My first wedding, for reasons too convoluted to explain, was held overseas and organized by my former in-laws. It was a Dutch wedding, at which it is traditional to sit through literally hours of speeches, then drink heavily and not dance. So I was told.
Now, I hate sitting through speeches almost as much as I hate giving them, and since I did not have any family apart from my mother in attendance at the wedding to give speeches on my behalf, I requested, demanded - insisted - that the speech giving be limited - to maybe just one speech, by my father-in-law.
I sat through nearly three hours of speeches in my wedding dress, which I think tells you everything you need to know about the four year marriage that followed.
The lone speaker on my side of the family, my mother, stood up and, in a rare moment of respect for my feelings, kept her remarks very brief: "When Jessica announced that she was marrying someone from overseas that none of us had met before, she was really just doing what I did thirty years ago."
If you've been reading along, you already know that the marriage she was referring to ended about as well as her speech.
The worst part, of course, is that she turned out to be right: it's really not a good idea to marry someone you don't know very well, and then to bring children into the mix. I reflected on her speech in great detail as I drove my former husband to the airport four years later, when he exited both our marriage and the country, and, as my father before him, ceased to be a presence in a one-year-old girl's daily life.
I've reflected a great deal on these events, as my father has suddenly, now that I am into my 40s, become a daily presence in my life. I enjoy talking to him and more: I found a part of me that's been missing my whole life. Someone who is completely on my side. Even when I'm wrong. Even when I rant and rave. We talk all the time, sometimes via IM or email, but very often via webcam on Skype.
So one day recently, as I was writing an email to my ex-husband, I had an a-ha moment, and mentioned to him that I had been using Skype to chat by webcam with far-away relatives, and let him know that if he wanted to talk to his daughter - our daughter, who he has not actually seen since the age of three - using a webcam and Skype, he was welcome to do so.
I often make suggestions that are ignored or receive no response, but in this case, a week or two later, I got an email that he had purchased a webcam, installed software and tested it and, gee, this is a really good idea, can we set a time for me to talk to Emma?
I'm a good person, I reminded myself. I am rising above all that water under the bridge - that dirty, sewage filled, toxic-waste contaminated water under the bridge. I am Doing The Right Thing. So we set a time for the call and I patted myself on the back and committed the time to memory, if not my actual calendar.
Now, anyone who follows my blog can see that I haven't posted much lately - and the reason for this is that I've been uber-busy at work. Working nearly round-the-clock at times, and I'm not complaining - it's good to be employed, it's just that the current workload isn't really conducive to having any sort of a life. Or an attention span. Or functional short-term memory.
So when my daughter came running up to me and announced that she had discovered a talent agency In Seattle that could get her on to the Disney Channel, and could she please, please, please send them an email for an audition, I didn't give it much thought at all - let's see, can this result in fatal injury? No? Go right ahead.
I did think it was a bit odd when I got not one but several phone calls from a "Talent Agency" urging me to bring my daughter in for an audition. Each time the phone rang - at odd hours, like when I was making dinner - my daughter eagerly answered and talked to them and then pressed me hard to call them back and schedule an audition. Finally, I had a lull in my day when they called, and my daughter stood there, eagerly waiting for the verdict. I was suspicious, but I was assured there were no costs involved in this "audition" and even though I was also assured that no preparation was required for this audition either, which struck me as incredibly odd, I relented and scheduled an appointment for Saturday morning.
We bought a pretty dress and new shoes for my daughter to wear. She planned very carefully how to make a good impression, leaving a "scedule" for herself that included time to bed, what to eat, and the fact that she should spray Gucci perfume into the shower so that she would smell nice for her big day.
So we arrived on Saturday morning at the downtown Seattle office of a "Talent Agency" and sat through a lengthy presentation in which the names of numerous B-List Disney Channel performers are named, along with other child stars I've never heard of but clearly would know if I worked less and got out of the house more. Emma sang for the "Talent Scout" and then went out to wait on a line with other children to get a "Screen Test."
While she waited, I looked in the slightly open door of a nearby staff break room, and saw a whiteboard on which was written in large capitals, "PUSH SATURDAY CLASSES." And I had another one of my life's a-ha moments - the ones that always seem to come to me just a bit too late. I started to notice everything, like the fact that although the man giving Emma her "Screen Test" was taking notes on a piece of paper, it wasn't actually the piece of paper with her name and information on it.
And then I was handed a glossy brochure that they exhorted me to read over the rest of the weekend, but now I am wised up, so I skipped to the end where I found a list of the classes my child will need to take with them. I learned that if she wants to get an audition for the Disney Channel, I can purchase her dream for a price of $5,000 to $10,000, depending on how committed I am. I discovered this while she was in the rest room and I realized that I needed Plan B, pronto - because she thinks she's just had a screen test and will soon be an extra on Hannah Montana.
Did I mention that outside it was pouring rain and there was a PETA demonstration going on?
We took a walk in the rain over to Pike Place market, where there's a little mini-donut shop in which they make the donuts right in front of you and shake them in a bag with cinnamon sugar. Emma finds this not only amazing but delicious so we got two bags and walked around Pike Place Market. We find the Gum Wall, which is pretty much as described. We go in search of our own gum to add to the wall, but couldn't find any, so we agreed to come back soon when we have gum. We dodged raindrops on the way back to our car. I saved her new shoe from a puddle while she hops. We laughed and ate fresh mini-donuts that we had seen being made, right in front of us.
When I got home, there was a phone message and a very angry email awaiting me, from a very disappointed man who has bought a webcam, installed software, and scheduled a time to talk to the child he has not seen in seven years. It's late now - the middle of the night in Holland, where he is. Too late to fix. I send an apologetic email and then google the name of the "Talent Agency" that derailed the best-laid plans - and discover that we have basically spent our day getting pitched by the Amway of show-biz world.
How awesome do I feel right now? My daughter missed a rare appointment with her father so that I could take her to be scammed, a scam so obvious that Cynical Girl should have seen it coming a mile away, and now I not only have to apologize to my ex-husband, I have to explain it all to my child.
Cynical Girl: you're so fired.
I made the call to the ex, and do what grownups who are Doing The Right Thing do - I apologized profusely, because I realized how disappointing it must have been and the mistake was entirely mine. I told him about the "Talent Agency" and waited for the traditional accusatory reply, but he just listened and said, "Well, they must have been pretty smooth if they managed to put one over on you."
I didn't see that coming either.
A couple of hours later, my daughter is sitting in front of my computer, eagerly filling her father in on the details of her daily life - telling him about school, and explaining to him that we almost got scammed by a Talent Agency but we're too smart for that, but it's all okay because she got a new dress and shoes with heels and some fresh made donuts, too. I leave them alone, but after a while, Emma comes to get me, saying my ex wants to talk to me.
Have I mentioned that it's Halloween and I'm halfway into my costume as the Zombie Chef Ghoulia Child?
Normally I'd be worried about this, but instead I am aware of the oddest feeling in the world: I just don't care what he thinks. My father will laugh about this with me later. Someday, my daughter can laugh about this with her own father. Actually, she seems to have done so already.