Friday, October 9, 2009

Self-consciousness or life—you choose.

195 pounds
First of all, let me apologize for not putting this post up yesterday. I'm on fall break right now, and I guess that the holiday knocked me out of my routine because I completely forgot about the blog. (And I LOVE this blog!) I guess I was also caught up in the TV event of the year last night—Pam and Jim's wedding on The Office—and maybe I was too hysterical and euphoric over their both ridiculous and moving nuptials to remember my own responsibilities.

Watching their wedding took me back to my own—the episode centered around the fact that weddings, especially big church weddings, are not about the bride and groom as much as they're about their family and friends.

The Office handled this fact with extreme hilarity by showing Pam having to take one of her guests to the hospital the night before she took her vows because he "tore his scrotum" while trying to bust a dance move, her best friend and mother—yes, I said her MOTHER!—hooking up with coworkers she can barely stand, and the entire congregation dancing down the aisle (a la that You Tube video that circulated a few months ago) before Pam and Jim ever took the stage. Yes, Pam and Jim's wedding—like so many of our weddings—was not so much an event to honor their love as it was an excuse for their friends and their family to act like hooligans.

My own wedding was never completely hijacked by the hooligans who were there to celebrate our marriage, but it was hijacked—be it for only the five minutes it took to play one simple song.

Like Pam and Jim, we had given our D.J. a list of forbidden songs—The Macarena, The Chicken Dance, you get the idea. We didn't want to hear any songs that came with a built-in performance. And we had told the D.J. that if he played these songs, he would not get paid. But, of course, there was one song we failed to mention . . .

"Y.M.C.A." by The Village People.

It was a crucial error.

For halfway through the reception, we heard the first familiar chords of that song, and then, to our amazement, saw five people we thought we could trust enter the ballroom wearing accessories designed to make them look like The Village People. Neal had donned a sailor cap, Phil wore a hard hat, Kevin a fireman's hat*, Carol a police cap, and my mother—yes, I said my MOTHER!—showed up in full headdress.

I could have died.

But rather than die, I did what Pam and Jim did: I laughed as five people I loved performed the entire song as if they really were The Village People. And I reminded myself that weddings aren't just about the bride and groom or even the vows. They are a celebration of all the people in the couple's life: the friends, the family members, the hooligans.

And when I look back on that day—eleven years ago this past summer—what I remember now is not how shocked I was by their subversion of the rules we tried to create surrounding our wedding but how impressed I was by their confidence and joi de vivre.

Because you see, none of them—not Carol, not Phil, not Neal, not Kevin, not even my mom at the age of 56—revealed even an iota of self-consciousness, embarrassment, or shame that night. If you had made me get up in front of a group of 200 people and dance the "Y.M.C.A." eleven years ago, I would have been a wreck—I would have been nervous and insecure and ashamed and worried about everything from my naked arms to my usually unseen cleavage—but none of them displayed any of these qualities.

Tom Hanks has said that "self-consciousness is the death of art," and I have come to believe that the same can be said about life. The more self-conscious we are, the less alive we are. None of the people boogieing down the aisle at Pam and Jim's wedding and none of the people dancing the Y.M.C.A. at ours were worried about how they looked. And why should they be? They were having too much fun to do it.

I hope that all these years later I am a different person than I was back then: a person who could get up in front of a crowd and get my groove on without feeling shy or insecure about doing so, a person who would not worry about something as silly as arm fat. And I hope that you, too, can do the same.

*I do not have a photo of this moment with Kevin in it on my computer, but I will try to find one and post it later today, especially since he's so famous.

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