On Saturday near sunset, our infinitely beloved Salem and his stunning girlfriend Sturdivant got married in Gulf Stream, Florida in front of their adoring fans. Odd as it may seem, they asked me to officiate the wedding, so I promptly went to the Universal Life Church, got ordained (as the Right Reverend, thank you) and months later, brought the whole family to Florida to be of service to a couple of my favorite people in the world.
I think we pulled it off pretty well, judging from the emotion surrounding the ceremony – and also from Tessa, who said she loved my sermon. She never says something like that unless she means it, so I was quite proud to make the cut. I wish we had more pictures, but both our cameras died, leaving us with only a few right now.
Salem’s little sister Katie, awesome as always
Sturdivant’s friends are a bevy of wonderfully intense women we would have all fallen for in college, and many of the wedding events felt like kickin’ it old school at Molly’s or Linda’s, back when that meant something. They provided more anecdotal (yet powerful) evidence that modern, single men in their mid-20s to mid-40s are unbelievable buffoons, but that’s for another entry.
Lucy had an incredible time, especially getting to hang with Salem’s six-yar-old daughter Lillie-Anne, although her crush on his son McColl was so pervasive that it made her non-functional at most events. I was proud of her at the rehearsal dinner – she got into the swimming pool with her dress on, which is PURE ROCK.
I’ve been asked to post the benediction/service I gave Salem and Sturdivant, and I hope it doesn’t seem too self-indulgent, because I can’t tell you how honored I was to be in that position. So here you go, short and sweet, as best as I can remember it…
… I find myself up here today in a completely bizarre, completely unexpected position. I’m standing next to Salem and Sturdivant, and neither of them are allowed to talk. If you know either of them, you’d realize how rare that is.
When they asked me to be the minister of their wedding, at first I was surprised, then extremely psyched, and then I wondered why nobody else had asked me to do it before. But it raised a question: what gives anyone the right to marry anybody? Certainly a man of the cloth has his faith, a justice of the peace has his title, but what does someone like me bring to the table?
And then I realized. I can do this because I’m in love. And fortunately, the person I’m in love with is also the person I married, which is a nice coincidence. So my benediction for you both is to offer two rules we use for what we all hope is going to be your fantastic marriage.
The first is self-evident: don’t go to bed mad. Stay up until 4am to fix the problem, no matter how tired you are.
The second is what we call the ripcord rule. It simply states that at any time in your relationship, if one of you is sinking, if one of you gets in an untenable position, or if one of you sinks so low in depression that you don’t know how you’re going to continue, you can always pull the ripcord on your parachute.
And when you ask for the ripcord, your partner agrees to shake the world up, no questions asked. To move across the country, to change jobs, to support you in a seismic shift of your circumstances. It’s the emergency valve to our souls.
Here’s the best thing: we have never had to use the ripcord, and the reason we haven’t, is because we both know that it exists.
As an agnostic, I can’t preach “faith and certainty” – my specialty is “doubt and ambivalence”. But the word ambivalence gets a bad rap. Ambivalence doesn’t mean “uh, I could take it or leave it” – it can mean feeling two diametrically opposite passions at the same time.
I urge you to embrace your ambivalence, and celebrate your doubt. To know that in marriage, deep love and unbelievable annoyance walk hand in hand. It’s okay to have fifteen different emotions about the same issue. That’s not called “being inconsistent,” that’s called “being alive.”
Every marriage is like a skyscraper built on a fault line. And in Los Angeles and Tokyo, where there are massive earthquakes, they’re able to build the tallest skyscrapers, and how? By making them infinitely flexible. With each huge quake, they simply sway in time to the undulating earth.
Be flexible with one another, appreciate each other’s fault lines, embrace your doubts, appreciate your ambivalence, and something odd might happen: you’ll probably stay together until you’re 104 years old.