Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 84byrpsuch©
Jeff was right. So much of that stuff seemed stupid and almost pointless. Was it possible that in all those countless weddings before ours nobody had questioned them?
We heard the band leader introduce us.
"Do I wave like a political candidate or a beauty pageant contestant?"
"Don't you dare. Just smile and walk to our table."
I don't think he would have done his wave. I suspected he was joking. We walked to our table for two.
Jeff got a funny look as he saw the table.
"We've been living together since I was a freshman."
"That was last year," I said. "I didn't want us at a table with our parents. I had no idea what my father might say and this way, not only are we not with them, each family has a separate table."
"You are very wise. I now understand the basis of this tradition."
"I don't think it was introduced to keep the peace."
"I'm sure it was," he said.
"You do know it's called a sweetheart table?"
"I had no idea. That could modify my theory."
Dinner festivities started with a hora which included most of the guests. It's a circle dance, most of which is the grapevine steps: turn left, right foot forward, turn right ninety degrees, left foot to the side, turn ninety degrees to face the direction from which you came, right foot back, turn left ninety degrees, left foot to the side. If you've ever watched a dance routine, you've seen this step.
Depending on the number of guests there may be quite a few concentric circles. This is traditionally the first dance at Jewish weddings.
I don't know where the tradition came from. I could look it up online, but I would be willing to bet I would find at least five different definitive answers.
We were included in another part of the tradition when Jeff and I were each hoisted up on chairs. We had expected this. What I had not expected was that Jeff was prepared with a cloth napkin. We each held one end.
Back when all Jews were orthodox, men and women did not mix in many activities, including prayer and celebrations. They would be separated by a partition called the mechitsa. The only connection the bride and groom would have was holding the opposite ends of a cloth.
The explanation I found on Wikipedia merited a spit laugh. Mingling of the genders might lead to frivolity which may lead to promiscuity. They didn't have football on TV back then to rigorously enforce the lack of mingling, though it has nothing to do with frivolity.
It made me think of Footloose and the prohibition against dancing. Dancing, of course is typically done with frivolity which might lead to promiscuity.
It felt like I was riding a roller coaster which was in actual jeopardy of flying off the tracks. These people needed to do some weight lifting before they tried this again.
We were served butternut squash soup before we started visiting the tables. Jeff got a thoughtful look when he took his first taste.
"Honey, ginger, nutmeg, this has got to be Sam's."
It was so good I groaned.
The first table we visited was Jeff's family. I looked at Sam. He smiled. I maintained my focus on him. He nodded.
"Exquisite," I said.
Jeff was an unexpected hit. Whatever animus my father may have spread, the story of a young nerd finishing college in a year followed by earning his Ph.D. and becoming a full professor in less than a year, all before he was old enough to drink, attracted considerable interest. People seemed to be trying to find a way to associate him with their businesses. I left him on his own.
I stopped by to speak to the band leader before I made my rounds.
Without Jeff by my side most of the guests wanted to talk about Believe It or Not. People were reluctant to believe it was not rehearsed. Even my friends doubted me.
The band leader cut into everyone's thoughts.
"Quiet, please. The Maid of Honor would like to share some thoughts with you."
I hadn't given this any thought, but Jen obviously had. I didn't know what to expect.
"Ashley has grown so much as a person since I met her.
"When I first met her she was sure she was the most breathtakingly beautiful girl in the world. Today, she just knows she is the most breathtakingly beautiful girl in the world.
"When I first met her she just assumed everyone would do whatever she told them to. The only saving grace of her having that attitude was that she was right. But she has grown so much since those days. Now she fully understands that sometimes she has to explain before everyone will do whatever she tells them to.
"From the time Ashley arrived at college she was the unchallenged queen of campus social life. But even with all her experience and worldliness, Jeff was able to introduce her to the finer things in life.
"He introduced her to the exquisite cuisine of Bob's Big Boy. For those of you unfamiliar with Bob's Big Boy, the food is almost as good as it sounds.
"The very first time they met in college, Jeff shared a precious gift with Ashley. He borrowed a dollar from her so he could teach her double-entry accounting."
People had been laughing since she started, but this got quite a few laughs.
"You laugh. How many of you understand double-entry accounting as well as Ashley? Let's see the hands."
Only Jeff's hand went up.
"I thought so. Accounting was not the only thing they shared.
"Jeff took Ashley on the most romantic dates, like watching our college wrestling team, grunting and sweating out a victory over another obscure wrestling team.
"I kid about the wrestling team, but Jeff introduced her to high culture as well. They went to listen to classical music. He took her bowling.
"Now, you may wonder why I'm talking about all the things Jeff introduced Ashley to. I'll tell you why. She loved them, go figure. Before Jeff, Ashley would never have considered these things. But today her bowling average is still rising.
"Ashley has another amazing gift. Jeff's family talks about it quite often. It's absolutely uncanny. She has a preternatural ability to pick out a gift for you that you had no idea you were interested in. And the more you think about it, the more you realize you could hardly have done without it.
"She has also changed her view of gifts she has received. Giving or receiving, in the past, Ashley had a magical ability to calculate the appropriate monetary value of any gift. Tell her what anniversary, which birthday, and she could tell you what gift was appropriate.
"But, I've been privy to some gifts she has received and her two most precious possessions are letters she got from Jeff while she was in Europe for a month. Ashley refers to them as her ‘Oh-my‘ letters. And it's not because she is overly sentimental. I don't know any girl who could receive a letter like that whose response would not be, ‘Oh, my.'
"Ashley has developed a profound generosity. I see it in her relationship with Jeff's sister, Sandy. Sandy thinks Ashley can walk on water."
"She can," called Sandy from her table.
"Yes, she can.
"Someone meeting Ashley for the first time, knowing her background, looking at her, would be astonished to find her such a warm, caring person. I think Jeff would best be able to describe the Ashley experience with a song, if Jeff were capable of thinking of it, which he is not. So, I'm going to do it for him.
"Ashley, this could be from Jeff. It could be from me. It could be from Sandy, or Sunny, or Louis, or Hari or Sam. Baby, I'm amazed by you."
I started to tear up. Jeff had moved up behind me and encircled me in his arms.
He sang very softly in my ear, "Baby, I'm amazed by you."
The band leader spoke into the microphone again. "Please clear the floor for the newlyweds' first dance."
We didn't have a song picked out as our song, so I had told the band leader to play a big-band era fox trot.
I'm sure many in attendance thought Jeff and I had taken lessons. With the large dance floor practically empty, Jeff was able to take us around it easily.
We heard, "Would the father of the bride join her on the dance floor and the mother of the groom join him?"
My father looked like he relished the opportunity to join in. He looked as if this event were something he had been wishing for. He happened to be a pretty good dancer himself, so that embellished the look.
"Would the father of the groom please join the bride on the dance floor? And would the father of the bride please join the groom on the dance floor?"
Anyone with a liquid in their mouth would have spit it out if they had looked at Jeff's face at that announcement.
"I'm sorry, I meant the mother of the bride please join the groom on the dance floor."
Jeff looked at me and I gave him a proud smile. Fortunately, his father started to dance with me, because, I'll admit, this kind of practical joke is usually followed by tickling the perpetrator.
Everyone was invited to join us on the dance floor and eventually I danced with Jeff again. Mercifully, he did not tickle me. He leaned in and sang softly in my ear, "Baby, I'm amazed by you." I was afraid Jen had started something.
There was more dancing before we were asked to return to our seats because dinner was about to be served.
"And now, we'll have a few words from the Best Man."
Rich had a devilish look in his eyes.
"I've known Cousin Jeff all his life. I know many of you have a hard time thinking of him any other way than the way he is now. But I have to tell you he was completely different when I met him.
"He didn't have any words of wisdom. In fact, he didn't have any words at all. He just kind of babbled.
"He didn't dress as stylishly as you're used to seeing him these days. Well, he thinks it's stylish. Back then he just wore a plain, no-frills diaper.
"I know many of you think of him as an avid reader. Sorry, Jeff, but I have to tell the truth to these good people here. Jeff didn't even so much as pick up a book until he was six. Oh, sorry, six months.
"After that, whenever my family went to their house to visit, I would want to play and that meant either Cousin Sunny or Cousin Louis would wind up saying, ‘Jeff, put the book down. We have company. You can read it later.'
"And you people may think of Jeff as a goody two shoes, but I've heard the stories. He was a very disobedient child. How many nights would he stay up way after his bedtime getting himself into trouble reading a book? I can't tell you how many times I would hear my parents talking about poor Cousins Sunny and Louis. How were they going to deal with their son with the behavioral problem?
"And it only got worse. I always heard Cousin Sunny talking about how she wanted Jeff to be a normal kid and go through school at the same pace as the other kids. But did he listen? Nooooo. All he ever wanted to do was learn more stuff and skip grades. What does a parent do with a willful child like that?
"Of course, they also had the usual trouble parents have with their sons, like worrying about the trouble they could get into dating all those girls. What was her name, Jeff, that date you had in high school?
"And of course that dating -- what exactly do you call it when there's only one date? -- can lead to lots of trouble in school. How many times did his parents get a call to come to the school to discuss his aberrant behavior? Lots of times.
"And he always had the same problem. He wouldn't accept what some teacher told him. He always had to correct, actually Jeff said he had to educate, his teacher. And he had the flimsiest excuses like, ‘That guy is dumb as a rock.' Or, ‘He must have learned his American History from a comic book.'
"With this background you might have thought Jeff didn't know his way around women. You would be wrong. When he got to college he knew exactly how to successfully chase a woman. He turned around and walked away from Ashley three times. It was three, Jeff, wasn't it?
"Now, there is technique. You chase women by showing them your back and move it farther away from them until it is out of sight. It is possible Jeff learned this from his one date in high school, but I think it more likely that such a killer technique can only be learned by reading about it in a book. Jeff?
"Jeff learns everything from reading. I think the first book he ever read was How to Read a Book.
"You can see the success of his technique here tonight. Not only did he win the bride, I'm told she is the most breathtakingly beautiful girl in the world. We have her word on it.
"Okay, I'll admit," Rich raised his hands in an of-course gesture, "we've also looked at her.
"I could go on this way ad infinitum, but Jeff is the nerd; I'll leave that to him."
That was another drink-spitting moment.
"This is the most amazing couple I've ever met. They may be the most amazing couple anyone has ever met. I know that's said at many weddings, but I'm right."
He looked directly at me with a mischievous smile. "Ashley told me."
Rich raised his glass. "May Ashley and Jeff have a long, happy life together."
Rich walked to our table and we each got a hug.
As we were waiting to be served I saw my father walking toward the microphone. Jeff and I had been holding hands. I squeezed. I may have hurt him. Or maybe it was just his reaction to what my father was going to say. It was not the latter.
"Don't worry," Jeff reassured me, "if he were to say anything negative at this point he would only embarrass himself in front of his friends and associates. And word would get back to those who are attending the post-wedding event."
My father didn't wait to be introduced. He just seized the microphone.
"I want to take this opportunity to welcome you all here tonight. It is a distinct pleasure to host you tonight at the wedding of my daughter, Ashley. My whole family shares my pride and pleasure, as do the Goldbergs.
"Ashley is a remarkable young woman. I hope someday to be able to persuade her to use some of her talents on behalf of Fine Bank. Whether she does or not, I'm sure you will be hearing her name in the news. She can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
"Jeff is a remarkable young man in his own right." In his own right? Does that mean most of what sets him apart derives from his relationship with me?
"I'm sure most of you know Jeff finished college much quicker than most." Quicker than most? He did in less than two years what typically takes eight or nine years.
In the middle of a message that sounded laudatory, my father was trying to downplay Jeff's accomplishments. I cast a worried glance at Jeff. He was grinning. Jeff had told my father he didn't need to refer to him with so much as a pronoun.
"He's a piece of work," Jeff whispered to me.
"He already has a job with a growing, young company. He gets to work at the university from which he just graduated."
Jeff was starting to giggle trying to hold in his laughter.
"What more could a father ask for his daughter?"
It sounded like it might actually be a question he was going to answer in the following sentences.
"Ashley, we love you."
"Well, I'm not sick, so I guess I'm ready to eat," said Jeff.
My father had tried to aggravate Jeff. All he had done was amuse him.
As the evening progressed my father faded from our notice.
After dinner we made the rounds of the tables. Most of the well wishers seemed to be sincere, though I'll grant they had considerable experience at feigning sincerity.
Sandy came up to me and plastered herself against me.
"I'm so happy. I love you guys so much. Ashley, you're the greatest."
She controlled herself so the words didn't run together.
I got to dance with Rich and to tell him what a good job I thought he did.
"Believe It or Not? It's a good thing Jeff is a pretty bright guy. He's going to have his hands full," Rich said.
"As often as he possibly can, I hope."
We got to dance with and among our friends. Some of my friends got to find out what a good dancer Jeff was first hand.
It was just about time for dessert. One of the staff found us and brought us over to cut the cake.
"You just go ahead and make the first cut yourself, sweetie." I said.
As he started to slice I picked up another knife and moved around to his other side. I moved around him the way I had in his parents' kitchen, rubbing fully against him.
"I guess it's as tight a squeeze in this ballroom as it was in my parents' kitchen," he said. "I'm glad you remembered your culinary technique for this occasion."
He finished making a bite-sized slice and fed it to me. I know many people take this occasion to mush the cake in their new spouse's face. We had been playful enough. Jeff was telling me he loved me by the way he gently fed me my slice of cake. I did the same for him.
We wiped our hands on napkins and engaged in an embrace and a gentle kiss. There would be plenty of time for the other kind of kiss.
When we sat down at our table for dessert, a thin-stemmed glass was placed in front of Jeff. His eyes grew big. He leaned forward and sniffed it. He closed his eyes and rocked as if in prayer.
"Dark chocolate mousse? Nobody else got that."
"That's right," I said.
"There is going to come a time when I will have learned you well enough to stop being amazed, isn't there?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps not."
"Thank you. You're terrific."
The single ladies were gathering for the opportunity to snatch the bouquet. I addressed them.
"I hope you ladies are ready. As you know, whoever catches this bouquet is guaranteed to be the next one married. You can take that to the bank."
"Would that be Fine Bank?" asked Jeff.
"Jeff! You're spoiling the decorum of this solemn event."
"Three cheers for the decorum of this solemn event," said Jeff. And he got them.
"All kidding aside, I want to give you ladies some advice. Use two hands to catch the bouquet. You're much less likely to drop it. But, if you can't reach it with two hands, don't let that stop you from making a one-handed effort. There are no points for style. You can rest assured of the accuracy of this information. I read it in a book."
That elicited groans.
Jeff looked at me and said, "Have at it, wench."
Had he been drinking?
I turned around and let it fly.
I peeked over my shoulder and saw Sandy cut in front of Jen to block a woman who had fought her way through the crowd. Jen scurried forward and caught it - with two hands.
A cheer went up, I suppose because somebody was getting married according to popular belief. I hoped it would be Jen.
Jeff came to me and kissed me.
A chant went up. "Garter. Garter. Garter." I sat demurely facing the crowd.
Jeff addressed the men.
"Gentlemen, I believe no instructions are necessary. Legend has it that the garter brings good luck to whoever catches it. Some say the man who catches it will be the next to marry. I imagine that is open to interpretation, since some men would consider that unlucky.
"However, I have researched the matter, and according to the best evidence I was able to find -"
"Stop," said Rich. "By the time you get done telling us about all your research we'll be too old to get married."
"I just …" That was all Jeff got out before he realized what he was doing and blushed. "I think I should just get on with it."
He knelt before me and ran his hands up my left leg - the wrong leg and he knew it. He was caressing my inner thigh when I realized what he was trying to do.
"Jeff! It's on the other leg."
"I was wondering what happened to it."
Nobody believed him, but it got a good laugh.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
He started up my right leg. He found the garter and kept going.