Friday, January 25, 2002

Francis answers the question "Why he married in a church". My main problem was why did I marry at all? I don't believe in marriage, I think it's much too restrictive and charged with misleading expectations. I am however still married and live with the same man I have lived with for the last 20 years. We are the best of friends, and share bed and table in comfort.

I think some rituals are not about the very pietistic idea of a personal relationship to God, but about creating events. We had a big wedding so that my father could preside over the wedding of at least one of his five daughters. The entire family fought for days before, during and after, one of my older sisters is still telling me what a waste of money it was, and it all got out of hand due to my father's enthusiastic pursuit of formality, something he never handled well. An example: he fainted and had to be fetched with an ambulance in the middle of the speech, which was all about my brother-in-law anyway, and had nothing to do with me and my husband. In an heroic attempt to save the occasion, he gave the manuscript to my husband, and told him to finish. The ambulance took him away, he was rewived, his doctor through many years and crises had a chat with him, and sent him back to the party, diagnosing it to lack of sleep due to nerves for the delivery of the same speech. My father's great moment, and he faints in my lap.

Now, after his death, I don't regret a single tense minute of the wedding-from-hell, I wouldn't have been without any thrown tomato or tempter-tantrum: he loved each wild second. He loved the musician who got so drunk we needed two men to keep him and his instrument from falling into the fire, he loved driving around from farm to farm around the summer-house the day after gathering all the still living people who had been to his wedding for a party in the boathouse, he loved the breakfast the third day of the wedding consisting of cakes marinated in the rest of the cognac (nobody were up to actually cutting a slice of bread or thinking about getting sober), and he loved returning to the daily routines in a house still filled with friends and relatives who were late to depart, presents and left-overs (yes, cakes: a norwegian wedding is an orgy of cakes).

As a family, we are good at parties, but not at rituals. We prefer to choose our own way of doing things, trying to fit the norm ends in disaster. But I still don't regret letting my father have the party with the formal invitations, the cook (who was an old friend of the family and made a wonderful meal), the guests travelling from all over the country to join, the presents (we got them, he opened them!), the music and dancing and silly party games.

In tense familiar moments (third day of Christmas visits, for instance), I get blamed for not taking firmer control: for the wedding of an older sister four years later ( fun, but very informal thing) I was a toast-master and limited all speeches to 2 minutes. An other sister, the gym-teacher, had her whistle and clock at hand: at 2 minutes she'd blow and the time would be out. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, everybody dared to say something because they knew they'd be cut off when it got embarassing. So the meal lasted as long as if we had had 3-4 longer speeches. Two cousins and one in-law allied to be able to tell one particularly long joke: when one of them was cut off, the next stood up and continued. It ended up hilariously funny.

My father loved these events, but my wedding was the kind of party he wanted, where he could be the host and show off to his friends and family. It was his day, and I only regret not having been able to give him more such days

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