old hickory said we could take ’em by surprise

One hundred and ninety seven years ago Sunday Andrew Jackson and company defeated some British folks in the final major battle of the War of 1812. What they didn’t know was that a peace treaty had been signed in December, and the war was already over. And so is life without instant digital communication technology. Sometimes you just keep fighting wars that have been over for weeks because no one has gotten around to telling you yet.

Two years ago Sunday the Beard and I got married at the Mainz Standesamt. You see, in Germany you don’t get married all at once, with the legal and spiritual/preferred bits glued together. You always go to the Standesamt first. Then you can get married in a church or a pretty beach-side castle later. Sort of takes the wind out of the second celebration though, in my opinion. And since we weren’t getting married for the usual reasons, we figured we’d have at it in one go. We told all our friends that the theme would be “exaggeration” and to come to the Standesamt wearing the most ridiculous costumes they cared to be seen in in public.

The result was a sight to behold. Our Platz-mates built us two shopping-cart chariots, which we brought with us in the bus on the ride into town. (We had been planning on taking the tractor, but a few legal details about driving tractors with trailers full of people proved too big an obstacle.) There were sequins and wigs and fake noses and silver wings and big hats. There were even four members of a Clockwork Orange crew, complete with jock straps and baseball bats. The people at the Standesamt didn’t seem to know what to make of the sight so early on a Friday morning (did you know it costs extra to get married in the afternoon?!).

I wore a borrowed, thrifted dress that my cousin mailed to me from the United States (she has a lot of neat dresses, so she showed them to me on skype, and I picked out my favorite), and the Beard’s entire outfit came from a free box. Except for the top hat, the goggles, and the doom stick; those were borrowed too. We both had long red sash/cape/scarf things that had been Mama Beard’s curtains in another life. I wore no make up, did my own hair, and the night before the ceremony we went to the sauna for a bit of that after-sauna glow. There was no planning to speak of, there were no invitations, and the only money we spent was on the paperwork fees required by the State for the event. My bouquet was made of dumpstered roses, garlic blossoms, and parsley. Oh and I think I bought a new package of pink hair dye.

The ceremony was…amusing. The man on duty for marriages that day really didn’t know what to make of us. It was hard to tell if we were pissing him off with the freak-show atmosphere or if he was having a hard time not laughing himself, but he treated us to an extra-long speech about togetherness and the sanctity of marriage. It was hard not to laugh in his face, which is evident in most of the pictures of the Beard and I during his harangue. “Try living with seventeen people and then get back to me about togetherness,” I muttered to someone during his speech. Maybe he was just a sadist.

The funny thing about getting married in another language is that I never said “I do,” which to an American-grown brain is slightly strange. Because I hadn’t spent my whole life seeing weddings in Germany on the tv, I didn’t even register the final question as THE question. “Ja ja ja,” I think I said, just trying to hurry him through his spiel. Whoops. The Beard had the foresight (well, native-speaker advantage) to make his yes a bit more theatrical and climactic.

After the ceremony we all poured out onto the street for confetti throwing and (further) champagne drinking. Someone who knows us very well even threw a couple of spring onions in place of rice. We mounted our shopping cart chariots and were pushed off into the cold of a January noon. A police car followed us for a while as we passed the train station and headed up the path towards the university, but eventually decided we were harmless and continued on their way.

Somewhere along the path leading up the hill to home, an elderly gentlemen stopped to ask us what the fuss was about. When he heard that we’d just gotten married he turned to me and wished me many healthy children. I told him to fuck off. I hate the assumption that the decision to get married and the decision to have children have anything to do with each other. It’s bad enough that we maintain a cultural tradition requiring the State’s stamp on love and committment, but to act as if that governmental stamp is a permission slip to reproduce? Not my bag. He walked away, confused.

Back home and packed into the house at the front of our Wagenplatz, several people got behind the bar (these are the moments when being involved in an autonomous space are incredibly convenient), speeches were made, and three vegan cakes were served (among other things that I no longer remember—all the food was brought potluck style and without prompting). I put on a 20-pound, sequined white wedding dress (courtesy of another friend and the flea market) for twenty minutes to round out the whole bridal experience before changing for a third time so I could spend the next fourteen hours dancing to rock and roll. It was the best party of the year, and by the next morning we’d both lost our wedding rings.

And for your viewing pleasure (don’t mind all the swirls and blank spots, the Beard likes a bit of privacy):

Before the wedding and just after cracking a wedding weizen beer while getting ready:

Trying to be serious in the face of a ridiculous speech from the master of ceremonies:

Official marriage smooch:

On the way home on my wedding shopping-cart chariot:

One of our three cakes, baked by friends, with a dumpster-dived marzipan coating:

Ah yes, and if you want to read something else I’ve written about our wedding, take a look at this: “tangled up in blue”. And furthermore, that title is from a song about the Battle of New Orleans, which I have had stuck in my head since I began writing this post.

0 Comments on “old hickory said we could take ’em by surprise

  1. Some old man wished you many children and you told him to fuck off?! Fail. He was wishing you well and giving you a blessing and you choose to curse him. What do you want him to say, “You, got married? Please don’t breed more of your kind.”
    Never spit on kindness, it’s so ungrateful.
    Such a fail.

  2. Jan: Thanks!

    Cheesegan: Sorry, but it offends me when people assume that marriage is related to the decision to have children and when people automatically assume that a wish for future children would even be welcome. As you know I want children, but I don’t think it’s ok to assume that everyone does. It’s way too complicated a subject. I’m sure he didn’t see it that way or mean it that way–obviously he wanted to be kind, but I would have preferred a curse or an insult from him than an assumption and yup sometimes I can be very blunt. Of course my response was ungrateful–I was ungrateful.

  3. I wouldn’t say blunt, I’d say it’s more like behaving like a rich spoiled American brat who thinks she better than others and has a grossly inflated sense of self and entitlement. Yes, you choose to be “poor”, but you still act mighty, whitey rich.

  4. Cheesegan: Call it what you will. I call it being honest about the opinions that I have. If that is part of your definition of being a spoiled brat then so be it. I believe every human being is entitled to a few things–every single one, you, me, that lady over there. Being able to honestly express opinions is one of them. Which is also why I don’t just delete comments like yours, despite the fact that I find them unconstructive.

    I am tired of hearing people talk about priviledge in the way you are. There is nothing I can do about being white, and there is nothing I can do about the fact that I have been born to priviledge, to the middle class, to the rich-ass western world. I don’t think anyone should ever be forced to feel ashamed about parts of their life over which they have control, no matter what cirucumstances that includes.

    I live the way I live because I love it and because it enables me to make my life full of the things and people that I love and because it is the way that feels right to me. I write about how I live because I want others to see that it’s possible to live in ways that make them happy too, even if those ways are considered a little weird. I wouldn’t consider myself poor by any stretch of the imagination–not financially, not in happiness.

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