Modern Weddings

Modern Weddings

By Chris Forrest

17/09/2018

Where is the love?

You go through stages in life, where one type of event seems to dominate your social calendar. I myself am at that age where, for the last five or so years, I seem to go to a lot of weddings. Now while I believe it’s a fantastic thing for two people to commit to each other for life, or at least a while; until they have enough and call the divorce lawyer, I do feel that the wedding day has become a bit of a farce.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like tradition, I enjoy a dry, gamey bird at Christmas, I sing repetitive songs to people when they age, and I consume chocolate eggs to commemorate the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ (although this one confuses me a bit), but I do feel the traditions associated with marriage seems to be more about outdoing the Joneses next door, the video and photographs than the day itself.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we, the chapel. Now I’m pretty sure most readers of this fine publication aren’t religious fanatics (and if you are I would like to come to your church) and neither are most people in my age group, in fact I’d go so far as to say in most of the weddings I’ve attended, the ceremony is the first contact the couple have had with religion since Sunday school. Yet, all except for two, insisted on a man of the cloth in a chapel, one friend even went so far as to find one on the internet… most entertaining but a bit weird. This means that the rest of us, also mostly non-church going folk, now have to sit (normally on uncomfortable benches) through not only the vows (I actually don’t mind this bit too much), but also the mandatory hymn singing, and I use the word singing generously, and then a religious sales presentation from the chap in the middle, this has been known to last up to an hour… which seriously cuts into my drinking time.

Once this ordeal is over you’re all invited out of the chapel to welcome the newly weds, and throw random tiny items at them. This would be fine if it were purely an act of revenge for making you sit through “Paul’s letter to the Corinthians” one more excruciating time, but its not. Confetti is traditionally used to show celebration, however these days, when the Hitleresque photographer has demanded that everyone cease their merriment so that they can throw in unison at the count of three, in order to capture the “perfect moment” it feels less like being a guest at a joyous occasion, and more like being a stage hand on a low budget project for SABC 1. At this point the guests are obliged to congratulate the latest Mr and Mrs one at a time, by means of a handshake and a kiss, in that order, most of the time. Side note here, apparently the kiss should not involve tongue, or so everyone told me afterwards.

After the “perfect moment” has been rehearsed and achieved, it’s time for the camera-nazi to remove the happy couple from their congratulating friends and family to the furtherest place possible to take pictures of the bride and groom, their families, the wedding party and every conceivable combination thereof.

At this point, the guests are made to mull around outside, clad in their finest clothing, ladies in their high-heels constantly doing the sinking-into-the-grass dance, all the while coming ever closer to starvation, with only peanuts and orange juice cocktails for sustenance. This is the longest part of the entire day, especially when it’s one of those distant cousin weddings, and the only people you know are the family member whom you haven’t spoken to in years, and as you try to reconnect through clichéd, disjointed conversation, you can just feel them looking around the area for someone more interesting to speak to.

Finally after an hour or so of forced pleasantries the designated MC will invite everyone inside to the reception area. This is a very important part of the day, as this is when all the ladies in between the ages of 16 and 83 begin filling in their mental score cards, allocating marks for every aspect of the décor ranging from colours, to table settings to “thanks for sharing the day with us” mini gifts. Then of course there is probably the most important thing of the day, the thing that seems to be indicative of a good or bad wedding, the make of the entire day and possibly the marriage itself; the flowers. Every woman has a duty to herself and the female sex in general to access the floral arrangement in the middle of the table, and hope in her heart of hearts, that she be one of the lucky few who gets to take said foliage home with her, so that it may take pride of place in her home for the 3 – 4 days before it dies. The importance of this is not to be underestimated; I’ve seen reputable ladies get violent for this privilege. These days its also become a trend for some people to put a disposable camera on each table. This is a fantastic way to find out the sizes of all your male guest’s penises, if however your new wife can identify more then two of them, it may be a warning sign…

So on we go, after we’ve all stood to welcome (once again) for the first time (since the church) the brand new Mr & Mrs whoever, everyone is then seated and house keeping rules are explained, and then the over priced starters are served. The guests are then sentenced to a minimum of three speeches, traditionally the father of the bride, the best man and the groom, (I’ve been unfortunate enough to experience everyone in the entire bridal party, a total of 9 people saying their “few words” – it was a long evening). Although one would think that a person not skilled in the art of public speaking would want to keep as short as possible, in my experience, this is not the case, but its normally from the heart, so I can accept a man stumbling, sweating and stuttering his way through a 20 minute speech, what really bothers me is when the best man has downloaded his speech from “askjeeves.com” or a similar website. It may sound funny and original to you and a large portion of your audience, but know this; some of us have heard those same corny jokes and witticisms at three other weddings before you read them to us and although we may have joined in the polite laughter, just like your lady friends, we were faking it.

After dinner we move on to what is becoming my favourite part of the modern day ceremony, the first dance. Traditionally this was an intimate and romantic moment, where everyone could look on, jealously longing for that same connection and closeness with another human being, but in the interest of looking good these days many couples have decided to choreograph their love. Watching bride and groom nervously trying to remember steps, whilst visibly counting beats, one feels there is about as much intimacy as home affairs at lunch time.

The evening continues in a hurry, after all the “graphers” –both video and photo are only booked for another 40 minutes, so in a panic the mc gets every one inside to witness the cutting of the cake (for a time I thought this might be symbolic) and the joy of newlyweds lustily shoving it into each others faces (I still think this may be). Then its on to the throwing of the bouquet and garter respectively, where all the single ladies collude as to who should catch the superstitious bunch of flowers, whilst the men pretend they don’t really want to be there yet all rush and wrestle over the decorative elastic.

Finally, with the formalities over, its time for the real party to begin. The DJ spins all those wedding favourites like Zobra  the greek, the birdie song and the Macarena, what is it about having a woman in a ridiculously expensive white dress that makes people want to move in unison to bad music? I just don’t get it, but I do enjoy watching old white people perpetuate the stereotype about their dancing ability, until of course we call it a night.

My advice if you are ever planning to get married is to forget the video camera, forget trying to compete with other weddings you’ve been to, no-one should ever take out a second bond to pay for these things, just have fun and enjoy the day. In five years time no-one will remember your colours or what flowers were on the table, but they will remember if they had fun.

Originally written for Playboy magazine

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Step Away From My Baby and Put Down That Banana

Step Away From My Baby and Put Down That Banana

by Chris Forrest

Originally published by Mama Magic

Something that has always struck me as strange about the whole having-a-baby thing is how you lose your right to dignity and personal space. Suddenly it seems that the mom, baby and, in some cases, the dad become public property, with zero right to personal space, privacy or their own opinion on how the child should be raised.

We’ve all been there during the latter stages of pregnancy, when the mom-to-be is showing beyond a shadow of a doubt, and an absolute stranger will feel nothing of it to come up and congratulate her and then, for some bizarre reason, feel the need to place their hand on her stomach. I’ve never quite understood what they hope to achieve here. Perhaps they suspect that the mom-to-be is faking it, and want to make sure that there really is a baby in there. Or maybe they’re hoping to transfer some of that baby goodness to themselves – which is quite mean to the foetus, I feel. One person said that they were hoping to feel a kick. I offered to give them what they wanted, but apparently it’s only socially acceptable when your unborn child obliges.

Personally, I feel that fair is fair – if you get to feel my partner’s stomach, I should get to reciprocate. This didn’t always work in my favour – usually I just got a weird look, but I also got two slaps to the face; and on another occasion, a coffee invitation and phone number (turns out Geoff was just her friend).

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. Because even when your little bundle of joy has entered the world, people still seem to feel that it’s okay to come up to their pram and, without invitation, encouragement or permission of any kind, poke, prod and tickle your child while mumbling baby-like coos and hellos as if they were greeting an old friend – which, considering your baby’s age, is impossible. I find this behaviour quite distasteful. Can you imagine me doing this to you as a fully grown adult; just walking up to you in a shopping centre and tickling the length and breadth of your body, uttering, “Hello you, aren’t just soooo cute! Who’s cute? Who?” I’m fairly certain you would assume I’m a pervert or a nutcase, or both.

What really bothers me though, are the “helpful” folk. Not the ones who assist in carrying your pram up the stairs – they’re great. The helpful folk I’m referring to are the ones who assume that your skills as a parent are somewhat inferior to theirs, and feel the need to assist you, unasked. I’ll give you an example: recently I was shopping at a local supermarket when my child decided she wanted a banana, right then and there. Now just to put you in the picture, my child is not starving. In fact she’s rather well-fed, and while not fat, is far from a UNICEF poster child. She is, however, going through the tantrum stage, and wants what she wants, NOW! So there I was, in the middle of a crowded shop, trying to reason with my toddler as to why she couldn’t have a ‘nana immediately and feeling a bit embarrassed about the fuss, but also quite proud of myself for not giving in, since I was teaching my child a valuable lesson.

Suddenly a Helpful Lady approached and, sensing that she may have a solution to this crisis that I had somehow missed, offered my child a banana. Summoning up a fair amount of restraint, I politely explained to the Helpful Lady that I was trying to teach my child that she can’t always just achieve her life goals by screaming them out at the top of her lungs repeatedly while kicking her legs and ejecting liquid from her tear ducts. The Helpful Lady reacted by ignoring this statement, peeling the desired fruit, handing it to my child, and then – deciding she had spotted the real problem – looked at me sympathetically and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay for it.” Did she really think I couldn’t afford a banana?! Did she not notice that behind my child in the trolley was a load of groceries, including an entire box of bananas?

That’s great, Helpful Lady, you’ve made my life so much easier, and I hope you’re still around when my daughter is 21 and is crying and kicking her legs in the middle of a luxury car lot, screaming, “Waaaaaah! I want an SUV!”

The only problem was, when I got to the till, Helpful Lady was nowhere to be found, and I still had to pay for the only half-eaten banana…

The Parenting Minefield

The Parenting Minefield

by Warren Robertson

I don’t do anything these days without consulting the internet. I no longer prepare grocery lists, but instead look up recipes online then wander the aisles of my supermarket tracking down what they tell me to buy. Buying a toaster has become a three-day exercise in checking reviews vs prices to get the best deal, and I won’t spend an hour streaming a random film in case it’s bad choosing instead to spend an hour online reading movie reviews. It’s making life untenable. Perhaps the most confusing place for this is parenting.

Every week someone somewhere is releasing a new study that seems to completely refute the study released last week, and I read them all. One minute you need to allow your toddler to make mistakes, the next actively engage in correcting them. One week it’s encouraged to keep them constantly engaged, the next you need to give them time to themselves, then engagement is necessary, as long as you are engaged with them. I am told that being overly relaxed as a parent can lead to my son lacking focus, and being incapable of finding the drive to succeed in life (see Mom & Dad I knew this was all your fault), while being overly restrictive can lead to him being unable to make decisions, and incapable of dealing with difficulties. Presumably being somewhere in the middle creates a blend of these two kinds of dysfunctions? It seems no matter how you choose to raise your child, the end result is always going to be an adult whose sense of depression, bewilderment and isolation has left them barely capable of functioning day-to-day.

Causing me particular aggravation is that kind of click bait particular to new parents, the “Watch out your child could die if” news story. Articles titled, “Ten things you should never do with your kids” always get me clicking, and include things like, “let them go online”, or “Let them play on the swings”, but never include the phrases, “Imprison them in a basement” or “Sacrifice them to a dark lord”. Those tips seem obvious candidates for me, particularly given that the articles are written in an era where fake medical professionals tell you not to vaccinate your child, and people not only do that but then also argue with others in their office about it.

“Maureen the article said we weren’t to let Koosie play on the swings, it said absolutely nothing about slathering him in bloody meat and chucking him in a shark tank!”

What recent studies do seem to unanimously agree on, however, is that people who have children are generally happier than those who don’t. Meaning the only way we will ever be able to overcome the general sense of confusion, sadness, and malaise that our parents forced on us through their own parenting choices is to have children of our own and do the same to them.

Slogans Spur and Ritual Humiliation

Slogans, Spur and Ritual Humiliation

by Warren Robertson

This week I happened to walk into a furniture store with a friend of mine and overheard the sales-person answer the phone. “Hi Sam here. How can I make living easier?” he said, and I was immediately thrust back nearly twenty years to when I worked in a Spur, and the managers wanted me rap along to an insipid birthday song and throw secret tribe hand-signs at the kids. (It turns out, by the way, that when a kid is chewing, shredding, and dumping their colouring-in paper on the carpet, and you know it will take 11 hours to pick it out after he has gone, giving him the middle-finger can’t be explained away as being the sign of the extra secret tribe).

Why do companies make their employees do these things? I can’t name a single person above the age of three who thinks having a birthday song sung to them by a group of minimum wage employees, who are fully aware that they aren’t singing “Happy Birthday” simply because the company is afraid of copyright infringements, is fun. Historically the only people who enjoyed watching the poor undergo ritual humiliation for their amusement while they are eating are billionaire slave-plantation owners and, if you factor in the old-timey American racism of the Spur restaurant theme, we know exactly what they are doing in the modern era.

The thing is these birthday songs, slogans, and phone answering techniques, aren’t the way to make a genuine connection with your customer. Shortly after I heard Sam answer the phone in that contrived fashion I realised the look of mixed disgust and shame that I had shot him was the same one I would get from parents whenever I fired off the secret tribe sign. They are so awful and humiliating that my friends, and I use this word lightly, would regularly come into the Spur when I was on shift, tell the manager it was their birthday, and try to see me singing the birthday song. The joke was on them however as during the birthday songs I was always hidden in the kitchen supplementing my crappy wage by devouring uneaten food. It wasn’t my proudest four months.

Do you really want to learn “how to make living easier”? Stop making your employees belt out fatuous rubbish at your customers. We all know they aren’t happy saying, and doing them, so their being forced to pretend otherwise is just dishonest. I for one would much rather be served my bad steak by a normal person who doesn’t caper like a goat on Redbull at Disneyworld than become an unwilling participant in your charade of lies.

How I Became Famous

How I Became Famous

by Warren Robertson

Americans insist that one must “fake it to make it”. As a professional comedian, this is quite likely good advice. Some of the worst entertainers I know have made it to television, magazines and glory simply through putting up big signs with their faces on, buying a hundred thousand Twitter followers and telling anyone who will listen that they are talented, but I am not built that way. I was brought up to learn that boasting was uncouth and as such would far rather be at home watching Netflix than strutting a red carpet dressed in meat.

As a result, I probably should have been surprised a few years back when I was invited to participate in my first celebrity charity golf day. A total of 24 “celebs” – ranging from sports stars to former news readers, and musicians – had been chosen to participate. Each of us was to be teamed with three players, presumably to fill their days with magic and give them someone to beat. I was casually swinging my driver at the tee when the first couple of my group’s players walked up and introduced themselves. We chatted for a few minutes, I threw in some jokes about golf and things seemed to be going off well, when suddenly one of them said, “I think I saw Victor Mattfield up there. I wonder who our celebrity will be.” I took it in my stride, nodded, and said, “here he comes now” pointing to the straggler in our fourball who was just arriving. I spent the rest of the day digging my ball out of the rough and helping the guys guess just who this new stranger might be. “Wasn’t he on Agter Elke Man?” I said at one point. The other two shrugged, and I knew I had probably gotten away with it.

If I were to obey that dictum in the opening line of this article, this would be the paragraph in which I tell you how, since those first humble beginnings, my fame is now shooting into the stratosphere, and brands are clamouring to get a little piece of me at home in my meat suit. I would describe the lavish red carpet movie premiers (I didn’t make the cut for Black Panther, but did find myself sitting next to someone I think I recognised from a TV advert on the opening night of The Emoji Movie), the free gifts (I was once accidentally sent a pair of large brand running shoes, that fell apart long before they saw the inside of a gym) and the lavish book launches (I didn’t go and Chris Forrest still owes me my copy of Jen Su‘s “From Z to A Lister: How To Get on the Social Scene”).

Perhaps if I had collected, and read, my Jen Su book I would now be paid to market product to the various collection of middle-aged male computer game enthusiasts, engineers, train set hobbyists, rock collectors, card game nerds, sci-fi fanatics and neck-beards (collectively known as MAMCGEETSHRCCGNSCFNBs) that, judging by the people who recognise me in public, seem to exclusively make up my viewing public. In a way, I am glad I haven’t been though. If there is one group that can easily see through a cheap influencer Twitter campaign it’s MAMCGEETSHRCCGNSCFNBs and the last thing I want to do is disappoint my MAMCGEETSHRCCGNSCFNBs.

Note the subtle shift in the last paragraph to “my MAMCGEETSHRCCGNSCFNBs”. This was intentional. Lady Gaga has her “litte monsters”, Beyonce has “The BeyHive” and now I have “The MAMCGEETSHRCCGNSCFNBs”. With this one small shift, fame is inevitable. Until it happens though, I will be at home watching Netflix.