Dressing up ordinary love: contemplating the right speech for my sister’s wedding

My sister’s wedding is coming up very soon and I need to prepare a bridesmaid speech.  She and I are so different that it makes the task hard.  My life is an open book.  K’s life, well, it’s not that it’s a secret, but just that she doesn’t think many things are worthy of sharing.  Not that she wouldn’t share them, she just doesn’t think they’re big.

When she applied to college, she had a horrible time writing essays about herself that were more than a few sentences.  This, even though she had won numerous awards in the band, drama, tennis, and forensics.  This, even though she blew our physics teacher’s mind by being the first student in our entire school district to score a 5 on the AP Physics test.  He had her autograph her score report and it was still hanging in the physics room years later.  She was interviewed by the newspaper once, about her academic achievement.  They asked her to attribute her success to something.  She stared at them blankly before finally suggesting that she probably had decent genes.  She is brilliant and a hard worker who distinguishes herself, but she’s also everyone’s favorite because it’s like she doesn’t realize that she’s brilliant or that she’s worked hard.

A and I videochat with her and her fiance every Monday night.  But, really, A and I talk to ourselves and try to draw them out.  After having worked to cultivate this skill for awhile, we have varying degrees of success.  Unlike K, I am overjoyed whenever I do anything well.  Or, adequately, honestly.  I continually remind myself of my achievements, turning them over in my mind, until I am finally satisfied.  My excitement oozes and, although this certainly lacks virtue, I am jabbering a million miles an hour on an excited call to my parents.  Or, for example, posting pictures of my Texas-sized law license to my blog.  K definitely does not.  And her fiance is modest as well.

But, it’s not just success that K deprives of an oozing flourish.  As I look at her wedding website, I notice the description of the proposal.  “On our third anniversary, we decided to go out to dinner.  [Fiance] decided that he was going to propose . . . He set up a camera tripod and focused the camera on where he thought that proposal would take place.  During lunch, he went out and bought batteries for the camera remote so that he could take pictures of the proposal… [Fiance] dropped K off at her car and zoomed home.  He wanted to check the camera exposure now that it was dark, but he got stuck at a light.”  Spoiler alert, I guess he didn’t quite get home in time to check the camera exposure.



Perfect, adorable proposal in their backyard.  Looks like the batteries and camera exposure cooperated.


This description is just like K and her fiance.  It really does give you all the details, but it deprives them of the pageantry.  This is your wedding website description.  This is the place where you describe the cute, sappy brilliance and specialness of your love and exaggerate it to show off to the rest of the planet.  Amiright?  This is where you post pictures, holding hands and walking off in the sunset, past a fence that conveniently has your wedding date splattered in white paint.  Instead, K is talking about buying batteries over lunch and camera exposure.  Can you imagine an “every kiss begins with Kay” television commercial of this proposal description?  No, you can’t.  Because, don’t you know that when you write a proposal section on your wedding website or write a college admissions essay you’re supposed to brag?  And if you did brag, in your proposal, and your college admissions essay, and throughout your life, then I could easily write a speech that caters to whatever you bragged about and we’d all be happy.

Of course, we’d all probably be lying to some extent.  And K is a realist.  She would be confused about that last paragraph that I wrote.  “Why would you be exaggerating and bragging if you’re happy?” she’d respond.  Because, K, PINTEREST.  But, no.  Her fiance’s proposal was special because of all the ways he planned the everyday details, because he went out to buy batteries over lunch to make it work, because he cared about the camera exposure, because those are the things you care about in real life where traffic is bad and it takes 90 minutes to get to the restaurant because you live in Los Angeles.  Because in real life a proposal is great because you love the person and you’re deciding to spend your life together and it’s official, even though it really isn’t that different than any other day because you already knew all of those things.  But, how do you write that on a wedding website?  And how do you put that into a speech?

I do really think K is special.  And I have some things to back that up.  Like, the airplane she built she was in school at MIT that won an award.  But, at the same time, even if she had won a nobel prize already, so have a lot of people.  And maybe she’s right that it’s kind of crazy to think that our stories or our love so supremely special.  Or that we actually make them any more special by exaggerating their significance in order to convey to people the significance of our stories to us.  In reality, by doing that, we’re really suggesting an unhappiness with what we have.  We’re making it less special.

There are lots of people with Ks for sisters and a lot of them have special fiances.  If we’re being honest, maybe K and her fiance don’t have a love that is that different from everyone else’s.  And why should that matter?  Most people are happy.  Maybe trying to pretend that there is something extraordinary to say actually diminishes the wonderfulness of the ordinary that is there.  Why does it need to be anything more than ordinary?  Why do I have this need to convey to everyone how extraordinary I think K and her fiance are?  After all, isn’t there something a bit dishonest in trying to explain that any of us are really that more extraordinary than anyone else.

But, K and her fiance are extraordinary to me.  Just because they are who they are.  And it’s my speech.  So, how to describe that?



Snapshots of People

I think it was around middle school when I first started thinking about the fact that I’d only get the chance to experience the world from the perspective of my own brain.  When you really think about how much that limits your understanding of the world, and of others, it’s kinda depressing.  (At the same time, I would never want to observe myself the way someone else might.  My fragile ego appreciates the social norms that force other people to filter their thoughts.)  Although I can’t truly understand anyone else, I’ve spent a lot of time observing people and learning from them the best that I could.  My perspective and descriptions of other people will never be completely accurate because it’s just the picture from my vantage point.  But, learning from others and getting to know the different people that make up the world has really taught me more than anything else.  Because so many people have added so much richness to my life, whether they are privy to the knowledge that they enriched my life or not, my plan is to write a series of posts describing different interactions with different people.  This post will be the first in the series.


I had a lot of different thoughts about how to start. The girl I landed on is a bit of an odd choice because my memory about her is brief and I don’t remember her name. I guarantee that she doesn’t remember me. Our interaction was short. And yet, profound. For ease of reference, I will refer to this girl as K.

K is the girl who first taught me about happiness, I mean really taught me about happiness. Before K, I knew plenty of people who were happy. And plenty of people who weren’t happy. Generally, I thought the people I knew who were unhappy had earned that right based on their life circumstances. I considered the happy group to be the lucky group. I did not quite understand that happiness is more cause, less effect. A choice you make, rather than a result. K changed all of that.

I met K under extraordinary circumstances. In fact, she was inpatient in a mental hospital when we met. The week before I met K, her brother had been killed in a drive-by shooting. K, barely a teenager, also happened to be pregnant with her stepfather’s baby. Her mother was kicking her out of the house because of it. K had tried to kill herself a few days before we met. But, when I met K she exuded confidence and hope. It seemed that her suicide attempt and stint in the mental hospital had provided her with a sense of clarity, motivation, and identity. She had all she needed to take her horrible situation and create a life that was her own regardless.

“I don’t understand how you’re so strong,” I remember telling her. “I couldn’t handle everything facing you.” “It’s simple,” she explained to me, “Look outside. The sun is out there shining.” “It’s shining just for me, you know,” she said matter-of-factly. “Now, wanna learn how to do the Crip Walk?” And just like that, she seemed to have discovered how to dismiss her current circumstances. “I just decided that I’m special and lucky and I really don’t care about anything else,” she explained. No more waiting for the world to come and save her. She wasn’t taking any chances on the universe. She lit her torch from the inside. I looked at her in awe. And I resolved to do the same.