Family & Education

My man reaches the (wrong) bottom

It's wedding time, and Zelda's got her red dress on


We are in the wilds of Wiltshire for a Jewish wedding. In a field, which seems intriguingly un-Jewish. I am pleased to note the exhortation in the invite to stick to sensible shoes. I can’t wear high heels due to my dodgy knees (not especially grotesque, just not really fit for purpose). Plus I’ve never mastered the art of wearing heels.

When my sister and I were little, we used to plunder our mum’s wardrobe for dressing-up and sashay up and down in her high gold mules or black suede stilettos. Unfortunately, if I try to wear heels, I still look like I’m a six-year-old kid playing at being a grown-up, teetery-tottering and about to fall over.

I can only think of a couple of other Jewish weddings I’ve been to that were outdoors. At one, a clutch of gorgeous peacocks were strutting their stuff when we arrived. But when the cantor started to sing, the peacocks assumed this was a blatant challenge to their territory and tried to drown him out by screeching at top volume. Never have so many people wished for the sheva berachot to be reduced to a single blessing. 

The rabbi was an ageing hippy. It wasn’t so much the greasy ponytail and co-ordinating beard that aroused comment as the fact that he was incapable of remembering the bride’s name, though whether due to dementia or substance abuse was unclear.

Three times, he got it wrong. By the end, the bride was turning to the congregation and rolling her eyes as if she had inadvertently found herself on the set of a bad sitcom. I thought her response incredibly restrained. If it had been me, I’d have used his head when it came to the smashing of the glass. 

Luckily, everything bodes well for this wedding. The bride and groom are our age so it’s not the first outing for either of them, but you can feel a lovely chupah of happiness arching over the whole event. 

As the moment arrives, the weather is behaving itself and the setting is beautiful, with a large, natural pond fringed by swaying rushes and aflutter with darting dragonflies.

The chupah is a tallit secured over four silver birch tree trunks, but it seems very low. The bride, groom, and rabbi, are all not tall but, still, it looks as if they’ll have to hunker down to fit beneath it. I murmur this to The Husband, who says not to worry, the chupah supports will be held aloft for the service.

The bride walks down the field between her two grown-up sons and it really is magical, with the sunlight glinting on tiny sparkles in her dress. 

The silver birch branches are uplifted by the sons, and the groom’s son and nephew. One of them was in the Israeli army and at one point he holds his birch in one hand as if he often likes to tote bits of forest about in idle moments. The other three are struggling, however. 

After the service, as we enjoy a feast at long tables, we settle back for the speeches. The bride’s elder son stands up and says: “There’s just one thing I really want to say before anything else…”

Aah, how sweet — he’s going to say what a wonderful day this is and how happy he is for his mum — “…and that’s: ‘Are you both crazy? What made you think that a bunch of weedy Jews could hold up four trees for an hour?’”

After dinner, we dance for hours in the lovely old stone barn, then tumble out into the night. Mini-buses have been booked to take guests back to their hotels and B&Bs. The Husband is by now more than merry as he doesn’t have to drive. I tell him I’ll nip to the loo then see him on the mini-bus. 

So I’m sitting on the bus when a drunken Husband lurches on and announces to all: “I’ve just fondled a strange woman’s bottom! I thought it was my wife’s…”

I tug him into his seat and try to get him to pipe down. “It’s not 1977,” I point out. “No one thinks fondling a woman’s bottom is funny anymore.”

“I thought it was yours! She was wearing red like you!” His tone suggests that it might in fact be my fault for wearing the same colour as another female guest. 

“But you never fondle my bottom!” I try to think back. “You haven’t fondled my bottom for at least six years. Even though I go to the gym now and it’s actually in much better shape than it was when we got married.”

“Is it?” He twists round in his seat and starts trying to prod it, not with desire — more in the manner of a picky customer assessing the ripeness of a suspect peach.

“Get off! Did you at least apologise to the woman?”

“I did. I really did, I promise. I explained that my wife was wearing red and I tried to point you out only you weren’t there.”

“Because I was here on the bus, waiting for you.”

“Actually, when she turned round, I saw she was a lot, lot younger than you are. So that’s good really. Isn’t it?’

AVAILABLE: One Husband. Some signs of age but reasonable condition. Would possibly make passable chupah support.

Zelda Leon (a pseudonym) is half-Jewish by birth then did half a conversion course as an adult (half-measures in all things) to affirm her Jewish status before a rabbinical board. She is a member of a Reform synagogue.

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