I guess I should start by saying congratulations. You’re getting married this weekend. To someone who isn’t me. Still, even I can admit you guys seem like a good match: you share a love of tattoos and heavy eyeliner. You sent out gothic style wedding invitations with your names written in a dripping blood font. I get that. It’s pretty cute.
Speaking of invitations, mine seems to have gotten lost in the mail. It’s probably for the best, because if I had been invited, at the moment the gothic priest said, “If anyone has any reason why these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace,” I would have stood up and said this…
When I was 13, my friend Caitlin invited me to a Backstreet Boys concert. I had never heard of the Backstreet Boys before because I lived on a 38-acre farm with my parents who listened to nothing but John Denver, Enya, and, somewhat inexplicably, the soundtrack to “Last Action Hero.” Nevertheless, it was a free ticket to a concert and luckily I had enough sense to take it.
The concert turned out to be a transformative experience. I screamed and danced and sang along to lyrics I didn’t know. I learned to put my hands in the air like I just didn’t care. But it was your solo, AJ, that really changed my life. You walked out on stage in your baggy jeans and artfully sculpted facial hair, rhapsodizing about all the sexy ladies in the house tonight, and you stole my prepubescent heart.
At the end of the show I bought a poster that featured you staring off into the distance soulfully, wearing a red golf sweater and a backwards baseball cap. That night I hung it up on the lime green wall above my bed, and I did something I’d never done before: I prayed.
Remember the scene in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla forces Anne to pray but Anne’s never done it before so she just makes up this ridiculous melodramatic prayer? Come to think of it you probably don’t remember that because Anne of Green Gables doesn’t really seem like your thing, but whatever; the point is I didn’t know how to pray either so I stole the fake prayer from Anne of Green Gables.
“Dear gracious, heavenly father,” I whispered. “Thank you for everything. As for the things I want, there’s only one thing, really: I want to marry AJ from the Backstreet Boys. I’m guessing you get a lot of these requests, but trust me, this is different. We have something special. I just know it’s meant to be.”
I murmured “amen,” moved my hands in the vague shape of a cross over my torso, and tucked myself into bed. My parents were scientists with complicated religious backgrounds–my mom, a lapsed Catholic; my dad, a proudly atheist descendant of Mennonites. In my house we worshiped Darwin, Dawkins, Fossey, and Goodall. I wasn’t sure what I believed, but at the very least, I wanted to cover my bases. Do you understand that my love for you was strong enough that it made me entertain the idea of the existence of God?
As time went on we grew apart. I started high school and developed a crush on the lead singer of System Of A Down. You released a solo rap album and spent some time in rehab. But I never forgot that night, AJ, and the many nights afterward that I repeated the same script, hoping my message would get through.
And now you’re getting married to someone else.
I would consider myself an agnostic these days, if I had to put a label on it, and while I’m content with my spirituality, I still think it’s sort of tragic that my first prayer has gone unanswered. My 13-year-old self would be really bummed out today.
So there it is, AJ. If this marriage works out, I will forever hold my peace. But if it doesn’t, call me, and renew my faith.