Once I accidentally went to a Malibu wedding. Sort of. My friends and I decided to spend a day at the beach. Living in Los Angeles, one gets spoiled and treats the beach as though it was another Starbucks; a sort of, “Oh, yeah, it’s everywhere, it will always be there.” At least my friends and I do, not being surfer types and not having beach houses of our own. So one day we thought, right, this exists, let’s hang out there. We sat on a Harry Potter blanket and discreetly drank wine coolers while we watched a fat man play volleyball with another fat man. They seemed to be having a good time.
After that, we all got stuck on the idea that we simply had to go to Moonshadows. Moonshadows is the restaurant where Mel Gibson famously got arrested and let a beautifully horrendous tirade spew forth. The infamous “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and “What are you looking at, Sugar Tits” the greatest hits of Gibson all happened just down the beach from us. We thought perhaps we’d get a drink from their lounge but as the responsible and decent adults that we are, because we are not Mel Gibson, and if you are around Mel Gibson and he is around alcohol, you should just save everybody time and call the police. By the time you hang up the phone he’s going to be cursing Jews and stomping on houseplants like he’s King Kong all the while panting and screaming.
We made it into Moonshadows, feeling very grown-up, which is different from feeling very adult. We didn’t feel, “Ugh I wonder how much valet is going to cost and how much these drinks are going to cost” or anything of that nature. We felt, “Man, we look so cool. Are we allowed to even be in here? This is like being in a Bret Easton Ellis novel.”
And then it really got into Bret Easton Ellis territory. We’re sitting at a small booth and to the left of me is a very cool old woman. Cool in a different cool than we were. She was an established, kooky, “Fuck it, I’m old” cool. I noticed the owl pendant hanging around her neck. I told her much I liked it. She seemed thrilled by this. I really adored her. I thought she looked familiar but maybe I just wished I knew her.
Then it started. That beautiful pop new wave sound, with bittersweet undertones, all in earnest, of “The Promise” by When In Rome. And a bride and groom were dancing. It all happened very suddenly. The song, perhaps a dimming of lights, the swelling of joy — this was their moment, they must have planned it. And they’re dancing in the middle of this lounge, mouthing the words to each other, blissed out of their minds. I stared at them, respectful, slightly confused, but quietly enthusiastic. They saw me and smiled. The groom looked into my eyes, and said, with more joy in one sentence than I’ve heard in hundreds, “I’m marrying my best friend.”
My cynicism halted. I smiled back. I promise you, I promise you I will was all I heard and all I saw. Later my cynism about marriage would return, replaced with a bitterness once I watched helplessly as divorce took another marriage away, all the while with me stubbornly refusing to ever get married, ever.
I do want to get married. I don’t know if I want to marry my best friend. I’m still unsure about that idea. That the person you marry should also be your best friend. But that’s not important right now.
Ever since that night, I’ve fallen in love with that song. I hear it and even though I’ve forgotten what the couple looks like, I see them dancing, laughing, holding onto each other, have an occasional goofy moment, lip-synching, smiling endlessly.
I was so full of joy that I asked the kooky old woman next to me if we could take a photo with her. She seemed shocked and said, “Really?!” I said definitely. “Let’s go outside,” she said. She had a friend with her. “Do you know who that is?” she asked me. I paused. Yes, I knew now. “Phyllis Diller?”
And yes. She was.
“You made her night,” her friend told us. “She made ours,” I said.
We took more photos, got into the car, and drove with the windows down back to where we once belonged. I looked at the ocean and in my head, over and over, If you need a friend don’t look to a stranger. You know in the end. I’ll always be there…I promise you. I promise you I will.
And that’s how I accidentally went to a Malibu wedding. Sort of.