Rach & Dave get married, part 3
August 6, 2012

First on the agenda after all those Mediterranean appetizers: a teeth check.

Once we affirm we don’t have strands of roasted red pepper stuck in our bicuspids, we’re ready to hit cocktail hour.

We’ve rejected the idea of a receiving line and will end up spending the dinner hour downing our beef wellington and then sneaking out to the terrace alone when we probably should be rotating amongst the tables, but for now, we’re really working it. The tartar station and passed slices of filet I was planning on focusing on are now a distant memory; my new cocktail hour goal seems to involve flinging my arms around as many people as possible. I am a hugging machine. (The massive wine glass filled with champagne that a family friend hands me seems to help with this pursuit.)

One of the many modern American wedding expectations I have a problem with is the Grand Entrance Of The Newly Betrothed Mr. And His Missus. First off, I’m not taking Dave’s name in any way, shape or form, so what is there to really announce anyway? I fret about the bridal party not wanting to boogie in to the Black Eyed Peas, about Dave and I being embarrassed of the spotlight too.

And then I come up with a solution.

Only Dave and I will do the entrance. They’ll call us “Dave and Rach” – duh, those are our names. And Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize will be blaring in the background.

It is absolutely the right call.

Then it’s time for the traditional Jewish dance/brush with death: the hora.

I watch in horror as some of Dave’s scrawny, non-Jewish friends are recruited in the heat of the moment to hold the chairs. The result is a bumpy, petrifying ride meant to…brace us for what marriage feels like? I’m not sure, but I know I’m much happier when we’re finally on the ground again.

Of course, as soon as it’s my parents’ turn to test the limits of their mortality, I’m all for it, clapping away.

There are some more dances, but there’s nothing really hilarious about them to share, except for maybe how terrible Dave and I are at dancing. It never even crossed our minds to take a class; we know we’re beyond help.

My dance with my Dad is no better choreographed – the coordination challenges I face span generations – but it is very special to me, if only because both my parents, never the biggest supporters of all this traditional wedding crap, are somehow now beaming.

The toasts range from Poignant (my best friends) to Not At All Focused On Us (my mother, classically trying to prevent her daughter from being the center of attention on her freaking wedding day) to Very Painful To Listen To (An Unidentified Drunk Brother.)

Not because the Unidentified Drunk Brother doesn’t love us of course, but maybe because he put too much faith in his improv skills and his ability to handle an open bar. His final line – wishing us the 3 C’s in our marriage: compassion, communication and sex – gets a big laugh from me, both because it’s funny and because, thank god, it seems like he’s finally going to hand over the mic to someone else.

Dave’s 15-year-old brother – he of bar mitzvah and embarrassing Facebook debacle fame – makes the best speech, in Dave’s and my opinion. He cuts right to the chase, wishes us well, and is done in 15 seconds flat. The whole crowd is so grateful we all ignore the glass of champagne he’s holding.

I know you’re supposed to have some big moving moment at your wedding, probably at your ceremony, as you devote the remainder of your days on earth to your husband, or maybe right before you walk down the aisle, as you contemplate your girlhood  with your parents and begin to see the step you’re taking as a distinct, new chapter in your life. But my moment, if I had one, probably came on the dance floor.

We’re surrounded by a swaying crowd of family and friends, and, this is far from poetic, I know, but everyone just appears to be having a wonderful time at this silly little event. Everyone we love seems to love us right back.

Honestly, Dave and I are kind of shocked that we are capable of throwing this kind of party, capable of somehow convincing people to rally around us like that. We’re moderately sure the constant flow of champagne has something to do with it, but still. It makes me very happy.

The dance floor festivities continue to rage and Dave and I momentarily sneak out for a private cake cutting.

By this point, I’m pretty sure the night has officially reached Your Wedding Isn’t A Failure status (see above dance floor moment), but we’re not taking any chances. Our back-up plan was to buy our guests’ love calorically, with 10 different flavors of cake, and we’re sticking to it.

So that’s my wedding success tip: excessive desserts. Heaping plates of cakes slices, lemon bars, cream puffs and meringues seem to do the trick for us.

After all the cake has been eaten, the champagne drunk, the two encores played by the band, who promises to perform at our anniversary party, it’s time to peace out.

We board the buses. I’m next to Dave near the back, head on his shoulder, soaking everything in, when suddenly I catch a snippet of conversation from the seat ahead of me.

“Get it together, man,” the voice whispers. “We’re almost there.”

And then, there’s a lot of vomit.

I’m so high on bliss, so bossy on bridal status and so fucking intent on throwing a rager that I simply gather up my dress and make a beeline for the exit, no worse for the wear.

Then we all pile into the bar in the lobby of our hotel. My cousins are situated on bar stools, our friends are sprawled out on the lounge furniture, my aunts and uncles are congregating near the entrance. Jon is pouring glasses of champagne for my parents, someone’s ordering wine by the bottle. My college newspaper co-editor is sitting next to my high school biology classmate who’s  laughing at something my office husband is saying as he slowly drains a glass of whiskey. The bar is starting to feel like an episode of “This is Your Life,” and it’s awesome.

Of course, the happy couple can’t outstay their welcome. We leave the partygoers to their revelry and head upstairs to our room, consider the bottle of champagne on ice, the note addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. B.” (never heard of them), the cute little nightgowns I stocked up on for our honeymoon.

“How would you feel about getting a cheeseburger?” I ask.

And my new husband just laughs at me.

Next up: The day after, and a few bonus features.

Previously: the pre-wedded state; Rach & Dave get married, part 1; Rach & Dave get married, part 2

All photographs by Elisabeth Millay.


jappiest problems, solutions
October 10, 2011

My engagement ring broke, a week before my formal engagement shoot. (Call Cousin Billy. [All Jews have relatives in the jewelry industry, duh.])

My non-shedding dog and I are both under the weather and I don’t know how we’re going to manage to get to Connecticut in time for break fast. (Feed her rice, chicken broth and generic immodium [intended for humans, dosed for puppies by someone lacking a degree in veterinary medicine] and start atoning on the train. Heavily.)

I can’t find a sufficiently chic location for a November trip with my fiance, M.D. (Book six nights here.)

Trader Joes discontinued my favorite Indian food. (Throw a tantrum so public and disturbing that a three-year old in a shopping cart looks up at her mother, wide-eyed, and half-whispers, “What is wrong with that lady?”)

A penchant for drama and an addiction to pav bhaji is a recipe for trouble, clearly.

more dispatches on living with your parents
June 23, 2011

Speaking of regressing at your family house, this was the scene in our laundry room a few days ago.

Yes, not only does Benjamin own a full-sized onesie, dotted with dinosaurs, but my mother laundered it for him. And even lovingly folded it.

To each his own, but I, personally, am opting to move to New York, with pajamas that don’t have socks attached.

See you in two, Manhattan.

suburban bliss
June 6, 2011

Welcome to the childhood I never actually had.

Come on in, really. We’re all here. In Connecticut. In the house I grew up in. We’re eating barbecued ribs and freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. We’re throwing around a tennis ball in the park across the street at midday. Dave’s playing tennis with my parents at the courts by the middle school. Dad’s nearly done with the Monday crossword puzzle. The rest of us are enjoying a cheery evening game of scrabble.

All with a golden retriever puppy in tow.

double word score!

Seriously, have you ever seen anything so…American?

This might be par for the course at your exceedingly normal family home, but it’s a little bizarre from where I’m sitting. I think I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but I didn’t exactly have your textbook childhood. My family, god love them, is a little on the weird side. Little Jacob harbored weird obsessions with cows and sharks and “plugging” inanimate objects into power outlets. He also had a stutter so bad my mom was pretty sure he was going to end up as a bagger in the grocery store. Benjamin was, for years, convinced his name was spelled B-E-M. My mother sparked a massive town scandal over test scores, of all things, and then wrote about it in the local newspaper, just in case I wasn’t already weird enough in middle school. My dad has devoted his life to studying pee. And me? Dude, I’m the worst of them. I mean, you’re reading this blog – I don’t have to tell you twice that I’m not so normal.

I’m totally fine with all this now – I’ve come to terms with it, have even grown to love some of our quirkier attributes – but this week’s sudden return to the wholesome remains a little foreign to me. A family that functions without excessive screaming, blood, sweat, urine samples, and tears? Weeks in Connecticut free of threats of being sent to private school/the family therapist/Vermont? What’s a grown-up weird girl to do?

wine + 26th birthday cupcakes + giant, heart-shaped sunglasses (at night, in february) = grown up weird girl

Answer: embrace it, I guess. I mean, the puppies are cute. The sunshine feels good on my face. The food isn’t so bad.

And at the end of the day, despite the glean of perfection, my mom is still alarmingly obsessed with the Anthony Weiner scandal, my dad is still making off-color jokes and inciting riots on the tennis court with people we don’t know. Scratch a little bit below the surface, and life is still, blissfully, imperfect. Just like I’m used to.

Lessons learned this weekend
March 13, 2011

1- It’s probably not the most mature or sophisticated idea to down a massive beer in an Irish pub moments before meeting with the manager of the fanciest restaurant in New Haven, which also serves as the Yale faculty’s watering hole. But it will make the act of sifting through a 30-page catering guide and listening to her pretentious ramblings just the teensiest bit more enjoyable.

2-Some people don’t have a sense of humor, which is all well and fine. But if they happen to be a bartender, this means you don’t need to leave them a tip.

3-Just because you have warm memories of a city that was easily accessible from your suburban hometown and had both an Urban Outfitters and a bookstore with a cafe in it – which seemed oh so cool at the time – doesn’t mean it’s actually a cool place to live in your twenties.

4- The puppy will trade a stick, a tennis ball or even your underwear for a treat. But she’s not going to let go of that dead mouse, no matter how much you try to entice her with organic dog bones or chase her around a tree or don the most horrified expression you’re ever worn. Relatedly: Ew.

5-The Mexican food you grew up on, from the little place downtown that witnessed every development in every relationship you ever had before leaving for college, and even some afterward, really is that good.

6- Yes, it’s a little weird that most of the people who used to live in your neighborhood – from Mrs. Kennedy, forever sitting in a silk nightgown in her kitchen and smoking cigarettes, to your bus stop companions for a decade – have all moved on, to Manhattan or graduate school or heaven. Yes, you’re no longer a child pumping your two-wheeler up the hill. Yes, there are new people moving in.Yes, you are getting older; maybe even old. But, it could be worse. You could be the one moving in with the children.

April 7, 2010

A cute little blonde by the name of Bridget is one of my oldest friends, and whenever we get together – or even just converse on gchat for more than a few minutes – the conversation inevitably touches on the past, on the shared experiences that only two people who grew up together can have.

And by that I mean she makes fun of me for all the ridiculous shit I have pulled over my lifetime thus far.

Yesterday was no exception. Before the clock had even hit 10 a.m. (generally the time of my second breakfast), she was bringing up our high school yearbook shout-outs. Because yes, she apparently has mine memorized. And listens to a Pandora station that features John Mayer (who’s the loser now?)

The blurb written by 17-year-old me started off with this quote:

“Still ‘everything happens for a reason’ is no reason not to ask yourself, are you living it right?”

Which, yeah, is pretty lame. In my defense, this was way before John Mayer became the embarrassing douchebag he is today. At that point, he was mainly just a kid from my hometown who had recently graduated from playing at local bars for a bunch of sweaty, underage kids to playing at mid-sized auditoriums for a bunch of sweaty underage kids (Hartford Civic Center, anyone?)

So, especially in that context, the quote might have been excusable. “Everything happens for a reason,” blah blah blah – I was never one of those “footprints in our hearts” people, but c’mon, it’s a high school yearbook. You kind of have to veer more towards the sappy than the sarcastic, right?

The real problem is what comes after the quote. And I’m only telling you this because we’re among friends, ok?

“Still ‘everything happens for a reason’ is no reason not to ask yourself, are you living it right?” We are.

There’s just something about those two little words that totally kills me now, looking back on it. Like, someone should slap that girl in the face. And take away her headphones. Who exactly did I think I was? Was I really that cool and introspective and worldly?

In a word, no. Not at all. But I was pretty cute.

Ignore those elbow-length black gloves, feather boas and how I had to awkwardly crop my Dad out of that last pic. I was adorable, right? Maybe I’m confusing that tan I earned at crew practice with some sort of a youthful glow, but to me, (the 25-year old me), that 17-year old kid just looks so…happy.

Don’t get me wrong, I went through some really rough periods in high school, rife with depression and eating disorders and a general distaste for the world.  And, on a day to day basis, I was usually stressed out (hence my designation as Most Stressed Senior, also featured prominently in our yearbook.) But that’s the funny thing about being young – your feelings are so distilled, so pure and potent, but also so malleable. You can feel insecure one minute, invincible the next. Drama and fear and anxiety are so often laced with optimism. Because you don’t know any better. Because you have everything ahead of you. There’s kist nothing like the juxtaposition of all those crazy hormone-infused emotions.

Looking back at those photos, I can tell you this much: I felt cool. I felt …I really don’t know how to explain this, except to use a word so lame it rivals my awful senior write-up…I felt alive. I would go on to make a lot of mistakes and do and say many really embarrassing and regrettable things, all of which Bridget would later be able to bring up during our morning conversations. But back then, I wasn’t looking that far ahead. I was totally and utterly swept up in the moment.

That place I’m from
April 5, 2010

I spent the weekend in my hometown, an act that I can never quite string together into an accurate sentence. Did I “go home this weekend”? Or “visit my parents’ house”? Maybe, “the town I grew up in”? I can’t seem to find the right words.

I wonder when, exactly, that changes. Because as much as I understand that I live in Philadelphia, in my big girl apartment, with my boyfriend, the words still slip out every time I take that familiar route up I-95: I’m going home.

It’s not even like their house is more familiar to me than our little fourth floor-walk up; it’s not. I go home infrequently enough that it’s still a minor readjustment every time, remembering which drawer holds the frying pans and how the back stairs curve and the fact that there’s a cathedral ceiling in the study now, thanks to a little remodeling my mom pioneered a few years ago.

It doesn’t help that one of my mother’s favorite hobbies – to my father’s chagrin – is redecorating. One by one, the rooms of my childhood have disappeared, replaced by interior designer-approved curtains and reupholstered sofas and, if she really bugs him enough, new furniture. In a weird twist, the futon that was totally the scene of many a high school make out session now resides in our apartment, while the room that used to house it now contains a queen-sized bed for Dave and I to sleep in when we visit. Cue the “Circle of Life” or something?

Anyway, this post actually wasn’t meant to devolve into an existential examination of growing up, or something fit for Lifetime TV. I’m just surprised to still be in this sort of limbo. I’m surprised that I still feel such affection for a place where I probably haven’t spent more than seven consecutive days since I was 19.

And, really, I just wanted to show you some pictures.

Like, of my dog.

And my brother. Who generally looks at me like this:

Except when he thinks no one’s looking. (Gotta love that Nikon zoom lens.)

I was also reunited with my mom’s credit card.

Just kidding! I bought that lace Odille shirt all by myself. Although, yeah, I’m probably returning it.

Mani/pedis, on the other hand, are a mother-daughter-BFFs tradition, and anyone who tries to pay (cough, Megan) will be swiftly punished.

While hanging around the house, the nostalgia, as always, is free. And also apparently mandatory, due to the ever-present reminders of Hannukahs and hair styles past.

(Yes, Shanie. That’s you.)

All in all, it was a lovely weekend with a classic itinerary (nails, sushi, shopping, repeat) plus one unfamiliar face (the Ecuadorian resident.)

Who, actually, might not be a resident of Ecuador for much longer. He’s not coming home, exactly, but sometimes being separated by a few states, instead of a continent, is close enough.

Live, from the southbound Amtrak regional
December 29, 2009

I’m on my way back to Philly right now, after a mostly relaxing, mostly lovely trip to Vermont and Connecticut. As much as I want to be the independent twenty-something eager to get back to her own life, I’m always a little sad to leave my parents and dog and high school friends. It doesn’t seem to matter where I’m heading – a rundown West Philly rowhouse packed with eight girls, a less-rundown DC rowhouse packed with four girls, or our new Center City apartment for two – I always get whacked with this wave of dread as we pull up to the train station.

The boyfriend waiting for me three hours down the Eastern seaboard is effective consolation, to be sure (as are the new, totally hot black suede gold-heeled stilettos sitting in my bag overhead) but my real life is just no match for the comfort and familiarity of these holiday breaks. As someone who spent most of high school screaming at her parents, I never would have imagined I’d love seeing rom-coms with my mom (in public) eating sushi with my dad (also, in public) and having them both take me and my best friend M out for brunch at the diner (again, with the public, and the other people, and the potential for embarrassment.) But I do. As long as we stay on this side of the Atlantic.

Anyway, I refuse to have another semi-nostalgic sob-fest of a post (see here and here), so instead I’m going to round this out with a quick recap of the past week and a half.

Five Things I Didn’t Have A Chance To Photograph,
But You Should Probably Know About Anyway

  • The look on my face when Dave’s parents called to ask me and Christie Lee for our shoe sizes. (Unsurprisingly, our holiday gifts ended up being slippers.) We were all in the living room in Vermont and the Asian goddess cheerfully shouts back to Dave, waiting on the phone in the kitchen, that she’s a 6.5, and I’m all, of course you would be a 6.5, Christie Lee. I, on the other hand, then have to reveal to the room that while I’m only 5′ 3″ (on a good day), I have massive feet. Thanks for the size 8.5 slippers, Mr. and Mrs. B!
  • My best friend M, but only because she wouldn’t let me. She’ll kill me for writing this, but she is really the most lovely person – inside and out – I’ve ever met, and she’s looking especially gorgeous these days.
  • The massive bruise on my ass. This would actually fall into the “I guess I could take a picture of this, but I’m confident you don’t want me to” category. Said bruise was acquired while taking snowboarding lessons with Dave, who couldn’t stomach the fact that I would kick his ass on skis and thus insisted that we spend the day swearing/crying/inflicting bodily harm on ourselves. Or maybe that was just me. Word on the street is he’s going back for more this week.
  • The birthday dinner for my fabulous friend J in the city Sunday night. After dealing with some friend drama on the home front, it was so nice to sit around with seven other twenty-somethings, some of whom I know well, some of whom I know a little, and some of whom I’d never met, and just chat and eat. That simple. Except for the part the next day, when I got sick from the Indian food. From the upscale Manhattan restaurant. Which I think bodes really well for my body’s ability to handle ACTUAL FOOD IN INDIA.
  • A disastrous attempt by my mother and I to make rainbow cookies on Thursday night. They ended up tasting less like the product of an Italian bakery and more like something that’s kosher for Passover. We couldn’t figure out why they were so dry and deflated, until the formerly mentioned M (did I mention she went to Yale? And is a genius?) took one look at the recipe and said, “um, it says to use a 13 x 9 pan.” Right.

There’s one more thing so utterly amazing that I did make sure to photograph it, and I promise to tell you all about it just as soon as I get back to my home computer.

Finally, a reason to look forward to 30th Street Station.