I couldn't persuade Mrs Stevie I had Beri-Beri or Dengue Fever and so I was forced to accompany her to a wedding reception on Saturday evening.
Wedding receptions are tedious at the best of times:
a) The music is always too loud no matter how it is being generated. I've had serious ear damage inflicted by a demented harpist with arm muscles like a blacksmith's and a yen to channel Hawkwind as I walked up the aisle, and what a determined teenager can accomplish with only an iBook, an amplifier and two speakers half the size of an old-style English phone box should be banned by international treaty as I found out at the Stevieling's graduation party. This wedding featured a nine-piece band c/w four voice chorus up front harmonizing fit to bust the eardrums. Status Quo were less earsplitting when I saw their farewell tour in '841.
2) They are boring. Let's face it, when there's no food on the table I'm faced with drinking or joining Mrs Stevie on the dance floor, where the inverse square law of sound intensity means that the music goes from merely painful to stroke-inducing.
Then there are the speeches, which are typically too quiet to be heard after the sonic re-creation of May 18th on Mount St Helens, incoherent owing to the Best Man having had fortyfying drinks2 beforehand and now either having lost the carefully written speech, forgotten the once-memorized speech or simply forgotten how to read, and - when all is said and done - just un-entertaining.
Young men need to learn how to steal from the best, mash it up so it sounds educated and erudite and steer clear of saying anything directly about the groom's history or the bride's, because only in a Hugh Grant, Kevin Kline or John Cleese movie is that ever going to be funny and even then it won't ever end well for the speechifier. This evening the Best Man went with too quiet and incoherent, covering all bets. If he said anything compromising either the bride or groom, no-one heard it or if they did, they couldn't understand it.
™ ) The never to be sufficiently damned napkin folders. American restaurants employ a corps of highly trained commandos who lie in wait for me to take my eyes off my place setting, at which point one leaps in and before I can beat them away with a breadstick or the table centerpiece they have grabbed my napkin and folded it into whatever signature shape that particular restaurant favors.
I hate having other people handle my napkin once I am using it. Stupid, I know. The risk to health is no more than from the person who originally laid the thing out, but once I'm using it HANDS OFF! I don't care that it is no longer shaped like a cone or a triangle or the space shuttle. It is mine for the duration bleep it!
♥ ) The expense. The wedding gift. New dress for Mrs Stevie. New shoes for Mrs Stevie (worn once and then added to the shrine to St Imelda Marcos in what used to be a closet). Hairdressing (Mrs Stevie). Nails (Mrs Stevie). This time I was expected to look 'acceptable' and so had to have a haircut too, but I drew the line at a manicure and cut my own nails. Mrs Stevie was unimpressed with my efforts and got all bent out of shape but I told her the wounds weren't deep and would heal before the big day and anyway I could wear gloves if they didn't and who knew you can't cut nails with wire cutters?
þ ) The more expense. The invite specified Black Tie which meant I'd have to hire a set of trousers with a stealth stripe down each leg, a shirt that had been crossed with a concertina and which had a collar that was last in fashion during the Relief of Mafeking, a waistcoat and jacket that had textile-coated buttons and pretend pockets and a bow tie3.
Now all rental tuxedo rigs come with studs and cufflinks patterned with a central disc (usually black) and "silver" rims but I planned to use a set of Victorian antique gold studs I'd been given years ago and pair them with a pair of truly impressive 3/4 inch diameter crystal cufflinks I was given when I was 15 or so. This juxtaposition of high quality owned (the studs) with high quality rented (the clothes) and Kitsch-Quality cufflinks that looked like they should be on the wrist of Grey Lensman Kimbal Kinneson and that had no intrinsically valuable part about them would surely mark me as a man to be reckoned with, accessorizationally speaking.
Mrs Stevie found the studs but claimed not to know "anything about" ugly 1970s cufflinks and presented me with a set of links and studs that looked like the rental ones except that where the rental ones were made of steel these claimed to be 14 carat gold. I wondered where they came from and Mrs Stevie coyly asked if they might not have been part of my own wedding costume. This was clearly a cunning ambush ploy so I countered with a fake attack of sudden gastric distress and hid in the bathroom until she found more urgent things to be annoyed at.
And so it came to pass that we rolled up at the wedding dressed to the nines, where it turned out there were about eight of us dressed in Black Tie rigs not counting the wedding party itself. Everyone else not in a dress or carrying some sort of musical weapon was wearing a perfectly ordinary suit and tie. All evening I puzzled this and eventually came to the only possible answer: that these days "Black Tie" was code for "Don't turn up in Bermuda Shorts, sandals and an Ozzie Osborn T-shirt". Which happens, because I've seen it.
Mrs Stevie insisted I dance with her and I put up a spirited and animated argument against this, but since we were on the dance floor at the time it apparently just looked like I had capitulated and was doing some sort of lame old person's dance from like 1990 or something.
"It reminds me a bit of our own wedding reception" I said once the band had stopped for a rest and the ringing in my ears had subsided.
"It should!" snarled Mrs Stevie. "We had our own reception here 29 years ago next August!"
"We did?" I said, brightening somewhat. "Well that explains the pall of dread and horror that has been hanging over the affair all night."
Shortly thereafter Mrs Stevie drank five cups of the lethally strong Espresso they were serving at the Viennese Hour4, got one of her migraines and demanded I drive her home. The trip was, for once, a quiet affair devoid of the usual critique of my shortcomings. Indeed, possibly due to some confluence of the Lutheran calendar, Mrs Stevie seems to have taken a vow of silence, not speaking a word since that night.