How We Prepared Emma For The Adventure Of Marriage
Meeting The Crew
My baby sister Emma is getting married, and we meet up in New Orleans to celebrate. Her bachelorettes are a combination of big-city career women and her high-school friends, and of course her two sisters, who have already been married and divorced, but are trying to maintain a good attitude. We’ve got single people, people in long term relationships, and lots of married women. Lots of advice, lots of perspectives.
Joni got married early and dotes on her two adorable kidlets. She doesn’t always know about internet slang, memes, who’s president, or other minor trivia. She’s a busy lady.
Amanda is a corporate woman, also with two small kids, who has just relocated to the midwest with her family.
Sadie, our other sister, is divorced with a kid. She’s looking for Mr. Right and has been frustrated with the men she meets on dating sites.
I’m divorced, childless, and happy about it. I disliked being married and won’t seek it again.
Asha is desperately beautiful, partnered, and a doctor. She’s seriously intimidating.
Marie is European, never married, and sometimes seems a touch naive.
“It’s not going to be one of those embarrassing Bachelorettes” we say to one another.
“We’re not going to have penis necklaces and straws. We are sophisticated people. We went to college. We like art. We’re not going to be basic.”
When we say it, we mean it.
My sister is getting married to a lovely man. I’m very happy for her. Men she has dated before have been toxic or distant. This man is loving, handy, and seems to take real pleasure in making projects for her. He is kind and smart and I am so excited to have him in my family.
The Adventure Begins
We start the first day with a fancy breakfast and doting waitstaff. We are offered $24 bottomless mimosas, but we giggle and stick to tea. My sister is wearing all white and a veil, which she assures us she will be wearing all weekend.
Marie points out that in Europe, the bachelorette party is called a Hen Night. Because so many of us are married and divorced, I identify more with Hen Night than Bachelorette, just busty busybody chickens clucking around. Joni asks if the bachelors have a Cock Night. This is very funny of Joni until I realize she didn’t mean it to be. Marie says no, in Europe the men have Stag Night, and then, I guess, a chicken and a buck get married.
We break for after-brunch drinks. We explain to Joni that sometimes people pee on each other in bed, and that eggplants are emoji for penises. Sadie is swiping idly through her Tinder matches, explaining that her only demands are that the applicants have hair and don’t demand NSA hookups. We explain to Joni what NSA hookups are. Marie wants to stop on the pictures with taut, hairless abs, but I tell her that if a guy leads with his abs, he’ll show them to everyone. I want to swipe right on a cute artist named Will but Sadie stops me. “He doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have a kid. I know that right now.” She dismisses him. I keep trying to tell her that, as we move into our fourth decade on earth, she might have to be flexible on hair. “Nothing doing”, Sadie says. “I’m not matching with a bald POS like my ex-husband.” She tells us that, hilariously, he blamed her for his hair loss. “Look”, he said, “I wasn’t balding when we met.” I laugh, but I’m also sad.
We have a day of bachelorette adventure. We drink terrible drinks. We dance to jazz bands. Our bride is congratulated, over and over. We beam with pride. We drink. We take a ghost tour. We drink. We see a psychic, and drink.
We compare our psychic readings. Asha has been told she’s very lustful, and not apologetic about it. She agrees 100%. She enjoys sex, and resents how her mother talked to her about sex, that it was something men always wanted and that women never wanted, but which had to occasionally be tolerated. She has a healthy sex drive but spent most of her young adulthood feeling ashamed.
Sadie was told that, after a terrible marriage and some disappointing dating, she is still too angry to successfully partner with a new person, that she is a teflon pan on which no-one can find purchase.
Emma’s reading is exciting and rosy, about her new role as wife and her new life.
My reading is mostly about career and goals, but at one moment the psychic cocks her head and asks, and you’re seeing someone? And I say yes, and she says, and it’s good, and I agree, it is. It may seem like faint praise, but it is good, and I’m grateful.
Yelling At Clowns
The second morning, we head to the famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. A colorfully dressed clown crows when he sees my sister’s veil and he starts making her a penis crown out of balloons. It is almost pornographic in its detail. This is not his first penis crown. We refuse it. “This,” I tell him, “is not that kind of bachelorette. We are not interested in being covered in penises.” He spreads his hands and pretends to be offended. “And besides,” I continue playfully, “all penises are pretty much the same. They don’t matter.” The clown angrily starts listing types of penises. “They can be big! Small! Curved! Straight!” We are grateful to be seated and get away from the clown yelling about penises.
I think we try to simplify down to penises because love itself is so scary and full of unknowns. People can change, their goals and life veer away from each other, they can fall in love with other people or just out of love with each other, so we like to simplify it. Penises it is. I get up to go to the bathroom and when I get back, my sister is wearing a penis crown. It has been given to her by a stranger. As we eat our beignets, we explain to Joni the concept of polyamory. “Is that”, she asks, “legal?” We assure her that it is. What she’s thinking of is polygamy. If you don’t marry everyone, we tell her, you can sleep with as many people as you want. She smiles and shakes her head.
SAME PENIS FOREVER
That afternoon, we have a lingerie shower. Suddenly, there are penis straws and a penis pinata and a sign that reads “SAME PENIS FOREVER.” Where did all the penises come from? No-one knows.
My sister opens all her fancy underwear and we laugh and clap.
I ask the room for marriage advice for Emma.
Joni offers, “always give him a blowie on his birthday.” I raise my eyebrows at the idea of an annual blowjob.
Asha protests. “What if”, she asks, “ you really like giving them?”
Joni blushes and says, “Oh, I guess you could do more! Just- not less.”
I tell Emma that you should always support each other. You should always try to give them the best of your time and attention. This, because it is not about sex, is boring the room. I also give them my Dad’s advice to me, which was never to do a chore that you don’t want to do for the rest of your life. On some level, your spouse is a roommate that you hope will never move out.
Sadie says that although Emma has been distracted by the wedding, that’s just a fun party. The thing to concentrate on is the marriage, that’s the long term project that will shape her life and her partner’s life. Emma nods and smiles but doesn’t really seem to take it in. Sadie and I laugh together because this is the best advice she got on her wedding day, but didn’t recognize until years later. Weddings are a lot of noise and dresses and expense, maybe to distract you from the profundity of sealing your life to another person.
Amanda offers that you should marry your best friend. This is simple but profound. We all nod. Beauty fades and they lose their hair, but when you really like each other, you’ll get through the hard parts.
“There is no long relationship”, I say, “Without hard work. Everyone has to work. The idea that your relationship will be good without work is the biggest lie of all.” Joni agrees and says, “it’s weird, all the movies end with the couple getting married and nobody wants to talk about what happens after that, which is the rest of your life.” “That’s true”, interjects Sadie- “if a couple is married at the beginning of the movie, they’ll either split up and get back together, or split up and meet other people, or one of them is going to get kidnapped or die. There is nothing interesting to Hollywood about a successful marriage.” After all of our deep thoughts on partnership, we’re ready to go out.
By the end of the second day, I am wearing a themed bachelorette t-shirt, a sash, and a light-up twinkly flower crown. I now understand how dogs feel when we dress them up for Halloween.
We are walking up and down Frenchman street, being congratulated by fellow celebrants. I get away from my sisters for a moment and rejoin them in a bar moments later.
“Where”, my sister asks, “is your crown?”
“I don’t know”, I tell them, but I do know. It’s in the trash can outside.
We go sing karaoke, taking over a small room. We sing all the songs about what we want from marriage, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “I Will Always Love You” sung by Whitney Houston, and Joni sings “Goodbye, Earl” by the Dixie Chicks, about friends getting together to murder an abusive husband. I am not sure this is what we want for wedding wishes, but that’s what we’ve got. We go to a late night dance party hosted by one of the parade Krewes and have a great time before heading back to the hotel, picking our way through the streets strewn with beads and beer cups.
The last morning of the trip, I spend some quiet time with Sadie. We talk about what we’ve learned from our marriages, and how we wish we could give Emma everything we know. We love her and we love her intended, and that has to be enough. We separate, hugging and crying, to see each other in our matching gowns in a month.