Once upon a time, it was always a June thing: A hot summer day, apple blossoms and rice, crickets and humidity.
Now, of course, it could be tomorrow in the snow, autumn in the leaves. But it still happens. No matter how sophisticated we get, how Googled, Facebooked or Twittered.
Men in their 40s or 50s, even 60-year-old dads walking down the aisle to a daughter’s third wedding, begin to come off the golf course, off a shift at the factory, rushing out of the office, climbing off the tractors and lobster boats and adding a new title to their resumes: Father Of The Bride. As you read this, you know you are probably next.
This year, I’m wearing the button: HI! I’M THE FATHER. So I’m joining a gym. I’ve done it before. I thought I would go in like a fat Billy Batson and come out as Captain Marvel. I didn’t. Now the time has come to give it another try.
Breaking news: My oldest daughter is getting married Labor Day weekend 2014. She, a fiercely organized publishing rep, had two other close calls, but, as she is so much like She Sr., neither of them would behave as she wanted them to. I could have warned them early on, but I didn’t really want to give her away. I’ve had her for so many years, and I’ve only just begun to appreciate her finer details, and just as I’ve learned to behave as she wanted me to, she’s gone and found a new client.
Her wedding will be what they call a “destination wedding,” performed here on the coast of Maine. Such an affair in the proper place is an expensive deal, and every detail must be paid very close attention to. Each member of the wedding has an important role to play. And as father of the bride, I’m an important player, and when you play in this daughter’s game, you play by her rules and wear the right uniform, even if you prefer linen shorts and flip flops.
Here’s where the gym and the attendant restructuring of my eating life come in. The Bride, as we now lovingly call her, has issued a statement: “Wedding photos are forever.” This comes with a stern warning: “There will be no bellies in my wedding pictures.” In case I missed the point, there is, in this statement, a very large, visible finger pointing right at me.
The Bride is a healthy young woman who works out daily, even when she is traveling for her job. She eats well and prides herself on her physical fitness, much as I did when I was her age. Except hers has lasted more than six weeks. Her sister, who has been with her guy for 20 years, has a passion for mac and cheese and In and Out Burgers, and looks terrific. She attributes it to weekly yoga and ignoring the Bride’s warnings.
Genes: I have inherited my mother’s eyes, her rich black hair and sense of humor. I have inherited my father’s Irish body: a belly, no butt, no hips. That means whatever I wear slides down over my hips and pools with the blood around my ankles.
I didn’t always have this condition. In Hollywood I was beautiful. I was perpetually young. I had no belly. I may not have had a six pack, but there was no keg.
Young actors hoping to be leading men could not have character actor bellies: Ernest Borgnine and Wilfred Brimley could have a belly, John Goodman and Walter Matthau could have a belly. George Clooney cannot have a belly. Apparently the new rule is “Wedding photos are forever and bellies are prohibited.”
Check out some Hollywood daddies: Jessica Simpson’s dad, Joe, Laura Dern’s poppa, Bruce, who at 80 has a washboard tummy, Bryce Dallas Howard’s daddy is Oscar director Ron Howard who seems all of 155 pounds. That’s the rule in Lotus Land. Thin is always in. Stout is forever out.
When time began to take its toll, and I began to drop back behind the frontrunners, I retired to Maine, where full figured guys are as plentiful as pine trees. I let out a sigh and the waist of all of my pants. Finally I could relax, wear baggy sweats and shirts, baseball caps and sneakers.
I became something I had long wished to be. A misshaped, but happy man, a shell of my former self.
But now, my days, as such a happy misfit, are apparently numbered. A wedding cometh.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.