Previous issue's column | Mar/Apr
Contents | Gazette Home
End of an Era
The Wedding Incident was really about.
By Rachel Solar-Tuttle.
I knew it
was bound to happen. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was waiting
to get the news. Still, you can never be truly prepared.
phone rang one Sunday morning. Liz, my best friend from Penn (and my best
friend still, besides my husband) spoke with the hushed, conspiratorial
tones of someone in high-level espionage. I think youll want to buy
todays Times, she said, and check the Weddings section. Clearly,
it was no time for pleasantries. In five minutes flat I was dressed and
standing in line at the Thai convenience store down the street, clutching
the newspaper in two trembling hands, knowing exactly what it would contain.
He was married.
He married someone
else. Its a moment thats become part of our pop culture lexicon, with
references as current as last seasons Sex and the City (Mr. Bigs
marriage to the grammatically challenged Natasha) and at least as far
back as When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan weeping, It wasnt that
he didnt want to get married. He just didnt want to marry me!).
he, in my case, was the Penn boy also known as the Sophomore.
We saw each other on and offthe ratio of on to off standing
at about 2/98starting when I was a senior and he was a sophomore, and
continuing while I was at Penn Law. I intermittently thought he had potential;
he was a gem in the rough that I could never quite polish. When I knew
him, I thought he was unambitious and lacked follow-through, but, scanning
the wedding notice beside my sweet, unsuspecting husband, I soon discovered
that he had (gasp!) graduated from an Ivy League business school (though
not Wharton caliber) and would soon be working at a major Manhattan brokerage
house. I had no clue what kind of person he had become, but clearly some
polishing had occurred. To some extent, at least, the Sophomore had gotten
his act together.
he been secretly polishing himself, right under my nose? Come to think
of it, how well had I really known the guy? You couldnt even call it
a relationship, really. It sticks in my mind more for its duration and
sheer number of false starts than anything else. We shared a love of campus
bars, good comebacks and sarcasm. I turned to my journal for answers,
but didnt find much, mostly listings of the bars where the Sophomore
and I would meet, snippets of our banter, commentary on his inability
to commit. So why, all these years later, was I poring over the details
of his wedding and the clues about his current life? I had married someone
fun, witty, smart and kind, a dimple-faced stand-up litigator, an excellent
third-baseman, a returner of phone calls. So why did I care?
it a Harry Met Sally thing, just a blow to my ego that he wouldnt
commit to me, but ultimately did commit to somebody? (Was she bright?
She didnt even go to Penn!) My journals did reveal that over the course
of my years at Penn I had grown pretty comfortable with myself. I developed
a world view; I said what was on my mind; and, flaws and all, I began
to think of myself as a pretty decent person. Given that logic, it made
sense to me that if I revealed myself to this guy in a true, forthright
way, he should like me! Maybe it was the fact that Id taken comfort in
thinking that there was some poetic justice, that because he didnt fall
for me, a good and worthy person, hed remain unsuccessful and unfulfilled.
the other hand, I had dated plenty of good, real, well-intentioned guys
who were probably very nice to their sisters, who had liked me but who
I hadnt liked back. I had no problem ending a long list of fledgling
relationships for lack of chemistry, so why couldnt I get over the
Sophomores giving me a taste of my own medicine more than five years
ago? And anyway, who said he was fulfilled? It was shallow to assume that
marriage + business school + brokerage-house job = meaningful life.
this thought scared me a littleit was some perverse wistfulness for his
arguable bad-boy charm after three years of marriage to a man who, while
undeniably appealing, could only be described as a good guy through and
through. Could it be that my seventh-grade desire for the unattainable
(then manifested in a profession to be saving myself for Ricky Schroeder)
had never really left me? Was there some part of me that missed chasing
after something that I knew would never work out? Did I secretly fear
the calm realness of a relationship between equals?
I hoped not. As luck would have it, Id soon have the opportunity to take
my probing analysis of what Id dubbed The Wedding Incident to a new
level. My fifth-year Law School reunion was fast approaching, and I decided
to return to the scene of the crime. So while the good husband golfed
in Myrtle Beach, blissfully unaware, my surrogate date Liz and I made
the pilgrimage back to dear old Penn. With the reunion festivities under
our belts, we hightailed it to (where else?) Smokey Joes.
I said my name and date of birth into the microphonethat they would ask
me to do this at my age with a straight face attests to the graciousness
of that fine institutionI instantly flashed back to a montage of Smokes
moments with the Sophomore. He held my hand in a booth and told me he
hadnt called because he had a stomach virus. He explained that she wasnt
really his girlfriend. We made plans to go to Pats for a cheesesteak
that he never followed through on. As I sipped a too-strong greyhound
from a plastic cup, nostalgiaand a major buzz, thanks to my now-low tolerance
for alcoholcrept up on me, but brought me no closer to my answer. All
of the Smokes memories revealed only what I already knew: We had a few
good moments and a whole lot of melodrama. Nothing to be wistful about.
myself, I went to the womens room, where, miraculously, there was toilet
paper at 1:00 a.m. (some things do change). A few seniors in flared
jeans were standing around fixing makeup and talking about Senior Week.
Are you an alum? one of them asked, not unkindly.
have a question, she said. When do you get over Penn?
could I say? I was an almost-30 year-old in the poorly lit bathroom at
Smokes close to closing time. I didnt have a leg to stand on. Good marriage,
good job, yadda, yadda, yadda. I had to tell the truth. Never, I said.
You never get over it.
what I figured, she said.
then it hit me. Of course the other stuff played into it, but maybe the
main reason I cared about The Wedding wasnt wistfulness about the Sophomore
or resentment of his accomplishments or an ego thing or a love of bad
boys after all. It was wistfulness about Penn and everything it represented
to methe friendships, the leisure, the late-night talks, the discussion
of ideas, the carefree world of possibilities, pre-mortgage, pre-commuting,
pre-in-laws. When I was with the Sophomore, more Penn always lay ahead.
Like discovering a first gray haira milestone I am admittedly familiar
withThe Wedding was just another in-my-face marker of the passage of
timea time heavy with options and opportunities and light on responsibilities.
Its not that Id want to go back and relive those years now, or that
other things since havent lived up to the experience. It is just, quite
simply, the end of an era. A good one.
clipped the announcement, but it got mixed in with my magazines, and my
husband put it out with the recycling. Its probably for the best, and
symbolic toomy partner in this new era giving me that push to move on.
And anyway, if I feel that need to plunge back into the past again, I
dont need a newspaper clipping to take me there. Theres always 2002my
10th-year undergraduate reunion. Ive asked my husband to clear his calendar.
C92 L95 is a writer and editorial consultant. Her first novel, Number
Six Fumbles, a coming-of-age story that takes place over just a few
days at Penn, is scheduled to be published by Pocket/MTV Books in February
Previous issue's column
| Mar/Apr Contents | Gazette
Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania
Gazette Last modified 3/6/01