If you ever have the chance to be a flower girl at one of your father's weddings, I highly suggest you try it. Particularly if it is 1989, and he is marrying your older sister's second-grade teacher, as it is a surreal experience, to say the least.
Needless to say, many things stuck with me from that day. I can still see the wedding color if I close my eyes. Because it literally burned them. (Electric teal, both for the taffeta bridesmaids dresses and the groomsmen's cummerbunds).
But among the many moments that has stayed with me through the years was a little tete a tete between my dad and the DJ he'd hired, Pearl.
Pearl dressed like an "Off the Wall"-era Michael Jackson and was, strangely enough for an entertainment professional, what might politely be called "not a people person." Every wedding DJ I've encountered since has almost been too ready with the patter, but Pearl was not an "announce the father daughter bride or make a funny joke about 'YMCA'" kind of guy. He was there to play some fucking music. He might has well have been spinning at Jay-Z's birthday party.
Just before the ceremony, Pearl and my dad reconnoitered briefly to go over the schedule for toasting and cake-cutting breaks. This was when my dad, who is the spitting image of Bruce Willis but at the time sported a stellar Dave Coulier mullet, told Pearl in no uncertain terms exactly what songs he was not to play.
"No 'Cold Hearted Snake,'" was the firm order, which might have been a crazy request was it not the ubiquitous song of its day. "And absolutely no Kool and the Gang."
With that, my father pinned his gigantic magenta boutonierre to his ludicrous fucking suit and traipsed off to marry my stepmother.
Personally, I did an incredible job of keeping it together, not falling on my hoop skirt while scattering rose petals onto the aisle and over the metaphorical remains of my parents' failed marriage. My tasteful lace gauntlets and crowded milk teeth really seemed to be doing a number on the ring bearer, who, despite being my newly minted step-cousin, was technically not a relative. All was going according to plan, until midway through the reception when Pearl decided to shout, "Fuck you," at my dad.
He didn't do it with words. He did it with Paula Abdul.
If not for the extreme heft of eight unwieldy bridesmaids bouquets, I'm fairly certain my dad would have flipped over the dais and charged the guy. As it was, they stared daggers at one another across a sea of sweaty neon ruffles and elastic waistcoats, unsure weather or not it was safe to get seriously down to some adultery music in this once civilized catering hall.
The effect of a Wrong Song can be jarring. I was at a wedding once where there was a band that played Rehab not once, but twice. (I wondered at the time if maybe they weren't trying to make some kind of point with my impatience for them to get the open bar going).
I was also at the funeral where the deceased had requested "Turn the Page," but his family were either not Bob Seger fans or HUGE Bob Seger fans, because they ended up playing a special, acoustic live version that lasted (conservatively) 37 minutes. On yet another occasion, I was playing cards with five elderly French people (don't ask) when the radio began to play the Eamon revenge hit, "Fuck It," and all of the French people began to nod sweetly along, discussing how uncharacteristically beautiful it was, for une chanson americaine.
On a more intimate level, I once made a iTunes playlist mix for sleeping titled (sorry) "Nighttime is the righttime," which was a poor choice. Some people have mistaken it for some kind of lovemaking mix, which is how I have ended up not once, but twice, having sex to the Jeff Buckley cover of "Hallelujah." This is why I no longer let other people DJ bedroom times, but also how I know there is a Jesus, and that he is often upset with me.
I call this whole phenomenon "the Reverse Cameron Crowe" because instead of using the perfect song to score the perfect emotion at the perfect time, you find yourself hopelessly mid-intercourse, listening to a song best suited to the deaths of major characters on medical shows. It's rarely funny at the time, but it is retrospective humor unobtanium.
If you are going to attend as many weddings as I am this summer, and are at all wearied by the prospect: please take heart. There is always a chance that someone will play one of those 1990s novelty songs about AIDS, choose a sexually inappropriate father-daughter dance song, or indeed, play Kool in the Gang against a mulleted angry dad's expressed wishes. The YMCA is, after all, a place where indigent men exchange pubic lice and rotgut during joyless gay sex.
Let us all embrace these moments of musical epicaricacy, and share them freely in our internet commenting sections.