There is something about a ceremony that has always troubled me. Because of that faint discomfiture, I usually avoid ceremonies whatever they are if at all possible. A ceremony is a formal occasion and I do not feel at home with formality. Ceremonies are celebrations with traditional rites of some sort; I have never been one for tradition. There is usually hype and lots of embellishment at a ceremony; I will always shun that too.
When they’re for me, of course, it’s sort of difficult to stay away. I have always disliked weddings, but I attended my own back in 1968. We had it in my wife’s sister’s home. It was performed by a judge who was my father-in-law’s golfing buddy. I wrote the wedding ceremony; the judge mispronounced a couple of the words. That was okay with me; it gave our wedding a slight sense of the absurd, which was about how we were both feeling at the time. [George Burns once joked, “I was married by a judge; I should have asked for a jury.”]
Funerals often push the limits of endurance. I have attended out of respect for the dear departed but, more often than not, I avoid the occasion. These rituals are for the living, not the dead. It’s sad to see how some families, in the throes of their recent loss, overspend on such things as funerals, caskets, headstones, and such. People in the death business make a fortune off grieving relatives. Too often the words spoken about the deceased at the funeral are overblown hyperbole. It’s as if every corpse was a good guy and no jerks ever found their way into a morgue or a funeral parlor.
Birthday parties are, of course, ceremonies. For kids, they’re something to look forward to. For adults, they’re generally nothing more than a dispiriting reminder of the dreaded aging process. We joke about it but, underneath, we are never happy that it’s happening. A year older means one year closer to the Grim Reaper. Jack Benny may have been 39 for several decades but he still died, didn’t he?
If ceremony makes some people feel pleasant about whatever is being celebrated, good for them. I just prefer a less formal approach to things. Ceremony, like any praise, makes me vaguely uncomfortable, whether it involves me or someone else. Perhaps I just have the wrong attitude, like when someone is singing the National Anthem before a ballgame, perhaps the most oft-performed ceremony in the country. Instead of puffing out my chest and letting nationalistic pride course through my veins, I find myself focusing instead upon how the performer is screwing up the tune.
The kind of ceremony that I could enjoy would be an inauspicious, informal, private, selfish affair, like the celebration of pleasure that greets the first bite of a Snickers bar, and the satisfied moan that escapes one’s chocolate-mussed lips.