“Unceremoniously Speaking,” by Mark Tulin

Nov 30th, 2022 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I know I’m not being politically correct, but I hate weddings. It’s not that I don’t like the institution of marriage — it’s the ceremony I can’t stand. It’s painful watching a couple agonize over the number of guests to invite, the size of the wedding cake, and the seating arrangement. And it’s uncomfortable to watch the couple say their vows. You see the stress on their faces that says: What did I just agree to?

And then, at the reception, you realize you had lost the lottery. You sit at a table of strangers or relatives you don’t remember seeing before, forcing a smile and fumbling for things to say. Then, after an hour of agonizing small talk, you go to the open bar. Even if you are a teetotaler, you still order a stiff one. And once you get the drink, you don’t drink it; you nurse it and hold it in your like hands like a sippy cup, taking periodic sips. After an hour of small talk, you have a frozen shitty grin. It stays there for hours after the ceremony.

How’s your new job? Do you still live in San Bernardino? Did you have that hernia surgery yet? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe the second operation will be better.

And then Uncle Harry comes to the table, and he’s hard of hearing. He asks you a question, and he doesn’t hear when you answer. Despite shouting over the wedding music, he keeps asking, “What did you say?” You say screw it and have another drink until your religious Cousin Griselda joins the conversation and can’t stop reciting bible scriptures. You tell her you’re an atheist and don’t believe anyone would hang from a cross to save my soul. And she says I’m going to hell for saying that, and I tell her I don’t care. It’s probably better than dealing with bible beaters.

I excuse myself and walk around the reception hall to escape the stupid people. I used to tolerate them, but now that I’m retired, I have little patience. I check out the six-tier wedding cake, think about how it would clog up my arteries, smile at the bride and groom, and head to the restroom, so I don’t hear loud music and nonstop babbling. I sit on the can with my pants down and play Words With Friends for the next hour, and I beat a guy named MonkeyBot about ten times until my wife texts me and says, “Where the hell have you been? Why did you leave me alone with these people?”

I head back to the table, and again pass the bride and groom and wished them a happy marriage. What I wanted to say was that they should have had a quickie marriage in Vegas instead of this fiasco. I returned to my table and realized that the stupid people were gone. The only remaining guests are a sweet couple from Poughkeepsie.

My wife said her diverticulosis was acting up from the spicy chicken, and she needed to go to the ladies’ room before she pooped in her pants. I smiled at the sweet couple, watch my wife’s purse, glance at my phone’s calendar, and notice that my wife scheduled us to attend our nephew’s college graduation next week. I hate graduations worse than weddings, but if I don’t go, my wife will take away my iPhone.

My wife returns, flush from a good bowel movement.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“Thank, God,” I mutter.


Mark Tulin is a recovering therapist from Philadelphia who often watches Charley Chaplin movies. He is a Pushcart nominee and a Best of Drabble. His books are Magical Yogis, Awkward Grace, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories, Junkyard Souls, and Rain on Cabrillo. His writing credits include The Daily Drunk Magazine, MuddyUm, The Haven, Oddball Magazine, Beatnik Cowboy, WryTimes, and Fleas on the Dog. In his youth, he wrote one-liners for radio disc jockeys and scrawled jokes on the bathroom wall. Follow Mark at www.crowonthewire.com. Twitter: @Crow_writer.

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