05 March 2009

To be, or not to be

bridezilla. noun. Definition: "A bride-to-be who focuses so much on the event that she becomes difficult and obnoxious." Etymology: 1995; blend of 'bride' + 'Godzilla'. Usage: slang.

I am not a difficult person. In fact, there have been instances in my life in which I wish I could put aside the ingrained sense of gentility with which I face and interact with the world. More and more these days it seems to me that it is the obnoxious, the brash, the cunning, the ruthless, and the spoilt who get want they want, or at least more of what they want, whether it be their own way, success, material goods, or just attention.


[I think this why/how the election of Barack Obama in the United States has been so inspirational and uplifting across the globe. We need to believe that the kind, the gentle, the graceful can come out on top.]


I will never forget the time I got in trouble in the 2nd grade. Pupils in St. Joseph's Catholic School grades 1-3 were not allowed to venture down the hall past the water fountains. Period. One day, I came in from recess to go to the restroom. Three “upper School” girls were at the end of the hallway outside the sixth grade classroom. “Isn’t she cute!” one of them shrieked in my direction. “Come here!” they beckoned.


Intrigued, and absent-mindedly forgetting the rule, I crossed “the line” and ventured down the hall. I can only imagine how I must have looked to them, in my tiny, hobbit-sized version of their bigger girls uniform. “You’re adorable!” they said, showering me with praise, and going so far as lifting me from the ground into their arms.


The sound of Sister Mary Regine’s voice thundered down the hallway. She bellowed my name, and I froze where I stood. The three upper School girls disappeared swiftly and without a trace, not unlike the three witches in Macbeth, who vanish from Macbeth’s sight like “bubbles of the earth.”  

The long, lonely walk back down the hallway to the 2nd grade classroom seemed an eternity. I knew what was at hand. Back in those days corporeal punishment of schoolchildren was the approved norm: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”


Before my punishment was enacted, Sister asked me if I had anything to say for myself. Which of course I did: I wasn’t my fault. Well, not entirely. Yes, I had broken a rule, but I had been urged, cajoled and encouraged. It was not fair that I was to be punished, while those who had incited the crime walked free.


With ruler in hand, Sister looked down at me with loving, but firm eyes, and said words I shall always remember: “My child, I fear that you have a rather unhealthy sense of fairness.”


This “unhealthy sense of fairness” has guided much of my life, and driven a hefty share of the angst I feel about a great numbers of things, from the ridiculous to the sublime. (Like the time I tried to “help the starving children” by posting a dozen oatmeal cookies in a large manila envelope marked: “Cambodia”. Without postage.)


Fairness. What does it mean, really? What is and isn’t “fair”. And when is it ones place to call breaches of fairness into question, and when to remain silent? I wonder.


Last night, The D.E.B., my W.I. chum, Diane, and I – calling ourselves “Shakespeare in Love” – attended the monthly quiz night at The Granville. Last month, we had a fabulous time, and we won! Last night? Not so much. Let me explain. (Or vent, rather.)


I’m a very competitive person, I like to win. In fact, I don’t think anyone enjoys losing. But, if I am defeated by a stronger, smarter opponent, so be it. No sour grapes, here. However, I cannot abide cheating! Last night there was a team at the quiz who were quite openly gleaning answers using their iPhones. I was furious with the Quizmaster who chose to turn a blind eye to their misdemeanors. The girls with the phones were a part of a large table of people who had come out together, sat together, but formed two teams. One of their teams won the Quiz Night.


All is not fair in love and war! Perhaps I would feel less indignant about this cheating incident if the perpetrators had at least been a little more cloaked or finessed in their foul play. But, to hear one of the girls drunkenly slur: “Oh, the answer’s just coming through now,” was just more than I could take!


I looked around the room, and saw several knowing and disappointed faces, but no one said anything. All of us, perhaps, fearing we’d “ruin the fun” by “making a fuss.” “It’s a just a game,” The D.E.B. said sweetly, trying to calm me, by smiling that smile of his. But it was too late. My patina of gentility had finally cracked.


I broke the silence of the room by saying, in a firm voice: “You can’t use your phone." And again, "You’re not allowed to use your phone.” I felt very loud and very American.


There was a great deal of tutting, teeth sucking, sighing and eye-rolling from the culprit group. But there were also meek smiles, and one or two nods from some of the other players around the room.


Was I taking it all too seriously, or was I right to call their actions into question? In these uncertain times, I think a clear sense of the “right thing” in an instance such as this has become skewed. We have become so concerned—and I think sometimes superficially—about being offensive to others, and/or infringing upon others, that we lose sight of the larger picture.


In this sort of situation no one wants to say anything for fear of being labeled a “nark,” a “tattle-tale” or a “killjoy.” But, what is to be made of the fact that by their actions these fraudulent players were infringing upon my fun, and killing my joy? There’s no fun in to for me going toe-to-toe with Wikipedia. Wikipedia will always win! As far as I’m concerned, I might as well just save my money and stay home.


Ugh. Where is the formidable Sister Mary Regine when you need her? She would have made short shrift of those turkeys! God bless ‘er.


The thing that burned me the most about the Quiz Cheaters was their brazenness. Clearly, being obnoxious goes a long way in this world. Especially in a place where people are generally too kind and/or too polite to make a fuss.


I confess that I wish I could channel just a wee, tiny fraction of that in regard to some of my wedding planning. Well, chiefly, the music. Don’t get me wrong! Everyone at St. Peter’s has been lovely and helpful. And the music for our wedding is going to gorgeous. The Chief Musician is a gifted and talented man and is very open to what the D.E.B. and I want.


We had our first meeting with him a few weeks ago, he’d asked us to create a Music Wish List. Which we did with much, much glee. But here is the rub. I have longed adored Bach’s beautiful chorale “Sleepers Awake,” and have an incredibly beautiful version of it by the singer Sissel on my iPod.


After weeks of scouring Google and emailing around the globe, I was finally able to acquire the lyrics of Sissel’s version of this song, and emailed them yesterday to the Chief Musician -- with a plea that this be my Bridal Entrance music. For well over a year now, I have been fantasizing about walking down the aisle to this magical version of “Sleepers Awake.” My hopes were dashed this morning after Morning Prayer.


The Chief Musician was very sorry to inform me that it would be hopelessly impossible for me to use this as my entrance music. Lovely though it is, it is far too long. The piece is more than 3 minutes long, and although most congregations are indulgent of bridal excesses, asking people to stand on their feet for a 3-minute bridal entrance might even try the patience of a saint.


True to form, I offered polite compromise: Could I have a section, nay, even just a snippet of it? Apparently, not. With so famous a piece, according to our CM, it really must be all or nothing, and all is not an option. And, so, the matter was settled. Bride must go back to the drawing board, and find another, shorter, tune.


I was gutted, but smiled sweetly, and remained good-natured. Why did I not, as some other women/brides-to-be would have done: stamped my foot, grounded my resolve, burst into tears and shouted: “But I want it!!!”


Because I could never do such a thing, (and I am proud to say that I would not) but, that’s not to say that a small part of me doesn't wish I could be a little like that, just once. For all of three seconds.


Ultimately, it’s just one song, one moment of my life.  A very important song and moment no doubt, but still just one moment of many. I need to remind myself of the larger picture, and remember that getting what you want should never out weigh playing fair.


Random Thoughts said...

Will you enter in American or British style. If in American fashion the parents grandparents, whomevers enter, then members of the wedding party, could you leave your guests seated for twoish minutes listening to the beautiful piece, then have everyone rise for your entrance? OR ask your guests to remain seated so that you and the DEB are certain to see each other upon your entrance.

An American Girl in the UK said...

Random Thoughts: You're a genius! Thanks for these suggestions!!!

Christiana said...

I'm glad you told those girls with the iphones off. The only shame is that they weren't kicked out of the game. Maybe it's because I'm competitive (and American) but I think rules are there for a reason, Rules are what make games fun.

If they're going to allow that then it shouldn't be called "Quiz night", it should be called "who can google fastest" night. If so, I'd win, because I really stink at Quiz nights in the UK. :)