Let Me Clarify #5: Unsolicited Advice by Genia Blum

What to Wear to a Wedding

Our friends Ihsan and Roland got married this summer. We drove from Switzerland to Italy for their nuptials, enduring a seemingly endless road trip during which voice navigation kept telling us to, “Go straight!” until my husband finally yelled, “No! It’s a gay wedding!” and switched the damn thing off. After nine hours, including several stops for coffee and two short naps, we rolled down a long, cypress-shaded lane and arrived at the restored Tuscan villa where the festivities were taking place. I have never changed into a bathing suit faster. Guided by the sounds of shrieking laughter, we joined both grooms and their guests around an azure rectangle filled with giant, neon-colored flamingos and unicorns; I gulped down an oversized Bellini and, dodging the inflatables, plunged into the pool.


As a teenager, I’d once tried running away from home by purchasing a one-way ticket from Winnipeg to New York, but bungled the part that required passing U.S. border preclearance in order to board the plane. My second escape bid was more successful: I got hitched to a Dutch ballet dancer. Out of respect for my parents, he endured the religious ceremony in Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral, while I signaled rebellion by wearing a mock-hippy, tie-dye shawl and purple dress. The Reverend Monsignor Wasyl Kushnir mumbled the matrimonial covenant in Church Slavonic; a weedy altar boy swung a brass censer; and one of my father’s third-year dentistry students, pressed into taking photos, created an ungodly racket by tripping over kneelers and music-stands. Embarrassed by the idea of becoming a “wife” I’d vetoed announcements and invitations, so the church was almost empty. A traditional Ukrainian Canadian wedding with live music and folkloric dancing would have mortified me—which must have been a disappointment for my mother, but not my father, who was always short on cash. Still, he shelled out for dinner for six at the recently opened Winnipeg Inn and, together with our witnesses, my cousins Darchia and Yarema, we ordered oysters Rockefeller and filet mignon, and downed several bottles of French wine. I had a severe hangover when my parents saw us off at the airport next morning, and their hugs and kisses, the waving, all the motions of affection and farewell, were a torment. Even before the glass doors slid shut between us, muting their worried goodbyes, my thoughts were already in the sky, halfway across the globe—speeding toward divorce.


Our friends Ihsan and Roland exchanged vows under an ancient olive hung with Buddhist prayer flags, in a ceremony officiated by an Italian notary and highlighted by Swiss yodeling. Afterward, the newlyweds, in matching, creamy lace shirts, ran hand in hand down a grassy incline between two rows of euphoric guests; faces glowing in the dazzling Tuscan sun, giddy with joy, sharing their love. We were all melting in the heat. My husband looked cool enough in a white cotton shirt, but his forehead was beaded with sweat. I hid under a wide brimmed straw hat, and imagined a breeze wafting over and under my animal-print dress, clinging silk shimmering like the pelt of a wild cat.


The Dutch dancer and I ended up in Switzerland, where we joined a ballet company and allowed our union to die, and where—just before my planned return to Canada—I met the man who is now my husband and the father of our two children. We tied the knot in Lucerne’s historic town hall, and I wore an optimistic yellow dress, the same dress our teenage daughter, a decade and a half later, would borrow to wear to her high school teacher’s wedding. Relegated to an alcohol-free zone with her classmates, she managed to get roaring drunk by flirting with the waiters and, together with her friends, fell asleep under a tree in a nearby forest. When she came home the following morning, her tights and cardigan were ripped to shreds, but the sunny yellow dress survived.

I couldn’t have found a better metaphor for our marriage if I’d tried.

Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian dancer, writer and translator. Her literary work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations. When not writing her memoir, Escape Artists, she tweaks fonts and photos on her website geniablum.com, and haunts Twitter and Instagram as @geniablum.

"Let Me Clarify: Unsolicited Advice by Genia Blum" a series of short pieces, based on Blum's personal opinion and experience.

Submit a comment