Wedding in Bretagne

Cousin Isabelle & Pierre Le Leannec | Photo by Joseph Wete

Before this weekend I hadn’t attended a wedding since I was the groom of my own in 2017. Though mine was an amazing occasion I’ll celebrate forever, it’s way more fun to be a guest at one than to host.

I went to Bretagne, a small region west of Paris to celebrate the union of my cousin Isabelle to hometown boy Pierre Le Leannec and his welcoming family. In my experience as a wedding co-star two years ago, I found myself whizzing through the hectic big day. Months of planning finally meets the moment of execution. My wife and I were anxious for several reasons—both grand and trivial. For starters, it was our damn wedding! We were promising and devoting our lives to each other in front of family, close friends, and… God!

Then there was the silly stuff like:

  • Would the food we choose be delivered as planned during the reception? It wasn’t. Our catering service plated the trout we didn’t choose and tried to pass it off as the sea bass we did.
  • Would the ceremony—which we rehearsed for to avoid mistakes—go off without a hitch? Well, mostly. I practiced lighting candles with a classic cigarette lighter, but somehow a long lighter (which I had never used in life at all prior) replaced it at showtime and I clumsily fumbled with it in front of our guests until giving it to someone else to light. Not cool.

It was an awesome day, but the well-earned hype of its meaning and the pressure we put on the production of the night resulted in us in searching for perfection rather than fully being in the moment.

Do you know what I was concerned about the day before my flight to attend Izzy and P’s wedding?

  • How good I’d look in my Ralph Lauren suit, Yves Saint Laurent shirt, and Bally shoes and making sure I packed my pocket-sized Aquaphor for my ankles because I’d be rocking no-show socks. 
  • How much wine I’d enjoy through the trip. 
  • The fun I’d have with my family at the lux Airbnb my sister found.

See the difference? When my brother Joseph and I sat back in our balcony seats for the wedding, I got to do something I wish I could have done more of on my wedding day: simply enjoy myself and be present. I didn’t have everyone in attendance asking for pictures. No marriage vets interrupted me to provide How To Husband wisdom. I didn’t… As I write this, I know that these words can come off as ungrateful.

To be clear, receiving love and congrats on your wedding day is a good thing! But if you’ve been a bride or a groom, you know that it also eats away at the time you could be spending marveling at your new spouse and getting drunk. That’s fun, too!

The ring. | photo by me

At the ceremony in Bretagne, I just sat in appreciation. Isabelle and Pierre looked incredible. Izzy the American recited her memorized vows in French. The Frenchman returned the sentiments in English. 
Joe and I took turns flexing our camera skills. When I wasn’t snapping, I often thought about and felt the energy in the room. The joy. The love.

Isabelle’s parents, Zachee & Carol | photo by me

I noticed everything. There is Auntie Carol and Uncle Zachee (Isabelle’s parents). It must feel wonderful to give your daughter off to such a great partner. There’s my eldest Uncle on my mother’s side, Isaac, here to bring some Cameroonian proverbs to the table. Oh, it’s my dad in… Are those alligator wingtips?.. Yes! Yes, they are!

Dad and Uncle Isaac | photo by me

At the reception, the conversation was light, worries nonexistent, and the vino consumption gratuitous. Oiu, monsieur! I’ll take another glass. Merci!
Aside from spending half a Wham! verse dancing with Isabelle and Pierre, I spent most of my time watching them and the entire hall be happy and celebrate.

Wifey couldn’t make it, so the broski was my date.

They sang and performed David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” There was a video short that featured family members sharing memories of the newlyweds. Pierre’s best buddy’s speech was the ideal balance of embarrassing close-friend jabs and heartwarming recollections, noting that the San Francisco couple had corniness in common and that Pierre has looked like his shaggy self since he was a kid.

I’m typing this from my Sky Priority Air France seat (leg room!) nine hours deep into a 10-hour flight back to Los Angeles. I’m jet-lagged in a disorienting way (the France/LA time difference is a whopping nine hours and this was only a four-day trip) and in bad need of kisses from my wife and daughter, who couldn’t make this run with me. But my spirit is also full.

Izzy & P | photo by me

Pierre and Isabelle’s gift registry begins with a note about how all those who attend their destination wedding have already given an incredible gift to them with their presence. Interestingly enough, after witnessing their nuptials, I’m coming back home feeling like I scored some treats, too. Congratulations, Pierre and Isabelle! And thank you, Pierre and Isabelle!

Fences and Whether Love’s Needed to Be a Good Parent

Fences.jpgIf your daddy’s a good one, let him know. Denzel’s character Troy Maxson in Fences is a father and husband who is more dedicated to the tasks that come along with the job than affection.

He gives his eldest son (from a previous marriage) Lyons $10, but only after giving him a hard time for needing the loan as an adult in the first place.

To him, being a father doesn’t come with a promise to love your child, but a contract confirming that you’ll tend to it—provide a roof over its head, feed it and coach him up to be fit for a solid job after it graduates from high school. If there is any love there, it’s the toughest the feeling has to offer. His relationship with his youngest, Cory, is contentious, to say the least. Troy denies him the chance to play college football and earn a scholarship for fear that no white-owned company will hire him after they use him up (it’s a period piece, set in 1950s Pittsburgh). Instead, Troy believes he’s pointing Cory the right direction: a job adjacent to the steady gig he has as a garbageman.

To Troy, being a husband to his dedicated wife Rose means that he’ll hand over his paycheck to her at the end of the week, provide “a sack of potatoes and a bucket of lard,” and comes home to her every night. Although he may stop at another woman’s house every now and then before getting back to his.

The scene that perhaps earned Viola Davis a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role is when Davis’ Rose humbles Troy—high on himself for the supposed sacrifices he’s made to be a family man and “standing in the same place for 18 years”—by saying he’s not the only one who has fantasized about being with other lovers and another life.”What about me?” she yells.

Troy himself is the product of poor fathering. In one Fences scene, we learn that Troy’s dad was a hard-ass who bossed him around and forced him to work as soon as he could walk. There was no love, just harsh grooming. Troy, once a talented baseball player before the sport was integrated, didn’t get to play in the big league. He lives with the frustration of being too old to compete with the likes of Jackie Robinson and with the angst of racism not allowing him (or his son) to achieve their true dreams. When your actions are guided by fear, regret, and misplaced frustration like Troy’s are, those around you suffer.

And that leads me to think about my dad, who’s been nothing but supportive and loving throughout my life. When I decided I wanted to be a journalist, he never questioned me. When I decided I wanted to move to New York City to begin my career, he didn’t try to keep me tied up in Maryland or redirect me towards a more lucrative profession. In fact, he helped me find an apartment and gave me seed money. Throughout my life, he has both put his wingtips in my ass and held my hand. Denzel’s Troy only does the meaner half of that.

I’m not quite sure if love is required to be a good parent, but it sure will be a heavily used tool as I build my future children up. Fences functions as a cautionary tale of sorts: Unclinch your fists and open your arms up to your sons and daughters. Life will beat them up and weather them down with its stresses. When it does, be there with a hug.

Shout out to dads who allow their children to dream of a life greater than theirs. Thank you to dads who love big.