It was a week before the big day.
I’d sold my house and moved up to Northern California. Things were beginning to take shape in the everyday quality of my relationship with Thom. Our dogs, PJ and Rhoda Morgenstern were getting over the shock of their sudden cohabitation.
Final arrangements were in place for a wedding ceremony to be presided over by a well-respected Justice of the Appellate Court of California. A caterer and photographer had been booked. Everything was a “go”.
Thom was futzing around in the kitchen when I handed him a single sheet of paper.
“First take on a shortlist of songs,” I said.
We’d decided on a low-key background of recorded music that reflected the spirit of our wedding day.
I was nervous. Music is so subjective and he’d been reluctant to share his favorites. After a quick read he placed the document face down on the counter.
“Bobby,” he said. “This is our wedding, not a Barbra Streisand retrospective.”
“I overdid the Streisand?”
“You have People listed five times.”
Uh-oh. He hasn’t figured out I’m a Streisand obsessionado.
I push back.
“She’s done it different ways. It’s tough choosing the definitive recording.”
“Here’s something definitive.” He handed the paper to me. “No.”
What would SHE do in this situation?
“Look at the progression of songs,” I say. “They tell a story. How do you know it isn’t right until you hear it?”
“Oh, my God. You’re beginning to sound like her.”
Finally. Some recognition. But clearly, this was not working. I switch gears. The best defense is a good offense.
“I hesitate to say this, but if you’d participated in generating the list in the first place – “.
“No. You’re absolutely right. My bad. I’ll have something by tomorrow morning. We can combine lists. It just needs some balance. It can’t be so…you know…gay.”
My thoughts raced ahead with possibilities: Air Supply, The Carpenters, Sergio Mendez, Jane Oliver.
And in violation of my privacy, he said: “Baby, you need to get your head out of the seventies.”
That stung just a little bit.
“Not even – ”
“Bobby, look me in the eye and promise me you aren’t going to suggest, I Will Survive.”
“Fine. Let’s move on to another subject, then. What about your vows?”
I know he’s got nothing.
Disturbingly guileless and head tilted to the side, puppy-like, he says: “To be honest…I’m coming up dry on those. You?”
“I’m done…but I’m not happy with the tone.”
“Yeah. Right now my vows sound a little – how can I describe it – overbearing.”
“Overbearing Celine or overbearing Sade?”
He grimaced. “I’m reluctant to suggest this, Bobby, but we should consider something more creative than vows, anyway.”
I’m in the movie, Vertigo, spiraling downward, arms splayed, into the dark abyss.
Faking casual, I say: “Okay. Have at it. I’m open to creative ideas.”
Actually…to be honest, it’s possible I might not be open to creative ideas in this situation.
“I’m thinking something counter-intuitive” he continues. “As an example, what if we recite the lyrics to Stephen Sondheim’s Being Alive?
“I don’t understand.”
I understood. I understood perfectly. Not going to happen.
“You take a couple of lines. I take a couple of lines. It’ll be a show stopper,” he says.
Lord, give me the strength to accept the things I may not be able to change.
“Let me help you work through this, Thom. You’re saying Streisand songs are too gay for a wedding, but reciting the words to a show tune…that’s not too gay?”
“I don’t think it’s gay at all.”
“Really? Because the only thing gayer than that idea would be a duet with a hologram of Judy Garland.”
“C’mon! Being Alive is about the real experience of two people having a life together. Have you listened to the words?“
“The song is over forty years old. Everyone on earth has listened to the words. Species from other planets have listened the words.”
He was pissed. “Can you just live with the idea before you totally dismiss it out of hand?”
Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. Too much, too soon. I should have asked more questions. I felt trapped.
The house still reeked of being his. Looking for a private spot to pout, I sat down on the living room sofa, next to Rhoda Morgenstern.
Later that night, when I thought Thom was asleep, I went to the den, opened my laptop and Googled Prenup Agreements.
A minute later my fingers tapped out Sondheim Being Alive onto the keyboard. The lyrics popped up. I read them out loud.
“Somebody need me too much.
Somebody know me too well.
Somebody pull me up short,
And put me through hell,
And give me support,
For being alive.”
Dammit. He was right. Incredibly intimate. How do I backpeddle into admitting this?
I felt Thom behind me. His hands began to gently massage my shoulders. “So, whaddya think?” he asked.
“I think if it’s done right it could actually be quite the cherishable moment.”
“Hmm,” he said. “That’s good to hear. But what do you mean when you say if it’s done right. We’re just saying the words out loud to each other.”
“Exactly. And that’s why I think I should direct.”