Saturday, November 03, 2007

Now that we're engaged, my girlfriend fiancée has been obsessing over the wedding. Adelphia's been reading bride magazines, checking out venues, watching those awful shows on the Style Network all day...

When people ask me about our future nuptials, I say, "Hey, I picked out the ring and proposed. My work is done."

I'm kidding, of course. But I wish I wasn't.

Finding the right engagement ring took enough time and energy. Not just research, legwork and making a decision on what to buy that Adelphia would like, but being wise enough to do it alone.

I started with the diamond district downtown -- fascinating neighborhood. In the midst of LA's Santa Ana winds and palm trees is this area that looks like 47th Street in NY. Tall bldgs filled with multi-ethnic businesspeople shouting at each other in the common language of gemology. These shiny jewel-encrusted high-security Towers of Babel can be overwhelming, but I got a good hook up with a guy.

Still, I had to do some comparison-shopping so I took the advice of a recently-married couple who actually recommended Robbins Bros. Reluctantly, I went down to the nearest branch of this superstore franchise in Torrance. And the moment I walked in the door, three different salespeople chirped: "Hi, welcome to Robbins Brothers, the world's biggest engagement store! Can I help you?! Isn't today a great day to buy a ring?!" Their grins sparkled more than the diamonds.

Of course, these carat clerks came to see they were conferring with Captain Curmudgeon. When I had mentioned that their website didn't offer examples of their inventory, the woman behind the counter smiled and said that was good to know, that they really needed consumer feedback. "Oh, well, in that case," I said, "your radio ads suck. Tell Skip and Steve they're really annoying and to stay the hell off the airwaves." I nearly didn't come down there because of those two schmucks hawking their wedding wares like a couple of local mattress salesmen. They may not sell me a rock, but they just might convince me to switch to satellite radio. The saleswoman beamed. "You're funny. I like you. Where you from, New York?"

I guess their friendly service is what's made Robbins Bros. so successful. They couldn't beat or even match my deal downtown (unless I wanted a diamond in the yellowish color range), but people probably come there for their whole wedding package. The saleswoman tried to sell me on their proposal assistance services. I couldn't help but think that was for doofus dudes who couldn't construct a coherent conversation, let alone a romantic request. Or for grandiose guys going for gargantuan overblown overtures -- sky writer or jumbotron?

Maybe I was being too cynical as I politely declined. I mentioned that I planned to propose when Adelphia and I went pumpkin picking, and the saleswoman cooed. "What a great idea! And then, when she carves the jack-o-lantern, the ring will be inside the pumpkin?!" I rolled my eyes, left McDiamond's and went straight to a pawn shop.

Of course, I ended up getting the ring from my guy downtown. As intricate as my decision-making process was, it would've been ten times more complicated had I gotten my family involved.

Well, it's hard to say what my mom would've done. She did know the engagement was coming -- I told her when she was in the rehab hospital that I was going to price rings, so she should try to get better, that she'd have a wedding and maybe grandkids to look fwd to. When my girlfriend joined me to visit my mother the following week, Mom was already referring to Adelphia as her daughter-in-law.

And my sister? Well, when we cleaned out my mom’s apartment, I was done taking what I wanted in two hours; the rest could be donated to charity. My super-thorough sister spent two weeks, vacillating on what to do with each book and knick-knack. So while Julie was surprised and perhaps disappointed I didn’t ask for her help with picking out the ring, I guarantee that if she were in on the decision, I’d still be deliberating on diamonds instead of deflecting discussions about honeymoon destinations.

My fiancée, on the other hand, has been bombarded by her sister and mother about wedding plans. She couldn’t avoid their involvement, so it became Adelphia’s obsession that I couldn’t avert either.

To make her happy, I at least put together a rudimentary list of people to invite. Real bare bones, just for starters.

And just in case, I asked my sister if I was missing anyone from our family. Julie started including all these distant relatives. Now, after Mom’s funeral, I understand the need to want to reconnect with family. I’d like to invite Great Uncle Saul, but if we’re keeping things small… there shouldn’t be any obligation at all.

“Don’t forget Morgan,” my sister said.

Really? Was she serious?

“Yeah! You gotta invite Morgan!”

I don’t have to invite cousin Morgan. It’s not that I have a problem with Morgan West aka Mordecai Wasserstein, who decided that he was so good-lookin’, he’d move to LA, go goyisha, change his name and try to be the next Bernie Schwartz aka Tony Curtis.

Our would-be Spartacus actor is my dad's cousin who knew my parents when they were first dating back in their bohemian beatnik days. He gave a great, funny speech at my mom’s funeral about how much he admired them. He did the same thing five years ago, at my father's funeral. Morgan/Morty was a masterful memorializer.

But in the past 5 years, he never contacted us, or Mom. I reminded my sister how Morty brought his new wife to the funeral -- he got married 3 years ago and were any of us invited to the wedding? I don’t hold any grudges, and I’d love to invite him if I could… but I don’t gotta do nothing

Suddenly, I flashed back to similar arguments my parents had about the invitation list to my bar mitzvah. Bringing up events from eons ago to enforce exclusions. I hated those dumb discussions, and at age 13 decided that when the time came for me to get married, I wouldn’t listen to anyone in the family about what to do.

I think Adelphia’s slowly coming to the same conclusion. As the engagement evolves into impending wedding insanity, I’m hoping she arrives at what I’ve advocated from the onset:



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