Climbing the Matterhorn in High Heels, Marrying at Fifty — Which Makes More Sense?

My sister called me from Anguilla, while she was on vacation. She scared me to death. Everyone’s fine, she said, I just had a little thought.

“I think you want to wear a skirt,” she said.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

“A skirt would be so pretty. So bridal.”

“I’ll be wearing trousers.”

“You have nice legs. You can wear a skirt.”

“I sure can,” I said. “But I won’t.”

“Lunch is here,” she said. “Think it over.”

My impending second marriage (known in the wedding biz, horribly, as an “encore wedding”, as if we are all Chers and Ozzy Osbournes, persisting in one last tour for the happiness of those few remaining fans) seems to have brought out the planner,costume designer,etiquette guide and life coach in almost everyone I know.

“That’s the poem you’re going to read?” I was lying beside a small pool with a well-known poet, famous for his lack of sentiment and his lack of committment. I have just recited a nice little poem by Rumi. Short, but moving, I think.

“Well, it’s short, I’ll give you that. Short and ice-cold. If my wife stood up in front of a crowd and read that to me, it would break my heart.”

He glares at me, in defense of my future husband’s delicate feelings.

“What’s the matter with you? Write something. Four sentences at the least, not more than five. And from the heart, for God’s sake. I’m driving 500 miles — I want tears.” He goes into the house and comes back with a pad and a pen.

I start writing.

I had envisioned a small family wedding in the backyard. My daughters agree. Small is charming they say, perfect. Just add a dance floor. You can’t have a wedding without dancing.

So, there’ll be dancing. Therefore, a rented dance floor,in the backyard. Therefore a tent to protect it and a man to play the music. And since we have to have a tent for the dance floor, we may as well have one in case it rains during the ceremony and since we have committed to dancing and tents, we may as well add the no-nonsense lady at the bar.

Well,that’s great, says my oldest, dearest, wisest friend, now you can invite everyone you love, not just the family. Also, you’ll have to take dance lessons. My younger daughter calls her best friend from kindergarden, who is now a ballroom dance instructor. I am being taught to cha-cha by someone I used to make peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches for.

My son, who has never willingly attended a religious event in his life, who bristles like Christopher Hitchens at the very mention of the Deity, strongly suggests a very good rabbi who’s willing to marry interfaith couples (interfaith couples are to most rabbis as same sex couples are to Catholic priests: not to be harmed, but not to be helped.)

There must be something about marrying at this late date that signals a certain romantic vulnerability, a willingness to make colossal errors and an unmistakable emotional permeability that is both wonderful and worrisome to the people around me. They have shepherded, scolded and suggested in a way that would have done me in the first time. (The first time, I had only my mother arranging for me to wear white, against my wishes. “What white?” she said when the saleslady brought out her favorite gown. “I call that natural cotton color.”) This time, I’m able to tell the difference between their wishes and mine. (The first time, my father said to me, of my future stepson, “You know what children are, honey? Hostages to fortune, that’s all.” )

This time, my own hostages to fortune, grown and in various stages of matrimony, have encouraged me to leap forward (says my shyest child), to think twice (says my most impulsive) and to follow my heart (says my most reserved).

I have listened to them all.