Thursday, September 12, 2013

Theory 17: Funerals are better than weddings, for guests, especially in the South.

Disclaimer: Like you, I hate to say goodbye to people I love. Death may be natural but it is also tragic, unsettling, and sometimes so awful that the pain for those left behind is other-worldly in its scope. I know grief. We all know grief. This post is not meant to poke fun of death, dying, or grieving, so literal readers, please back off the keyboards until you read the whole article and forgive me as I figuratively walk down the aisle through the valley of the shadow of death.

Woody Allen is often quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Amen, Woody. I was not afraid to get married. I just didn’t want to be there when it happened. I’m not a delicate flower of the south. I am feminine and I try to be ladylike, but I’m not into table-setting, flower-aranging, dish-shopping, or party-planning. Tall Child was raised in church, a country club, and private schools. He is a modern Southern Gentleman. After he proposed, I pleaded, “Let’s get married at the beach by ourselves on our honeymoon and come back and throw a big backyard barbeque blowout with a band.” (I like simplification and alliteration.) Tall Child retorted, “No way, Bug! This is your first wedding.”


What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?

I’ve suffered from anxiety issues since my father’s premature death (he was 44, I was 19) and I hate to be forced into formal situations. I don’t mind being the center of attention and I enjoy speaking in public, where I set the tone for my talking. But, weddings put so much pressure on the bride to be perfect and formal and skinny. I am none of those. Tall Child proposed on a Friday. I called the church on Monday and asked the preacher for his first open Saturday morning (cheaper, simpler, quicker) wedding slot. Check! I called my employer’s caterer and asked him to fax me his wedding menu. I circled what I wanted and faxed it back. Check! The next weekend, Delicious and I went to the mall to register for china. I chose inexpensive dishes from the backlit floor-to-ceiling shelves in the home department. I walked up to the registry clerk and said, “I need to complete a bridal registry.” She asked, “Do you have an appointment?” I said, “No ma’am. I don’t need one.” I gave her the names of the every day and formal patterns and asked her to “put me down” for 12 place settings of each and add white towels (any brand) so I could Clorox them clean. Check! My mother-in-law, the ultimate Southern hostess, asked me “Did you at least register for a coffee maker?” I said, “No ma’am, I don’t drink coffee.” I was madly in love with Tall Child. I was absolutely ready to be a wife, but I had no talent (or interest) in being a bride. The night before our wedding, I slept ZERO hours. After eight hours of nervous twitching, I took a shower, slapped on my grocery store make-up, and headed to the big city of Knoxville to get married. I made Delicious whip me through Burger King for some Cini Mini’s. At the church, I put on my lovely and wonderfully borrowed wedding dress, popped ½ a Klonopin from Delicious’s jeweled wedding handbag, and got myself hitched. Checkmate! Better yet: Check! Mate!

Here’s my take on how funerals are better than weddings, for the guests, particularly in the South, by category, particularly for my particular self. Categories are disturbingly parallel, aren’t they?

Weddings: Weddings plans can take a long time, depending on the wedding couple’s families, social status, connections, and wealth. All that time is a petri dish for rapid growth of stress cooties, cash cooties, and gossip cooties (all of which multiply exponentially). Oh, and a major “reconsider” and breakup. Think movies: The Notebook, Sweet Home Alabama, Runaway Bride …. Married ladies, don’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind.

Funerals: Well, there’s no time to break up with anyone. Funeral plans are last minute, quick, routine, and handled by the wedding planner, I mean, funeral director. The funeral directors I know pray with families. Wedding planners probably should.

Dress Code
Weddings: Etiquette dictates that we follow the dress code. Wedding dress code varies and can be quite confusing. What is “dressy casual”? Capris with chandelier earrings? Guest outfits for weddings are so dang confusing. And, for the bridal party, a major source of stress. Dying shoes – can you believe that still goes on? And, for some of us, bras are NOT optional. Brides fret and fantasize about wedding dresses. There’s so much drama around dress selection that a hit TV show was born – “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Look, we’ve all known a bridezilla but who has ever encountered a widowzilla?

Funerals: I’ve been to fancy memorial services and country graveside funerals. I can honestly say I never gave any thought to what folks wore, nor did I really notice. I’ve seen black suits and hats and I’ve seen overalls. Most importantly, I’ve seen a physical demonstration of respect.

Weddings: God forbid the chicken tenders with honey mustard get cold. There’s nothing worse than a dry cake. Brides and their mothers strategize over foods, placement, display, temperature, cost, quantity, presentation, and more regarding food. And, there’s the whole “don’t eat until the bride and groom do” conundrum. I am always amazed at how humans line up for food no matter what time of day it is. I don’t normally eat at 3:00 pm, but if I’m at a wedding or a funeral, I get so hungry!

Funerals: No offense to my catering friends, but the best buffet in the world can be found at a country church in the sticks. When my precious great aunt, known as Big Chick, passed away, we loaded up and headed to a Baptist Church in Georgia. The church is so old there are Confederate graves in the adjacent cemetery. Those church ladies put on a feast that I can still taste. Chicken casseroles, cornbread, fried corn, tomato salad, green beans soaked and simmered for hours in salt, butter, and bacon grease, strawberry cake and banana pudding, and on and on and on. What a comfort they and their food were to all of us. A groom’s cake in the shape of a deer rifle could never compare to that spread.

Uncle "Trout" sneaks a sliver.

Weddings: Are you kidding? “Save the Date” cards keep Weight Watchers in business.

Funerals: Who cares? See “Food” above.

Party Atmosphere
Weddings: I’ve enjoyed some hysterical late night shuttles back to hotels. Thanks, “Dot” and “Boone” and friends! But, boy, did I wake up with a headache from all that, um, cake! I’ve also seen bloody jaws, flying furniture, teetering groomsmen and some moving karaoke duets. Tall Child, that Tim McGraw-Faith Hill duet was one of our greatest accomplishments as a couple.

Funerals: Presence is more important than presents. Honor takes the place of debauchery. No hangover, well, usually, follows. I’ve not seen a physical fight around a funeral. In the South, when the grieving family and friends follow the hearse to the graveyard in a long, slow, sad caravan of caution lights and little white flags, other vehicles  pull over and stop. Completely. What respect. Also, the well-earned military salute, trumpeted “Taps,” and handing of a folded American flag to a widow always put country, faith, and family in perspective.

Post Party/Mortem Critique (What we hear/say) What? No, not me, uhhhhther people say this stuff. I just hear it.
Weddings: Oh, the ride home is the best part. As in, “What did ya’ll think about the food,” “Can you believe how his brother behaved,” “Were those bridesmaids dresses not the tackiest things you’ve ever seen,” and “That food was awful, ya’ll. Drive through the Krystal. There ain’t nothin’ worse than bein’ hung over in the morning with a baby to take care of.”

Funerals: We say and hear, “He was such a good man,” “What a beautiful service,” “She was one of those people that everybody liked,” and “We need to take them a casserole this week.” 

Faith: I’m keeping this one simple. And, gulp.
Weddings: Often glorify the couple.
Funerals: Honor the dead and their survivors, glorify God, and reaffirm faith.

Details are important to a perfect wedding.

I figure this post may stir up some controversy. That’s okay. Just remember, if I’ve perturbed you, ask an abstract thinker for help. My intention is to make you consider ordinary things in an unexpected way – like other people, which brings me to Theory 18: Blind dates are the best dates EVER!

See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...