, and I wore a bright red dress. I was like a rose in snow. It was the most beautiful wedding you’ve ever seen, and we were featured in a bridal magazine.” My daughter told me this story while we were on a three mile run. I listened closely and tried to imagine the amount of planning that must have gone into that wedding, not to mention the cost. Then I imagined my daughter planning something equally as ambitious. “Do you have to have a photographer?” I asked.

I suppose a wedding in Cabo would be fun. I would definitely like to be invited to such an occasional, as long as I could stay in my room or at the pool, and as long as I didn’t have to wear all white. I would be happiest at that wedding if I could observe from a distance. I would want to be far enough away where I could see the people but not make out any of the faces, where I could hear music but no make out any of the lyrics. I would recline in a comfortable chaise longue, good book in hand, with an occasion interruption from a fellow guest who wandered in my direction to see how I was doing. K would be that guest. And she would bring me food and catch me up on the latest. That would be a fun wedding. Then, when my brother-in-law and his wife, who would also be attending the wedding, had their fill of mingling with the wedding party, they would come my way and we would play canasta. That would be a good invite.

K and I have been to Cabo only one time. We stayed one week. A full week at a resort without our kids, which was something we hadn’t done in twenty years.  We had no plans to go scuba diving or parasailing. All we wanted was 7 consecutive days by the pool and 7 consecutive days of sex. Something else we hadn’t done in twenty years.

Our hotel was 45 minutes from the airport. We shared a ride to the hotel with 3 other couples, maybe 4. During the ride, I remember being distracted by the abundance of desert flora, which went on for miles. I was also distracted by the woman behind me who wouldn’t stop talking. She, too, went on for miles. She was, what you call, savvy. She bought property when it was low, and sold it when it was high. She knew her way around Mexico, where to eat, where to shop, where to stay, when to stay, and she schooled us all. “Never do your shopping when you see a cruise ship docking. The local merchants triple their prices.” I had a window seat in that van with a pretty good view of a Carnival ship floating out there in the bay of Cabo. I also had a good view of the city of Cabo and what looked to me like unmistakable poverty. I imagined all of the locals frantically running from their ramshackle one- and two-room homes and changing all the prices on the merchandise. Then I imagined the cruise ship tourists, stomachs bloated from hours of feeding at all-you-can-eat buffets and dessert bars, pouring into the streets of Cabo and paying $18 for a souvenir sombrero that should have retailed for $6.  I soaked in the reality that we were 8 or so Americans speeding down a Mexican highway in an air-conditioned van, a specially permitted van that was authorized to enter the resort where we were all staying. We’d just flown into a foreign country, something the locals in Cabo would likely never experience, and after doing our best to shield ourselves from the poverty of Mexico by hiding within the walls of the resort, we would return to the richest country in the world. I scolded this woman in my mind for her selfishness. Lady, I thought, you should gladly pay these poor people 10 times the price. That’s what I gladly did…again, in my mind, as I am a person who does not like to shop.

My mind was very active on that drive to the resort. I remember thinking as we passed retaining walls and various building, Hmmm….looks like they sell spray paint in Mexico. I also thought it was interesting that none of the men in the van were speaking. Only the women. There we were, 4 or 5 men in the van with nothing to say to each other. I’m not sure what these men saw when they looked at me, but from my viewpoint, they looked like still-life paintings. And while my mind was abuzz with musings and fantasies and judgments, these other men appeared to be, from the neck up, completely at rest. I wondered, Is it just me, or are they thinking too? I didn’t dare ask, for fear that maybe, unbeknownst to me, real men don’t think. I don’t think real men say “unbeknownst” either.

We immediately settled into a routine at the resort: morning walks along the beach, mid-morning, afternoon and early evening lounging at the pool, dinner at night, then sex. That was our itinerary for seven straight days.  And we stayed the course. By day 5 we would spring from the bed ready for our sandy stroll. Then we would stake out a couple of chaise longues at the pool. We’d have books, crossword puzzles, peanut M&Ms, cashews, and cokes in tow and not move for hours. After the sun went down, we’d head for our room for a little hanky panky. And while, in the early days of our trip, we had the vigor of a 20 year-olds in the bedroom, by day 5, our stamina began to wane.  Nevertheless, we had a goal. We’d return to our room at night, sigh, and say, “OK, if we’re going to do this, let’s just get it over with.” At the beginning of our trip, we derived pleasure from the act itself; towards the end, we triumphed in its completion. “OK! Good job! Two more days to go!” We have this rule during bedroom fun: nobody leaves until we’ve both climaxed.  This rule presented a bit of a challenge by day five. Our expressions of physical love didn’t feel much different than starting a stubborn car. RRRRRRrrreeehhhRRRRRRrrrreeeeehhhRRRRRrrrreeehhh….”C’mon baby, c’mon!”….. RRRRRRrrreeehhhRRRRRRrrrreeeeehhhRRRRRrrrreeehhh….”C’mon baby, c’mon!” Then we’d stop and let things settle. We’d take a deep breath, then RRRRRRrrreeehhhRRRRRRrrrreeeeehhhRRRRRrrrreeehhh….”C’mon baby, c’mon!” Then, the relief when our engines fired. “Two more days to go!”

By day seven, our expressions of physical love felt more like CPR. We tried anything to get the heart beating. “Stay with me, stay with me. 1,2,3 CLEAR! 1,2,3 CLEAR!” Then, when we reached that “blip”—what euphoria in knowing that we weren’t completely dead, plus the euphoria in knowing that we could turn on the TV again.