7. Married

A Miserable Wedding; a Meaningless Consummation

Edie Postiglione
Nov 24 · 8 min read
Cutting the cake after the guests had left (photo by my brother)

December 1966. The worst snowstorm Virginia had seen in ten years began the morning of my wedding, December 28, 1966. By noon, the minister had called to say he would be unable to perform the ceremony because a member of the church had fallen seriously ill, and he was in a hospital two hours away. Fortunately, he had managed to find a substitute for our wedding. Then, both the maid-of-honor and one of the bridesmaids called. They had the flu. Next, the overdue wedding cake arrived, and I discovered that my mother had changed the order behind my back.

I had wanted pink rosebuds on my wedding cake, but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. “Wedding cakes are always supposed to be completely white,” she had lectured me weeks earlier. “It’s another symbol of the bride’s virginity.” Eventually, she had relented. Or so I thought. When I opened the box, I saw that the rosebuds where white.

Apologizing in her most pitiful, ever-so-sincere and remorseful voice, she said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I must have misunderstood what you wanted.” Then, seeing the disbelieving expression on my face, she shifted gears abruptly and declared, “Well, it doesn’t matter, anyway.”

Not wanting to have an argument on my wedding day, I let it pass. But inside, I was seething as I ranted in my head. Well, no, of course it doesn’t matter to her! The cake is exactly as she wanted it — the way she ordered it! I was not angry because the rosebuds were white. She was right — that didn’t matter. What mattered was that she had disregarded my wishes and done what she had wanted in cold calculation behind my back, knowing she would get away with it. It was so extraordinarily typical of her. It reminded me of the time she nearly destroyed my relationship with Paul…

My mother had never wanted me to marry Paul and did all she could to break us up. There was one time Paul wouldn’t speak to me the second day of his visit and refused to tell me why. I finally managed to extract from him that my mother had taken him aside the day before and broken the “news” to him that I had decided to date other boys! I can see now that although her methods were so wrong that my reaction was not to turn against Paul, but against her, she saw warning signs in his behavior that I wish now I’d understood. It wasn’t just that she thought his social standing was beneath me or that he was too quiet. She saw that he would be controlling. But even if I’d seen that, I would simply have accepted it, because I had accepted the idea that the husband was supposed to be in control.

“Haven’t you noticed the way he watches every bite of food you take at dinner?” she’d asked after one of his visits. I asked him later how he felt about wives who gained weight after marriage. His response was, “I don’t care if you get fat. Just don’t expect me to go anywhere with you.” I just thought, “Well, that’s okay, because I have no intention of getting fat, anyway.” I hadn’t grasped how much more there was to that unfeeling remark than what I’d heard.

But I was elated to be marrying Paul, and nothing was going to bring me down. My older brother — and the official wedding photographer — Skip, captured my determination on camera as I was preparing to leave for the church. I was lugging two large suitcases down the stairs, wearing only a slip, pantyhose, and snow boots. My hair was in large bouffant rollers, my face had no makeup, and I wore horn-rimmed glasses. When I saw the photo later, I decided it was funny.

In the end, the attendants made it to the wedding, though they were in the church bathroom throwing up together until nearly the last minute. The ceremony went smoothly, although no one could hear anything I said, because my voice refused to rise above a faint whisper. Paul heard, though, and that’s all that mattered.

It was still snowing heavily when we left the church, adding poor visibility to the already hazardous driving conditions. Paul decided to drive to the reception himself, rather than trust the best man, his seventeen-year-old brother, behind the wheel of his treasured 1956 Chevy. As I was about to climb into the front seat, one of my mother’s friends threw her mink coat over my shoulders for the ride. I was thrilled with the coat and luxuriated in its richness. My joy lasted less than a minute.

Paul pulled away from the curb, drove about half a block, realized the street was even more treacherous than he’d thought, and tapped the brakes. We had no traction. The left rear of the car swung out towards the oncoming lane, and the right front slid into a parked car. I thought we had stopped, but something was still moving above and behind me. The rear of the car was still pivoting towards the center, and when I looked up, I saw that the cartop cargo carrier was still moving forward. It seemed to be in slow motion as it tilted toward my side of the vehicle, continued its slow slide, and crashed through the windshield right in front of me. It stopped about a foot short of my lap, throwing shards of glass all over my gown and Mrs. Johnson’s mink coat.

I was immediately sorry I’d taken responsibility for that beautiful coat. It had been a Christmas gift from her husband just three days earlier. After checking the backseat and finding everyone okay, I squeezed through the partially open door and stepped out of the car. I quickly removed the coat and shook the glass from it, hoping it wasn’t damaged.

Mrs. Johnson came running over. “Are you all right, dear?” she asked.

“I’m fine, but I’m worried about your coat. Do you think it’s ruined?”

She spoke in rapid bursts. “No, of course not! Don’t even think about my silly old coat. Is Paul okay? Is anybody hurt?” Mrs. Johnson was thin and energetic and always had an animated excitement about her.

“No, everyone is fine,” I said. “Amy bruised her leg a little, but she’s okay.”

While it was true that no one was hurt, my gown was ruined, and Paul’s car was a wreck. I agreed to ride to the reception with Mrs. Johnson while Paul remained at the scene. When he finally walked in almost three hours later, I had already cut the cake by myself, and the room was nearly empty.

The minister was the first to greet Paul. “Congratulations, son,” he said, shaking Paul’s hand. “I’m awfully sorry you two are getting off to such a rough start.” Then he handed the envelope enclosing the check for his services back to Paul. He hadn’t even opened it. “Here, son, you keep this. Whatever it is, you need it more than I do.”

Throughout the reception, everyone had been expecting me to be hysterical because our wedding had become a fiasco. Guests kept coming up to my mother and commenting on how remarkably calm I was. From my perspective, the wedding had not been ruined. It was what it was, and it was mine. No one else I knew had a wedding like it, and I was reveling in its uniqueness. All I cared about was that I was married at last and would finally be free of parental control.

It wasn’t until several hours later, as I lay in bed with my new husband, patiently waiting for him to make an advance, that I realized it was Paul who was devastated. He wasn’t even facing me; he was just lying there, staring at the ceiling. How long is he going to wait? I wondered. Surely, he isn’t going to just ignore me and go to sleep! This past week had been the first time we’d seen each other in three months, and my parents had made certain that we had no time to ourselves before the wedding.

Breaking my father’s command about a wife’s behavior in the bedroom, I reached toward Paul.

“Do you mind if we just go to sleep?” he asked.

“Why?” I asked, suddenly near tears for the first time that day.

“I really don’t feel like making love. My car was the only thing I had to my name. I’m so depressed.”

I was crushed. Didn’t he have me now as well? Wasn’t I more valuable to him than his car? Aside from feeling hurt and rejected, I thought that his turning away from me, certain that nothing I had to offer could help him, was a very bad sign. “Yes, Paul, I do mind if we don’t make love. This is our wedding night. Besides that, we are supposed to look to each other for love and support when things go wrong, not turn away. Please don’t withdraw from me because of the accident. It wasn’t my fault.” He had sex with me, but he did not make love. After that, both of us were depressed.

The next day, Paul replaced his beloved Chevy with a ’59 Plymouth station wagon, and the morning after that, we left for Memphis. We had neither the money nor the time for a honeymoon. Paul’s classes at Memphis State were resuming in the next day.

The Union Planters National Bank in downtown Memphis hired me immediately as an experienced keypunch operator. The day I received my first paycheck, Paul and I went back to the bank together to open a checking account. The front of the bank, with its marble floor and mahogany desks, was much more impressive than where I worked — in the basement, in the back area of the bank, with its ancient elevator and dirty yellow walls. Suddenly, I felt much more important as an employee of such an impressive bank.

We were shown to the desk of a middle-aged man wearing a dark business suit and an even darker expression. He began our meeting with some vaguely accusatory questions about our financial status and our business there. He spoke to Paul, but since I was the one with the job and the money, I was the one who answered. I explained that I worked there at the bank and that Paul was a full-time student in electrical engineering at Memphis State. I was very proud of my new husband. Graduating “Double E’s,” as they were called, could expect an excellent starting salary, and to me, Paul was as good as there already.

But the man behind the desk completely ignored me. “Tell me, just how long do you intend to let her support you?” he interrogated Paul.

His question didn’t make any sense to me. We were trying to establish an account as customers. Why was he insulting Paul, especially when I worked there? It would be many years before I understood. He wasn’t insulting Paul; he was admonishing him and insulting me. His worldview — like my father’s and most men of that age — included the belief that men were supposed to be the breadwinners, and they were not supposed to rely on women for help. If that were unavoidable for some reason, the man must do everything possible to prevent the woman from realizing her own power and importance. He was letting her help and only temporarily.

[Excerpts of this chapter previously published as Chapter 3. The Correlation in Not a Team Player]

Big Daddy Syndrome

Believing the lie

Big Daddy Syndrome

Memoirs of increasingly difficult personal relationships with men, believing since birth that there should — and would — always be a benevolent Big Daddy to provide everything a woman needs.

Edie Postiglione

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Edie survived child molestation, rape, 23 yrs of a male-dominated career, and emotional collapse. She now laughs, writes, sews, plays piano, makes magic wands…

Big Daddy Syndrome

Memoirs of increasingly difficult personal relationships with men, believing since birth that there should — and would — always be a benevolent Big Daddy to provide everything a woman needs.