My friends Jason and Young are getting married tomorrow, while my friends Cryssie and Pat are celebrating 9 years of wedded bliss. Thus, I think it makes sense to re-post this little nugget from October 2005. Enjoy….J.
“Let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.”
The first time I ever kissed a girl was in kindergarten. The first time I ever stayed up all night thinking about a girl was in first grade. The first time I ever openly admitted I had a crush on a girl was in fourth grade. And the first time I ever took a girl out was in sixth grade…My purpose in telling you these things, dear readers? To illustrate the point that I was never one of those little boys who thought little girls were “icky” or “gross.” To the contrary, I, J.Wiltz, was a born romantic. (I mean, come on. My favorite band is the Smashing Pumpkins. What does that tell you?)
Of course, life’s been kind of cruel in terms of what I’ve been dealt romantically, and over time, sadly enough, my nearest and dearest have begun to associate me more with break-ups and bitches than with roses and reckless idealism. Hell, my buddy Keith once said, “If you’re ever feeling bad about a relationship, just get J to tell you about some of his relationships and you’ll feel a lot better.” (Thanks Keith.) Still, for all my wounded pride and lowered expectations, I don’t think there’s any way a person could look at my lifelong body of creative work and NOT realize that I’m completely fascinated by love, marriage, and of course weddings.
In 9th grade, to give you the earliest example I can dig up right now, I wrote an essay entitled “What a Wedding Really Is,” which, by the way, was one of the only submissions by a BHS freshman printed in that year’s edition of Indian Etchings. In junior college, as some of you may recall, I joined my buddies Daniel and Matt for the making of the notorious “Marriage Counseling” video (most people remember it for Matt’s classic line: “She pisses me off. Constantly,” and for the fact that I was SO OBVIOUSLY trying to get a piece of one of our female co-stars named Jude…but I digress.) Not long after that, my gal-pal Amanda Nalley and I wrote and starred in a little-seen camcorder classic called “The Gemini’s Guide to Love, Commitment, and Marriage,” which, among other things, features a scene where I wake up on the day after my wedding, realize what I’ve done, and let out a blood-curdling scream. Then when college rolled around, I decided to take my “marriage is funny” sentiments to a whole new level with a certain unforgettable April Fool’s Day prank:
Couple all this with the fact that I wrote no less than four wedding-related articles during my time at The New Standard and you’ll soon find yourself saying, “Damn, J, you really ARE fascinated by love, marriage, and weddings.” Well yeah, that’s kind of what I just said. Thus, it should really come as no surprise to anyone that I responded with an emphatic “Yes!” when my dear twin Crystalynn (a.k.a. Cryssie) asked me to travel to Omaha so I could give her away at her wedding last month.
Answering the Obvious Question(s)
“Wait a second,” I hear some of you saying. “You gave her away? Why didn’t her dad do it?” Because, my friends, Cryssie’s dad is a porn-addicted, deadbeat loser. And of course because I’m way cooler.
“Fair enough,” you say, “but would you mind explaining what a Twin is?”…Oh boy, here we go.
Okay, do you remember at the beginning of this thing when I listed a few of my romantic firsts? You know, “The first time I ever kissed a girl was…,” etc.? Well, Cryssie was none of those things. She wasn’t my first kiss or crush or date or girlfriend or any of that. Instead, Cryssie had (and has) the unique distinction of being the first girl I ever really related to. Up until the time I met her back in 1995, you see, I’d always been told I was weird and that I “didn’t make sense.” Oh sure, it’s easy to laugh that kind of stuff off here in my old age, but this was my early adolescence we’re talking about – and you know how early adolescence is, when you’re so pissed off at the world for no apparent reason and even minor insults can drive you to fill spiral notebook after spiral notebook with hateful scribblings and poetry. Angst, I tell you. I wore a lot of black and listened to a LOT of Nirvana.
So when Cryssie came along, so gleefully content with her own glaring eccentricities and so perfectly willing to accept and play along with all of mine, I suddenly found myself feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin. Before long, she’d given a sense of direction to the above-mentioned angst and shown me how to make my “weirdness” work for me instead of against me. Just think, when I first got to high school I was an angry, long-haired fat-ass who listened only to death metal and wanted everyone to believe he worshipped Satan. By the time I graduated, I was president of the Drama Club, voted Wittiest by my senior class, and had dated several girls from Ocean Springs (the hottest girls on the Coast.) All of this was the result of a newfound confidence, cultivated almost entirely by Cryssie’s influence. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that if you like or love the person I am today – still sorta weird, but in a user-friendly sort of way – you should really thank Cryssie. I wouldn’t be me without her.
For my part, I helped Cryssie through a rough broken engagement back in ’99 and then proceeded to talk her out of every lame-ass boyfriend that followed. (My dismantling of her relationship with a guy named Andrew is fucking LEGENDARY. There’s actually a video where he’s sitting between Cryssie and I as we’re talking about something, and I not-very-politely point over at another seat and say, “Go sit over there, Andrew.” The best part? He got up and left without resistance.) I think about that sometimes, and I wonder if maybe THAT’s why I didn’t get to meet Pat until the week of the wedding. 🙂
Anyway, with all this obvious fondness for one another, it couldn’t exactly go unnoticed that, even though we’re only friends, Cryssie and I typically interact like a very happy couple (except when she’s in stressed-out “Pissy Cryssie” mode or we’re in the middle of one of our fights, which can last anywhere from one month to four years.) So, realizing we’d occasionally have to field the “is he/she your boyfriend/girlfriend?” question, we agreed to refer to one another as twins, a term which not only alludes to our brother/sister-style closeness, but which also calls attention to the astrological sign of Gemini, which Cryssie and I share.
That’s what a Twin is. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. But back to that wedding I mentioned…
A Biloxi Coast Rat in King Cornfield’s Court
My plane touched down in Omaha a week before the actual ceremony took place. Not because I had a week’s worth of preparations to take care of, but because, due to a “little” setback (i.e. Hurricane Katrina) I wasn’t able to get fitted for a tux here in New Orleans. (Try finding someone to take your measurements when the entire city is underwater.) So, five minutes worth of tux-fitting bought me a week’s stay in Nebraska. Fun fun fun. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first thing I had to do was find Cryssie at the airport, which I only managed to do after no less than three “Where the hell are you?…Sbarro?…Well, I’m standing right in front of Sbarro and I still don’t see you” phone calls. This went on for a good five minutes or so before she and I finally stumbled across one another’s paths for the first time in over three years. A nice long hug followed, and then — the moment I’d been waiting for — I met Cryssie’s husband Pat for the very first time.
“I Like His Hair”
Those of you who’ve seen the opening sequence of Kill Bill, Vol.2 might have a pretty good idea as to how these sorts of scenes play out in the male mind. Oh sure, I shook Pat’s hand like a smiling politician, eager to show him just how unbelievably friendly I am. But the whole time I was getting to know him I kept hearing David Carradine’s voice in my head saying, “I happen to be more or less particular who my gal marries.”
Don’t misunderstand me, though. This wasn’t JEALOUSY on my part. It’s just something that happens whenever two guys who are exceptionally close to the same girl encounter one another for the first time. I’m sure Pat was hearing the same dialogue playing though HIS head too, wondering, Who is this foul-mouthed bastard and what does he want with my wife? Keeping that in mind, I laughed to myself all week long about how funny it would be to launch into a dramatic “Cryssie, I can’t let you do this!!” scene in a very public place, just to see what Pat would do. *insert evil grin here* But, a trust was quickly established, and I really grew to like the guy when I saw that he had the 2-CD Best of Prince collection. (Lord only knows how many times I made him and Cryssie listen to “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “If I Was Your Girlfriend.”)
The next couple of days were what I like to think of as “adjustment days,” wherein I tried to get comfortable and shake off the feeling that I was somehow in the way. Actually, I didn’t feel as if I was in the way so much as I felt like I was from some alternate reality. Everyone I met in Nebraska, you see – with the noteworthy exception of my new friend Mariana “Mimi” Fox –
was married. Happily. Successfully. Devotedly. Married. And young. These were people my age and younger with husbands and wives and even kids. By contrast, I’m a single guy who’s never been promised or engaged to anyone and who has no visible responsibility of any kind. Talk about feeling stunted. Well shit, I thought, let’s just shine a big old spotlight on my emotional immaturity.
Trying to make sense of it all, I put these thoughts in an e-mail to my Kid Sister Jen, who responded with the following words of wisdom:
“Just keep in mind, J, people are happily married out there because there are fewer people to interact with on a daily basis, and no all night bars either. I mean, if you only have Billy Bob, Ben Bradley, and Tommy Boy to choose from, well, you better nail down the guy with the most cows before Mary Beth, Sara Ann, or Daisy Lou nabs him! I wouldn’t feel too bad–just keep thinking to yourself, ‘I am smart enough to realize that I am attractive enough to sleep with many more people before I die.’ With that as your mantra you should be feeling better in no time!”
Hmmm, I thought, maybe Jen’s right. Maybe I’m just a product of my environment like the happily-married Nebraskans are a product of theirs. No harm, no foul…and anyway, I’ll be back in New Orleans in a week. Best to simply make the most of things. And that’s exactly what I did.
Over the next few days I met more friends and family members than I could ever list in a blog posting. BUT I will tell you this about all of them…There’s a belief held by a lot of people here in the South that we’re the friendliest and most outgoing of all Americans. “Northerners” (a term used to describe anyone from outside the South, regardless of whether or not they’re actually from the North) are typically believed to be rude, stand-offish, and basically square. Allow me to state for the record that this is not at all the case. Pat’s family took me in and made me feel immediately welcomed and accepted, and by the time I left I’d already been invited back for two or three different parties that were not in any way, shape, or form connected to Cryssie and Pat. Now THAT’s hospitality. And it was very much appreciated.
Blah blah blah…
A few more days went by and then we finally got around to doing what I’d come to Nebraska for in the first place – namely, wedding stuff. First came the rehearsal, which was an absolute blast. I’m now convinced more than ever that the whole purpose of a rehearsal is to give everyone a chance to get all the laughter out of their system before the actual wedding. I, for one, couldn’t stop laughing at the statue of Jesus hanging at the front of the church where Cryssie and Pat were married. Hate to sound blasphemous, but seriously, you have to see this thing to believe it. It’s a statue of Jesus up on a cross, right? But instead of that somber, sovereign Savior look He usually has, Jesus is actually smiling and his arms are open in a triumphant sort of shrug. When I first noticed it, I turned to one of the bridesmaids (Valerie) and said, “Hey, doesn’t that statue look like Jesus is saying ‘Hey, man, piece of cake!’?” Then Valerie looked up and she started laughing too.
After that, we all had to stand in our respective spots in front of the altar. Funny thing is, though, I was on the bride’s side, which made me look like a really ugly bridesmaid.
Time to Get This Show on the Road
The following day was the wedding, and though I tried my best to avoid lecturing the groom about how he “better take care of her” or whatever (because, really, don’t you just hate those “good friends” who always want to lecture you about some stupid shit like that?), I really had to satisfy my own curiosity about something.
“Pat,” I asked Cryssie’s husband-to-be during one of our rare moments alone, “I’m going to ask you something and I want you to answer me honestly. Don’t worry about sounding cheesy. Don’t worry about sounding corny. I swear I won’t laugh. I just want you to tell me the truth…What do you love about Cryssie?” Without missing a beat, Pat proceeded to tell me how he loves and admires Cryssie for her kindness and her character, her integrity and her intelligence. Specifically, he told me, he loves the way Cryssie makes a point of talking with his niece Christa (or is it Krista?), who has a severe case of cerebal palsy.
And you know me, my friends. You know that no matter what I say I always sound a little sarcastic. But I was as sincere as I could possibly be when I looked at Pat, paused for a second to soak it in, and then simply said, “That’s a great answer, man.”
Here Comes the Bride
Next thing you know, I’m walking Cryssie up the aisle, and so many thoughts are racing through my head that I don’t even know where to begin:
- I’m hearing my mother’s voice, saying the same words she said to me before my kindergarten play, my first Communion, my first Confession, my Confirmation, my high school graduation, Giuliano’s Confirmation, and every time I won any kind of school award: “Jason Michael, don’t you make that face you make! You know, that little smirk you do? I’m telling you right now, don’t do it! You do that, and you’re gonna wish you hadn’t! And tuck your shirt in!”
- I wonder if I’ll ever be standing where Pat is, watching someone bring MY wife to ME. I wonder if I even WANT to. Maybe I’ve tried too hard to make myself fit into a relationship like Mom and Dad’s. Maybe I should stop denying my true nature and just live my life like Uncle Pete…I’ve got jazz musicians in my bloodline, you know. I should live free, love free, die free.
- I wonder if I can get someone to take me to King Kong Burger before I leave Omaha. Damn, that was a good burger! Four years and I haven’t forgotten about it.
- I’d be good at that Edward Scissorhands kind of love.
That one, brief, passion-filled encounter that inspires me for the rest of my life as I live alone in a big mansion, doing creative work to stave off loneliness. They could make a movie about it and describe it as “tragically beautiful.” I wouldn’t want scissors for hands, though. That would suck.
But if I DID get married I’d want the wedding to be a total spectacle. Sure, I might kid myself into thinking I could go really minimalist, but that’s a lie. If this much attention was going to be focused on something I was involved with, I’d want to give the people a show. A tasteful show of course, but a show nonetheless. I’d want a slide-show of my wife and I playing on a big screen throughout the ceremony. Baby pictures and vacations and all that sort of thing. And the bridesmaids – all dressed in red, white, and black – would have to march up the aisle to really dramatic music. Wagner maybe. Or the main theme from “Gone With the Wind.” Or a string version of “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. You know, let the people know there’s real passion in this marriage. Have everyone thinking obscene thoughts in church, just trying to visualize all the crazy stuff we’ll be doing during the honeymoon.
- Dude, I would totally write my own vows…but I’d also have a lawyer present.
- Maybe I shouldn’t have made that crack about how some mistakes are more expensive than others…I don’t think anyone was paying attention, though.
- I hope I don’t look fat. I hope the hair on the back of my head is laying down right.
- But more than anything I was thinking, Isn’t it strange how many memories you can have about just one person? What’s it been now, Cryssie, ten years? Wow. There’s a lot to pick from. Like the time she spent an entire day convincing me that the Family Von Trapp was real. Or the time we walked all the way to Edgewater Mall from my house because we thought it was more adventurous than getting a ride. Or the time I caught her in a bad mood, playfully said “fuck you,” and made her cry. Or that day at Seashore Manor when she read a Shakespearean sonnet with a perfect British accent and made me cry. “Can I use your phone?” and “I’m going possum hunting with Uncle Bill” and “Do the Indian noise” and “Creme brule’ can never be Jell-O” and all those little phrases that make up our secret language. What about “I H8 Nebraska” and “Gaudy Christmas Decorations” and all those other garage-rock anthems written in her absence? Or how about that time we watched “Man on the Moon” together over the phone? The way almost everything James Joyce says in “Do Not Collect $200” is based on stuff that Cryssie had said. Or the countless times I’ve corrected her about the way she pronounces “box” …And now this. One more thing to add to our “Things We’ve Done Together” List. “Hey, remember that time I gave you away at your wedding?” I think you have to admit, there’s something beautiful about a friendship like this.
And They Lived Drunkenly Ever After
By and by, Cryssie and Pat got around to saying “I do” and then everybody went to the reception for the most drunken partying I’ve ever seen outside of New Orleans. From what I understand, Cryssie’s brother Jason and I were the worst of the worst,
Fortunately, though, I managed to catch the garter from around Cryssie’s leg before I got too far gone. (Truth be told, Pat more or less threw it right to me, but whatever.) According to wedding lore, this is a tell-tale sign that I’ll be the next one to get married – a prospect which thrills me to no end, as you can see from this picture:
I’m not too worried about it, though. Like I said before, almost everyone else in Nebraska is already married anyway…Who else was there to throw it to? Besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen to a guy once he’s married? He’ll sit around with a blank, defeated look on his face while his wife gives him the constant “you’re a retard” glare?….
Okay, I can handle that. In fact, Cryssie even took time out of her busy schedule to help me demonstrate what my wedding pictures would look like. Based on my past romantic experiences, I believe they’d look a little something like this:
But oh well, whatever, come what may. All I know is that Cryssie and Pat are doing well, and that gives me hope. After all, Cryssie and I have always been eerily similar in a lot of ways, which means happily ever after may be just around the corner for me too. And yeah, I know, that’s really sappy and corny and whatever, but so what? This is a wedding we’re talking about…And I’ve told you from the very beginning that I’m a hopeless romantic.