Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Matrimony, long-lost cousins and penis-shaped ballons
Man, it just gets weirder. A little over two weeks ago, I was invited, along with my Israeli friend Itzik, to the "despedida de soltera" of Ana, respectively the sister and cousin of my friends Lenny and Mariela. The functional translation of that is "hen's night", although it sounds much more dignified in Spanish. Ana was to get married to Frank, a French guy she had met three years ago; they had decided to make it permanent after he had visited her for a month in each of the succeeding years.
Yes, I know that boys don't normally get invited to such events - Itzik and I were there in the capacity of, ahem, strippers...but before anybody finds themselves beset with disturbing mental images, don't worry, we didn't have to take (many) clothes off...
It was certainly an eye-opening experience that I don't expect to repeat - there were about eight of Ana's friends gathered in her living room, together with her aunt Miriam, who I suppose was there in some kind of technical chaperone capacity. The room was festooned with helium ballons decorated with drawings from the Kama Sutra, plus liberal quantities of penis-shaped ballons; everyone being required to wear one on their head or round their neck. It befell Ana to wear an apron which flipped up to reveal male genitalia, drink from a penis-shaped cup, and speak into a carved wooden penis "microphone"...certainly there was a quite disturbing abundance of false phalluses, mock members, or what have you...
After, and during, the consumption of a bewildering variety of impromptu cocktails concocted from rum, champagne, cream, honey and god knows what else, everyone was required to choose a ballon from the ceiling and act out the scene from the Kama Sutra depicted on it. Playact, that is. I have to mention that aunt Miriam was among the most enthusiastic in this respect.
Two weeks later (the weekend just gone) I found myself in Ilo, a town on the coast about six hours from Arequipa in the department of Morquegua. A port and summer vacation town of fog, fishing boats, dust and jacarandas, Ilo is where Ana's parents live and was the venue for the wedding. By this time Itzik had left for Cusco, but Mariela and Lenny absolutely insisted that I come. I reluctantly agreed to hire a suit and, surprising myself, found that I actually looked pretty good...
After a tiring journey on the Saturday morning we arrived in Ilo and I was introduced to the parents and to Frank. One of the reasons that Mariela and Lenny had insisted I come was that poor Frank had come by himself from France, without family and friends. It was necessary, therefore, that I be the "amigo del novio". Lenny explained this to her parents, having pointed out unabashedly that I had attended the despedida in the role of stripper (her father then introduced me to one of his friends as "el estripper"). In the course of discussing all this, there was a change of plans - I was to be the *cousin* of the groom - since Frank couldn't possibly without at least some family. I don't think anyone had asked Frank if he needed a friend, let alone a cousin, but there it was.
I should mention that Frank turned out to be a thin, rather pale guy with his hair in a bob - kind looking but clearly nervous. Ana is pretty and gregarious, but far more chilled than her certifiably crazy sister. Both around 27. The ceremony was a civil one, in a local club; the room was decked out in almost surreal "wedding cake" style was lacy tablecloths, thick white curtain and huge aquamarine sashes. I was introduced to all and sundry as "Frank's cousin", including to the compere; so it was that after the exchange of vows, when the speeches and photos began, it was announced that "Frank, too, is not alone tonight - his cousin has come". There were photos with the parents, photos with the siblings, and then, when it was time for cousins, aunts and uncle, I was dragged up with Mariela and aunt Miriam. I made sure the offical photographer took one with my camera as well - I had to record the moment, feeling rather like the unknown guy who pops up in the Manchester Utd team photo.
After that it went downhill a little - I managed to lose Mariela's ring from her 15-years party when I put her into a turn and the ring flew off her little finger, to elude much searching of the dance floor and surrounds. Nevertheless, we finished off the rest of the beer (oblivious to the internal curdling with the previously consumed champagne, strawberry rum, pisco sour, piña colada etc) and stumbled back to crash at Ana's place at 5:30 in the morning.
The next day, unsurprisingly, I suffered a substantial hangover. It was a looong bus ride back to Arequipa, the slightly splattered suit hung up in the window. I expect to get the photos developed shortly.