May 21, 2006

Hearing about divorce can be life-affirming.

Whenever a female friend says they have something to tell me "in person" it can only mean one thing. They've gotten engaged. In New York, everything else - including death of a loved one and pregnancy - can be discussed over the telephone. So last month, when Heather called and said she had to meet, I couldn't imagine what it could be. She was married and I knew it wasn't about wanting to see me. That never happens.

We arranged to meet for coffee. As I waited for her I tried to come up with one good reason to stay. Did I really want to see photos of her new house or hear details about her promotion? But as soon as she sat down she blurted it out: "I'm getting a divorce." I had never even considered that. Suddenly, I had all the time in the world.

She started to tell me what went wrong. A slow but steady distance had crept in. They never have sex any more; the relationship had run its course. I found this very affirming.
Lately, it seems whenever I talk to someone, they always have something good to share. They're about to get married or have a baby or get an award - it makes me feel left behind. So hearing that someone else is suffering was refreshing. It really lifted my spirits. Right up until she said: "I've never been happier." That killed it.

It's one thing to be happy; it's another to force others to share it with you. Whoever invented the wedding reception didn't understand this.

People always say that they want their wedding reception to be just like a really fun party, but it never is. They lie to themselves and to their friends because they don't want to face the truth: eight hours of family in one room.

The best thing about a party is that you can leave any time. But at wedding receptions there's a four-hour minimum. Good luck telling the bride you're leaving before the cake. She'll look at you like you've just said the groom has herpes.

I'm not an authority on what makes a party fun, but I certainly know what doesn't make a party fun. A band shouting into a microphone for everyone to "show their love on the dance floor!" A table full of people getting drunk on champagne and toasting a lifetime of togetherness. Talking about how beautiful the floral arrangements are. Having to nod endlessly about how happy everyone looks. In a few weeks I have to go to a wedding in LA. One of my oldest friends, Melissa, is getting married, and the other night we got together in person to talk about the event.

It was the best conversation I could ever hope to have. When I'd first heard it would be in California I panicked - outside, sunshine, beachy; I was nervous about how bright it would be. But she told me the whole thing will happen in the evening in one place: a sushi restaurant. It doesn't get any darker than that. They'll say their vows, quickly, in front of a judge and then the sushi chefs will come out with the big knives. No seating, no band, no dress code. "If you want to wear trainers," she said, "I don't care."

But then she said something that stunned me. No dancing. I stared at her. Really? She confirmed it: no dancing. It was too good to be true.