Here comes the tux: Time to put on the monkey suit

June 22, 2014 

My son was in his friend's wedding yesterday. He had to wear a tuxedo, which for most guys is a little scary. It sparked a family discussion over how many "b's" there are in cummerbund. Do tuxes come with shoes and socks? And, Dad, what do I do at the wedding?

Well, son, I know a thing or two about weddings.

My first came when I was 6.

My big sister was marrying a big, gentle farmer from Mascoutah and they asked Mom if I could be in the wedding. Then they asked me. I said, "uh-huh," not knowing what I was getting into. "What do I have to do?"

My sister told me I'd carry some rings up to the altar.

Neato. I could do that. I ran outside to play, not concerned whether they would be big rings like Hula-Hoops or like my de-coder ring that came in the box of Sugar Smacks. Either way, I figured I could handle them.

Months later, I found out there was a lot more to it.

My brother told me I had to wear a "monkey suit." That's what he called a suit and tie. For a minute, he had me believing it would be hairy -- and it might even have tails. I chased him but he was too fast for me.

I found out for myself when Mom, who sewed all the dresses for the wedding, made me stand on a chair in the middle of the kitchen and try on some slick black hand-me-down pants that hung over my feet. She rolled them up and stuck pins in the cuffs. She did the same with the sleeves of a little white jacket. It didn't have a tail. I checked.

The next time I saw the outfit was the day of the wedding. It fit perfectly. The trouble was the shirt and tie that came with it. Mom must have put a whole carton of starch into that white shirt. The arms were stuck together as I slid my arms into them like a letter into an envelope.

"Bend your arms," Mom said, as I stood there like Frankenstein.

"I'm trying," I said. "It itches."

She laughed and gave me a hug. I could hear the sleeves cru-u-u-unch.

She buttoned the collar around my neck, tight like a noose. Next, she clipped on a bow tie to the noose. Mom stood back and smiled and told me how cute I looked. I hated cute. Cute was for girls.

Another brother, watching and giggling, said my eyes were bugging out. I chased him. He was too fast for me, but it did make my arms bend.

The wedding went great. I had a front-row seat. And I got to walk down the aisle with my cousin who had to wear an actual dress. I teased her that she looked like a girl. Turns out she could still run pretty fast in a dress. Faster than I could in a monkey suit.

By the way, the rings turned out to be little gold ones tied onto a pillow to which Mom sewed an elastric strap so I wouldn't drop them. I didn't.

I blinked a few times and it was the day before my own wedding. Everything was in place. The church, the hall, the bride and all the attendants, the food, the flowers, the monkey suits, the band. ... The band?

Yikes!

There was going to be dancing. All eyes would be on the wedding party. Only trouble was I didn't know how to dance. You've heard of two left feet? I had three ... possibly four left feet.

My best man was in the same boat. The closest we ever came to dancing was a game of Twister.

We panicked.

We headed for my brother's house where my sister-in-law, a very good dancer, took pity on us. She had us push furniture out of the way, put a record on the phonograph, and showed us how to move our feet to a count of 1-2-3, 1-2-3 ...

Piece of cake. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, step, step, step. We must have looked pretty funny there in the living room. But she didn't laugh at us.

Then she threw a wrench into the works. One at a time, she danced with us. She showed us how to hold our hands. One in her hand, out just a little like this. The other hand on her back, arm around her waist. That's when 1-2-3, step-step-step became something like 3-1-8, step, slide, trip ... ouch!

Sorry about that. I didn't mean to step on her foot. But I did, more than once.

So did the best man.

We were hopeless. But my sister-in-law wasn't about to give up. For a while, we took turns tripping the rug fantastic with her. We waltzed, sort of. And we polka-ed in clumsy circles.

After an hour or so, we were as good as we were going to get. We were no Fred Astaires, but it almost looked like our feet had some vague connection to the music.

We thanked her and waltzed out the door.

The wedding and the reception went great. We have lots of pictures. There's even one of the bride and groom dancing. And the whole wedding party dancing.

I don't remember my sister-in-law showing us how to flap our wings and shake our ducky tails like that. But we did.

I'm the duck in the monkey suit.

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