David spent yesterday afternoon shopping for my engagement ring, I'm sure of it. (Either that or he's having an affair.) During his four-day visit from his home in the Ozarks to mine in New York City, he has been devoted and attentive, blowing off all his friends and relatives in Manhattan to help me clean my apartment, assemble my Stairmaster, and generally be a doting beau-- until yesterday, when he mysteriously disappeared. He had an 11 o'clock meeting with an agent, but he didn't return till shortly after six, with nothing but a vague reference to "errands on the East Side" to explain his afternoon activities. This morning, he vanished to call his brother Jon--from a pay phone. He wanted privacy, he said, more privacy than my den could afford. Now he's gone again. Definitely shopping for diamonds. I'm certain.
Mind you, we're not engaged yet, but that hasn't stopped us from talking our hypothetical wedding into the ground. When I was in college, I marveled at my friends' pre-engagement planning. Karen and Tim knew the date on which he was going to propose to her (September 6, her birthday), the date of the wedding (July 18), where the wedding would be, what color the bridesmaids would wear, and who was going to cater the affair--all months before he actually popped the question. For all I know, they rehearsed the proposal. "We're having a very elaborate wedding," Karen explained. "We have to plan ahead." Ridiculous, I thought. If you've nailed down the date that you'll get engaged--if you know where he's going to take you to dinner, how he'll phrase the question, and what your response will be--then, for all intents and purposes, you're engaged. Just put the ring on her finger and formally announce it already.
Now I find myself guilty of the something similar--though I like to protest that we haven't nailed down any dates, we're not quite as neurotic, nor quite as sure as Tim and Karen. And I like to think I have a better excuse than Karen. David and I aren't having all these pre-engagement wedding conversations because we're obsessed with flower arrangements and appetizers. We're having them because when I think about picking up the phone to tell my family we're getting married, I freeze.
You see, David and I are both pretty new Christians. He was raised by devout atheists, I was raised Jewish, and the wedding we envision is not anything like what any of our seven parents (four blood parents and three steps, with eight weddings among them) would ever imagine.
My father, for his part, has married not one, but two Protestant women. So it's no surprise that when I told him that I'd been baptized, he didn't rush to sit shiva or cuw me out of his will. But he did write me a letter declaring that my conversion had caused him "great pain." (He also wrote that his life "would be rendered meaningless," but he later retracted this, sort of, admitting that it was hyperbole.
My father gets particularly anxious about my conversion when he thinks about bridal gowns and best men. Several years ago, after I'd started attending Christian services but before I'd been baptized, I asked my stepmother to rate just how upset my father was by my church attendance: was he very upset, or just mildly saddened? She said: "I don't really know. He doesn't talk to me about it. Though sometimes he turns to me in the middle of the night and asks if I think you'll want a church wedding one day."
Which I do.
And in the end, I'll have one: a simple ceremony at an Episcopal church that will open with the singing of "Christ Has Made the Sure Foundation." My friends Carla and Randy will read passages from the Book of Ruth and the Gospel of Matthew, and then my priest will bless us in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
But I will not have the other thing that I want, which is a wedding where my father will be happy and comfortable and proud. He won't be happy because he'll see the whole drama of Christ's resurrection acted out in front of him in the nuptial Eucharist--and I'll be participating eagerly. He won't be happy because I'll be marrying a Christian man, and that means this commitment I've made to a carpenter from Nazareth is permanent, forever, that my home won't be Jewish, and neither will his grandchildren.
Last night I went out to dinner with my friend Monica. "So how's the visit going?" she asked, and eventually I confided my Diamond District theory. She squealed. She made a toast. She insisted on picking up the check. And she said, "This should be the happiest time in your life!"
Of course it won't be--because I know this thing that is supposed to make me so happy will sadden someone who's up there with Jesus and David on the list of the Most Important Men in My Life.
I imagine that the anxiety this wedding--if, indeed, it happens--will cause is only now beginning: we'll argue about whether the ceremony really must take place in a church and whether we'll talk about Jesus instead of God; we'll argue over who will foot the bill and whether I'll wear a cross or nondenominational pearls. But right now I can't think about those arguments to come. I'm too busy worrying that when I announce my engagement, my parents will react with about as much enthusiasm as if I were calling to say I'd become a porn star.