Twenty-Six Years Later – Reflections Upon “Bridesmaiding” In My Brother’s Wedding

It seems trendy these days to turn nouns into verbs -“friending,”  “texting,” “messaging,” etc. So why not turn “bridesmaid” into a verb too? Let’s talk about my first “bridesmaiding” experience August 22, 1992! As I’m writing this, I’m enjoying a reasonably cool, breezy August day, which is kind of similar to the day they got married, fittingly enough…

On this day 26 years ago, my older brother Mike was to be married to his college “sweetheart” Melanie (they are still married and have a 17-year-old daughter). They met while students at Michigan Technological University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, known as “The U.P.” to Michiganians. This would involve a road trip from a rural area of Genesee County, MI to Melanie’s hometown of Marinette, WI, which is located in northeast Wisconsin north of Green Bay. I think there’s a pro football team that plays in Green Bay or something! Marinette is near the Michigan border and is across the Menominee River from the Michigan city of Menominee.

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I rode with my parents in a light blue Mercury Sable. I had the back seat to myself, and I had my Sony Walkman, which allowed me to play my own “mix tapes” without bothering others in the car. My main “jams” included U2, Depeche Mode, nine inch nails, Peter Gabriel, Jane’s Addiction, The Cure, etc. I also brought some magazines to read – at that time I was really into music magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin, in addition to Cosmopolitan.  While I was reading about the hot music artists of 1992 and listening to my “jams,” I got to take in some awesome Lake Michigan scenery along the coast of U.S. 2 in the U.P., north of the Mackinac Bridge. There’s a joke among residents of Michigan about the U.P. – “You go across the Mackinac Bridge, then you take a left.” Yes, pretty much! Unless you want to keep heading north and check out the “Soo Locks!”

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View of Lake Michigan from Lake Michigan Recreation Area, located on the U.P.’s southern coast along Lake Michigan, west of the Mackinac Bridge. If you’re driving by these white sand beaches on a nice summer day, the temptation to stop and take a quick dip is quite overwhelming!

In many ways, this was definitely a “coming of age” experience for me! For starters, I was on my first “vacation” from work. I was paid by my employer to take that week off. At the time, I was working as a “service clerk” at a small grocery store. This basically meant that I bagged groceries, helped customers pack their groceries in their cars (if they requested it), gathered carts from the parking lot, and would occasionally work in the “bottle room.” It was a dark, smelly disgusting place (you don’t even want to KNOW the things you would find in bottles that people returned in the days before self-service machines – cigarette butts were the LEAST disgusting of those things) – but it was a welcome respite from having to deal with customers! On that note, my vacation was also a welcome respite from the customers and moderate physical labor!

Then there was the whole experience of being a single woman at a wedding. I was 20, and…yes, some of my brother’s college friends were definitely eyeballing me! First off, there was the “bridesmaid allure.” I can’t quite explain it, but I would suppose that from a guy’s point of view, there would be some appeal with an unattached bridesmaid. After all, they are pretty much dressed for the prom – except the dress is usually much, much more ugly. And unless you’re a sleazy asshole in a Judd Apatow film, you know you don’t have any chance at scoring with the bride. So why not try your luck with a bridesmaid, which was the next best thing? This very thing would happen the night of the wedding (I’ll get to that a bit later).

My dress was a green two-piece taffeta/lace number, which looked like this…

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I’m on the right. I think this was some kind of dance where the members of the wedding party had to dance together or something. I’ve never been a fan of dancing – either with or without a partner! But I played along…here I am dancing with my brother’s high school friend Matt (though I appear to be goofing off more than dancing, classic me). Not pictured are my white Nike shoes – my dyed green pumps were way too uncomfortable and I ditched them as soon as the ceremony was over. I cared not that I looked kind of like a diner waitress with the athletic shoes/dress combo! I still have a “devil may care” attitude about fashion.

The night before the wedding, I was at a bar called D.T.s in downtown Marinette with other members of the wedding party. And even though I was not yet 21, I was being served drinks at this bar without being carded. I joked that the D.T. in the bar’s name probably stood for “delirium tremens.” Yes…I was just as much of a dork then as I am now!

Let’s see, what was I drinking? Well, I had some drinks called “citron bombs.” And after having a couple, I probably started showing the effects.

“You’re a lightweight,” someone chided me. The next night, I would prove them all wrong, but not in the way that you would imagine! But I’ll get to that a bit later!

So we were all having a good time – the drinks kept flowing, and so did the conversations. When the night was over, I went back to my room and went to bed. I needed to get my rest for my brother’s big day!

Finally, the “big day” had arrived! Since weather was good, plans were for this wedding to be in a public park, which was Stephenson Island Park, located on the Menominee River (which divides Michigan and Wisconsin). There was a backup indoor location in case weather was icky that day. Now what could be awful about an outdoor wedding on a beautiful August day? It was sunny, breezy, and the temps were in the 70s. Speaking of breezy…I wished I could bottle up the breezes flowing through Marinette while I was there! Those breezes just didn’t stop – and I couldn’t get enough!

It was a very nice ceremony by the river, and I was thankful it was a short one! Aside from the “I dos,” there was a female singer who closed out the ceremony by singing the song My Romance. All was good with me – besides those pesky green dyed pumps! They kept sinking into the soft turf. I would be ditching those shoes as soon as I got back to the hotel for the wedding reception. Which is where the fun would REALLY begin!

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A snapshot of me on the wedding day. The Menominee River and Stephenson Island Park is in the background.

First, I had to do the whole wedding party dog and pony show. Sit at the big long table, do the champagne toast, listen to the best man (my cousin David from Florida) give his spiel, yada yada. I still don’t like champagne to this day (but I drank it because I was only 20 and woo hoo, free booze). As you’ve already seen, I also had to do the wedding party dance, and my assigned “partner” was my brother’s high school friend Matt. After dinner, when 8 p.m. rolled around, a good number of the wedding guests abruptly left. Including me.  Why? Because Ren and Stimpy was coming on! Yes, it really was that big of a pop culture phenomenon! Gen-X kids who grew up watching Looney Tunes cartoons now had a whole new set of ‘toons to watch (it was a great time to be a TV viewer….those were the days)! The episode that aired that night was not one of the best, unfortunately…even the most hard-core fans of the show cringed at this graphic episode.

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The original air date of the Ren and Stimpy episode titled Ren’s Toothache was August 22, 1992. An episode called Man’s Best Friend was also supposed to have aired that night, but was pulled beforehand because of a violent scene involving Ren beating up a guy with an oar. It wound up being aired for the first time in 2003.

Being the “persuasive” person I am (ahem), I managed to get people to order and bring me drinks at this reception – and my favorite drink of the night wound up being a “sloe comfortable screw,” which was sloe gin and orange juice. One of Melanie’s other bridesmaids recommended them. I honestly don’t think I could choke these things down now (bleah too sweet)! My parents knew I was drinking, but they also knew that they could keep an eye on me and that I wasn’t driving anywhere, so they weren’t too worried!

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A “slow, comfortable screw.”

What SHOULD have worried them (besides the $750 bar tab for the night, LOL) was that I wound up leaving the reception with a couple of my brother’s college friends – one of them was named Shawn, and I do not recall the other guy’s name. But I remember he kind of looked like “brat pack” actor Andrew McCarthy.

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Actor Andrew McCarthy’s film credits include Mannequin, Weekend at Bernie’s, Less than Zero and Pretty In Pink. A more recent film is The Spiderwick Chronicles, which grossed $71.1 million. This is probably his highest-grossing film to date. I was not able to find a listing for this guy on box office mojo. He is also credited as a director on Orange is the New Black. Did you REALLY think you’d get away from one of my blogs without learning some useless trivia fact? 🙂

As for Shawn,  I’d known him for at least a couple of years, he was my brother’s college roommate, so I’d see him from time to time.  He lived in the metro Detroit area (Sterling Heights, I think…) so he would occasionally “carpool” with my brother on the long trip to the U.P. after school breaks. He was always friendly to me, and he was frequently checking me out. And we’d exchange jokes/barbs. Sure, I may have thought he was kind of cute, but I wasn’t really interested in him. I mean, get out…. a friend of my BROTHER’s? As if! 🙂 Still, he was a smart, funny guy. As for why we ditched the free open bar at the wedding to go to a dive bar where they would have to pay for drinks? Well, only those two guys know the answer to THAT question! I was just along for the fun. Guys buying drinks for a girl never leads to anything horrible, does it? 😉

So me and these two guys went to D.T.s and had some drinks. I’m not sure how my parents allowed this to happen (maybe they thought it was high time for me to get a boyfriend, LOL).  Some of the conversations were pretty innocent – movies, music etc. – the Andrew McCarthy look-alike said he liked the Indigo Girls.

Later, the conversations would turn much more inappropriate! Keep in mind, most of this night is kind of a fog, but I distinctly remember Mr. Andrew McCarthy look-alike saying this:

“I think a woman’s orgasm is the most beautiful thing in the world.”

Looking back? Yes, he was DEFINITELY putting on the moves! And knowing me, I’m pretty sure this conversation didn’t happen in a vacuum! I’m sure I was probably running my mouth off about some sex stuff I’d read in Cosmopolitan! It takes two to tango, after all. I don’t think I was blameless for this conversation treading into racy territory.

Aside from drinking a bit too much and having some inappropriate conversations, I SWEAR nothing happened this night. Andrew McCarthy look-alike managed to walk back to his hotel room on his own, but I wound up having to walk Shawn back to his room (he was piss drunk, I actually had to help him walk…NOW who was the “lightweight?”) I helped him keep his balance and walked him to his room, where he wanted to keep the party going. His liver hadn’t quite cried “uncle” yet!

“Let’s do some shots,” he slurred to me. He had some tequila, and since my room was just a few doors down, I obliged. Then I left. Even had he wanted to “score” with me, he probably would have been way too drunk to accomplish that task. And more importantly, I would have firmly said “no.” You’re either attracted to someone – or you’re not. And though I liked him well enough, there wasn’t “that” sexual chemistry between us. It’s either there, or it isn’t. It can’t be faked.

So nothing happened. Here I was inebriated in his hotel room and being plied with tequila shots, but nope, nothing happened beyond that! But that didn’t mean my brother’s friends weren’t talking about it the next day! What a strange thing it was for ME to be the focus of this kind of gossip! I’d never been one of those girls that guys would beat down the door for a chance to date. I didn’t even have any boyfriends all through high school (though I did have friends who were boys). I didn’t even attend my prom, or go on any “dates” until college. And here I was being talked about the day after a wedding like I was some kind of cheap whore! What kind of “bizzarro” universe was this and why was I the starring player?

This night could have gone all sorts of wrong, but fortunately, it did not! I kept my wits about me and kept my head together even under trying circumstances. And from Shawn’s point of view, he was also probably thankful that he didn’t do anything TOO stupid with his friend’s sister! Believe me…my brother would not have allowed either of us to live this down! 🙂

Looking back on all of this, I probably gained some confidence from the whole “bridesmaiding” experience! Two months after this wedding, I would meet my own “sweetheart,” whom I would marry five years later. We’re still married today. And he still enjoys the photo of me in that folding chair.

Happy anniversary, Mike and Melanie! I was very happy to have been a part of your big day!  I will never forget it…If I wanted to test my rapping chops, I could write my own version of Ice Cube’s rap song It Was a Good Day!

 

 

 

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