LOUISE KNOTT AHERN: When Everyone Was Watching

June 6, 2006 by in category Blogs tagged as with 1 and 0
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Here’s the thing. I’m actually a very private person. I hide it well, and most people describe me as outgoing. But that’s really just an act I put on out of habit, thanks to a career as a reporter.

In fact, one of the reasons I write romance is because it’s the only way I can express that side of me. I can write about other people’s love lives. But please don’t ask me to talk about my own. When it comes to my love life, I’m about as open as bad clam. Which is why writing this blog has me twitching.

It’s also why I grew up believing I was defective. That I, as Sarah Jessica Parker says in an episode of “Sex and the City,” was missing some kind of bride gene. Every other girl I knew growing up had elaborate wedding plans mapped out by the time they were teenagers. Not me. The thought of professing my love for a man with a room full of people watching had me blushing and stammering even in my daydreams. I wouldn’t even hold my boyfriend’s hand in high school if I knew someone was watching!

This presented a pretty big problem when I met The One. You know who I mean. The One I couldn’t keep my hands off. The One who had me daydreaming and giggling in the middle of the day. The One with whom I spent so much secret time, my mother practically put out an APB on me. The One I knew I had to spend my life with.

My husband and I were friends for a year before we became more than friends. And within a month of becoming more than friends, we were engaged. It seemed so natural, but I was terrified to tell my mother. When I couldn’t put it off any longer, I swung by my parents’ house one night after work. Mom was cleaning up the kitchen. We talked about my job, her job, my brother’s job. Finally, I casually mentioned The One. She casually asked how serious it was.

I shrugged, looking anywhere but at her. “What do you mean?”

“On a scale of one to ten.”

“What does one mean and what does ten mean?”

Mom sighed, exasperation evident in her jerky movements. “One means you’re casual acquaintances. Ten means you’re getting married.”

I ran from the room. I grabbed an afghan off the couch, ran back to the kitchen, and threw the blanket over my head so she couldn’t see my face when I told her the truth. So she couldn’t watch.

“Ten,” I said, voice muffled.

There was only silence on the other side. I lifted a corner of the blanket and peeked out. Mom stood frozen.

“W-would it help if I had something over my head, too?” she finally asked.

I nodded. She went into the living room, grabbed a couch cushion, and then came back in with it balanced on her head. I replaced the blanket over my face.

“Are you saying that we have a wedding to plan?” she asked.

I nodded, the ends of the blanket swishing against my legs.

“When?” Mom asked.

“We were thinking Christmas.”

I heard a noise. I peeked through the blanket again. Mom was sagged against the kitchen counter. “That’s only – “ she paused to add the months in her head, “seven months away.”

“I know, but we just want something small. Just close friends and family.” Because, you know, I couldn’t stand the idea of walking down the aisle and repeating my vows with a room full of people watching.

So much for that. Thanks to Mom’s persistence, The One and I decided to wait until April. Then Mom talked me into something “slightly bigger.” Then she talked me into a big hotel. Suddenly, I had it all. A string quartet. A soaring ballroom. More than two hundred guests. The big cake. An even bigger wedding party. An antique car to whisk us away from the church to the reception.

The best part? Mom’s best friend from childhood was, at the time, a designer for a major bridal label. Mom paid for my maid of honor and me to fly to New York to spend the weekend with “Aunt Cindy,” who took us through the city’s garment district to pick out the fabric and design my dream dress from the first stitch to the last.

It was the perfect fairytale wedding. But I was still terrified.

When the big day arrived, I gave my all of my bridesmaids a pair of those gag glasses with the nose and mustache because I didn’t want anyone crying in my presence. I hid behind my own camera, snapping pictures of all the action behind the scenes. Anything to keep the attention away from me. To keep them from watching me. When my dad came to get me for the big walk down the aisle, I shushed him the minute he opened his mouth.

“Please,” I begged. “Don’t say anything mushy. I can’t take it. Let’s just get this over with.”

Then the music started. The doors opened. And we started down that long, long aisle. I purposely avoided looking at any of my guests. I kept my eyes locked squarely on my husband-to-be. I pretended he was the only person in the room.

And when we reached him at the end of the aisle, I was shocked to discover that he was nervous. So nervous, he was sweating like he’d just run a marathon. Finally, I had something to help me get through it. From around the base of my bouquet, I unwrapped the antique handkerchief – my “something old” – that my grandmother gave me to carry. I reached over and wiped a line of sweat from my husband’s face.

Then we both started laughing. We couldn’t stop laughing.

And suddenly, I didn’t care who was watching.

Louise Knott Ahern is a freelance journalist and public relations coach who writes contemporary romances. She’s the author of “Opting Out: A Career Woman’s Guide to Going Home Without Going Crazy,” a blog for mothers at www.optoutguide.blogspot.com. She is also a contributor to The Writer’s Vibe (www.thewritersvibe.typepad.com), a blog for professional writers.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    on June 20, 2006

    You know, I knew some of this story, but I *loved* seeing the rest of the details this way…like the pillow and blanket. You two crack me up!

    🙂 d

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