Bewildering Wows

Aug. 20 - Yesterday I explained how I'd ended up at the altar in bare feet. Today I'll relate my experience of the ceremony itself—a very different ceremony, I'm convinced, than the one experienced by the DMB.

From her perspective, the predominant emotion during that 15-minute civil ceremony was probably joy. It radiated out of her and her happiness is palpable in the photographs of the event.

The guy standing next to her in those pictures doesn't look unhappy, but happiness clearly isn't his predominant emotion. In fact the photographic evidence gives us no clear idea of what he's thinking or feeling. Fortunately we don't need to rely on forensic evidence to deduce his emotional state because he's me, and I'll tell you:

I was bewildered.

When we met him earlier in the week, Klaus had asked if we'd wanted the ceremony in English, Danish, or both. We chose both.

So here on the day of our wedding, he made a brief opening remark in Danish, then addressed us in English.

"Since this is a bilingual—a multicultural—wedding," he began, "I'll also welcome Greg and Trine's foreign friends and family guests. On behalf of the lord mayor, I welcome you to the city of Copenhagen on this beautiful summer day. I conduct this marriage as a member of the city council in Copenhagen."

Then he said "Just do it!" and resumed speaking in Danish.

After the first few sentences he paused and I waited for the English translation. But it wasn't that kind of pause: when he continued, it was in Danish.

I glanced out briefly into the crowd to see how my family was holding up. They were looking on with approval and couldn't have appeared any happier even if they'd actually understood what was going on.

You may remember an old Gary Larson "Far Side" cartoon about communication. The drawing consists of two identical panels depicting a man addressing his dog, Ginger.

The first panel is entitled "What We Say," and in it we can see what the man is saying: "Bad Ginger, you shouldn't do that, Ginger, that was very naughty, Ginger, bad dog!"

The second panel is entitled "What Dogs Hear," and in this image the man is saying "blah GINGER, blah blah blah blah, GINGER, blah blah blah blah GINGER, blah blah."

I've thought about that cartoon a lot since moving here, but it's never resonated with me as powerfully as it did for those twenty minutes at the (civil) altar.

"Blah blah blah GREG," I heard, "blah blah blah blah GREG," and so on.

Klaus went on and on. The DMB insists it was a beautiful speech. She even translated a copy of it he'd given us with the rest of our paperwork, to demonstrate the beauty and power of his words.

But my Danish still sucks so I have to take her word for it. I have to trust but cannot verify. Fair enough: if I'm gonna marry the girl, the least I could do is trust her not to pull one over on me at the altar. And I doubt Klaus was talking trash about me or making fun of my gouty foot or making anti-American jokes. It wouldn't be very sporting of him. So I'm inclined to believe the DMB.

After all, I have to.

After his ten-minute Danish soliloquy, a bewilderment to those of us who had not quite mastered the Danish language yet, Klaus suddenly pulled out a little book of verse and began reading Shakespeare's 116th Sonnet in English.

You could practically smell the relief of the anglophones in the crowd: English. (Or something like it.) Finally.

That was the end of his speech. We moved directly to the formal ceremony, which was conducted in both languages. I think Klaus startled the American contingent when he announced in English that he would now ask the DMB and I to "recite our wedding wows." (I tell you, these Danes are an enthusiastic bunch!)

The wedding wow was simple enough: "I ask you, Greg, will you take the DMB to be your wife?"

"Yeah," I said.

At least, that's how it sounded. Actually I was saying ja, which is Danish for yes.

In retrospect I'm afraid I may actually have said "yeah," which would have been inappropriately casual for such a solemn ceremony. I don't know if it would invalidate our wedding license or incur the wrath of Fate or what.

So here's hoping I said ja.

[To be continued.]

* * *

The reader mail has been piling up since early August, and I apologize for the delay. I'll try to start dealing with it tomorrow.

Career Suicide, Part II

Soviet Professional Leon Trotsky liked his job, but the strain was wearing on him—dictatorial burnout. In the summer of 1940 he finally used some of the vacation time he'd accumulated to head down to Mexico and think through his options. On August 20, in Mexico City, Trotsky met with one of Stalin's human resources representatives, who suggested he take an early retirement. The suggestion was accompanied by several persuasive blows to the head with an axe, which seriously impeded Trotsky's growth potential. Sadly, he died before he could sue for damages.

Birthdays and Holidays

Today is the birthday of Robert Plant (1948), Connie Chung (1946), Isaac Hayes (1942), H.P. Lovecraft (1890), and Benjamin Harrison (1833).

It's Flag Society Founding Day in Australia and St. Stephen's Day in Hungary.

Happy Tuesday!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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