An institute you can’t disparage

We went to a wedding this weekend, my first in several years. It’s surprising that I don’t get invited more often, as I’m a delightful guest. At any rate, this was my coworker Lucy’s wedding, and she invited me because we work closely and have shared a small office for a couple of years. And perhaps because I hinted that I would have her fired if I didn’t get an invitation. I was honored to attend.

Sabine ordered special shoes for the wedding weeks ahead of time, but I didn’t feel the need to make any preparations, considering my flair for improvisation. The night of the wedding I asked Sabine what I should wear.

“Did you take your corduroy suit to the dry cleaners like I suggested?” She asked in a tone I could only take as a challenge.

“Oh, I don’t want to wear the corduroy suit,” I lied. “It’s too hot.” Luckily, it was unseasonably warm for the first day of November, alarmingly so. We will probably all be dead in a few years due to global warming, but I was grateful that this night my wife couldn’t berate me for having put off yet another thing I was supposed to have done.

I pulled out my gray linen suit. For a moment I worried about wearing it, since you’re only supposed to wear linen in the summer or spring. Then I remembered that I’ve never been known for my fashion style, and considering that the wedding started in two hours, this wasn’t an ideal time for me to develop sartorial consciousness.

The event was held at the Housing Works Bookstore, which is a wonderful venue for a wedding. In fact, the ceremony might have been superfluous; free food and alcohol and shelves full of used books would have been enough for me. We walked through a gauntlet of people, and, feeling like an adult because I was wearing a suit, I made a point of introducing myself to Lucy’s parents. They both said “we hear your name often,” but I couldn’t tell whether I was supposed to take it as an accusation.

We were quickly ushered to the second level, which gave us a great view of the ceremony. It was up there that I had an uncanny experience: around the corner I saw an older man pull out a tiny flashlight and start browsing through the books. I was seeing myself in 20 years! I’m assuming he was a guest, but he could easily have been someone who’d been there all day and wasn’t about to let a little thing like a wedding get in the way of his browsing. The most surprising part was discovering that I would wear a mustache in the future.

The person officiating did a marvelous job, being funny enough but not too funny. Fortified with a couple of glasses of wine, I made my way around the guests, even though I hate physical contact with strangers, and congratulated the groom. I knew you were not supposed to congratulate the bride, but I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say, so when I found her I told her that there were some problems at work and asked how soon she could fix them.

Then disaster struck: My wife wanted to dance. I tried to foist her off on the other people at our table, but she wasn’t having it. I considered looking for my 20-year-older self for help, but he was probably back home in bed reading the stack of pretentious books he undoubtedly bought.

It’s not that I’m a terrible dancer; I was simply concerned that my performance would cast a pall over the celebration. But since Sabine and I had eloped and she never got a wedding dance, I felt I owed her one. In my drunken state I decided that I would look more dignified if I didn’t flail too conspicuously, so I danced as if I were submerged in water. I think I pulled it off pretty well during the first two songs, but by the third it was clear that I was in danger of drowning. I couldn’t stand the embarrassment any longer so I put my foot down.

“Your heel is coming off,” Sabine pointed out. “Shouldn’t you have gotten new shoes before the wedding?”

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