The Inanimate Bride
When a friend asked me if I’d do a friend of a friend of hers a favor and marry a man to a manikin, I thought it was a joke. “Give the groom-to-be my number. Maybe his sweetie has a sister and we can double date.” The next day a gravel voiced man we’ll call Mickey phoned and asked what I’d charge to do the deed. I quoted a figure I thought fair for the time and gas necessary to get to a mountain community some distance from Denver. He agreed, we set a date, and he sent me a check for the amount.
Almost every other day thereafter, Mickey called. At first I welcomed the calls as a way of learning more about him. He’d seen the manikin in a store window. It was love at first sight. He persuaded the storeowner to sell her to him, named her Heather, and now wanted to spend some of his earnings as a dish washer on consecrating the relationship through marriage. Although serious in his intent, he had a sense of humor about it. When I asked if Heather was equally eager for matrimony, he managed a laugh before replying in the affirmative.
Soon Mickey’s calls became a nuisance. His flat speech even more than his raspy voice made him sound old and cantankerous. He kept asking the same questions about my plans for the ceremony and told me how fiercely his mother, with whom he lived, opposed the marriage. “Does she have a prejudice against manikins?” I asked. Another meager laugh before, “I guess so.”
Then it struck me: Mickey thinks I don’t take this thing seriously and won’t show up. So I asked if that was his real concern. He admitted it was. “Look, Mickey, I made an agreement with you and will keep it. You have my professional word. And don’t think I’m not looking forward to this wedding. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. No way would I miss it.” The calls stopped.
Because the state does not recognize marriages between humans and anything but other humans, I got an unofficial certificate from the Church of World Peace, an organization that defied the then law by performing same sex ceremonies. On the way to the wedding I stopped at a manikin shop and borrowed a bridesmaid. The owner was honored that a piece of her merchandise would serve so important a role.
The friend of a friend of Mickey’s who had referred him to me in the first place came along to, as she said, “To see this crackpot groom and what you’re going to say.” My clerical collar amused her no end. She assumed I wore it ironically. “Not at all,” I said. “The man paid for a traditional marriage service, and he’ll have it.”
Her speculation about Mickey’s mind and Heather’s anatomy did not abate during the ride. But even she, a cynic of impeccable credentials, was amazed at what we met. Mickey was neither old nor cantankerous but polite and had an engaging smile. His sandy, straight hair was neatly combed. He wore heavy rimmed glasses and a gray suit He led us to the small cabin he shared with his mother, who had absented herself for the day.
When Mickey fetched Heather from inside, my eyes popped. She was a svelte brunette in a bright violet dress. Sunglasses added to her mystique. Mickey’s infatuation became instantly understandable.
We gathered under some pines. The groom held the bride while the
bridesmaid leaned against a tree. I loaned her my sunglasses for more consistency of costume.
“Who will speak for Heather?”
A pause. “I will.” said Mickey.
“Good. Let’s begin. We’ve come together to join Mickey and Heather in marriage. Marriage is that special bond we call a covenant. Covenant is a very spiritual relationship in which the parties pledge their their love, care and responsibility for each other. Its demands are enormous, as are its rewards.” I looked at Mickey and what I saw is among my favorite wedding memories. He was gazing at her with an expression of pure and profound delight. In no other bride or groom’s eyes had I seen a look of such love. It grabbed me in the gut and made me feel part of something beautiful, a unique and unexpected blessing.
“Mickey, do you take Heather for your wife, promise to love, cherish and protect her, keep her clothes clean and her exposed limbs dusted?”
“Heather, do you take Mickey for your husband, promise to be faithful to him, not speak unkindly to him or otherwise disrespect him?”
I said a brief prayer of thanks for God’s having brought us together on a sunny Colorado day and asked Him to help the couple keep their vows. Then I spoke the magic words of union and invited Mickey to kiss the bride. He did so with great tenderness. She accepted the gesture with her characteristic cool.
When Mickey went inside to get the cake and orange juice for the reception, I asked his friend to tell me more about him. Drugs, both illegal and prescribed, had done permanent damage to his nervous system. Though by no means a physically unattractive man, he was not a woman’s idea of a scintillating date. In frustration he’d turned to prostitutes. This means of release taxed his income and threatened his health, especially with Aids. Acquiring Heather was the best possible solution to his dilemma.
When Mickey returned with the refreshments, the lady who’d accompanied me toasted the newlyweds. I asked if they planned a honeymoon. Mickey smiled. “Were going to rent some videos and go to a motel.”
Driving home I reflected on what we’d seen. Love transcends species. No one doubts the deep bonds people have with animals. If love crosses the boundaries that divide species, who says it can’t extend to objects, especially if the objects are representations of humans? Is love less real for not being reciprocal? And if rocks can talk, as some naturalists assert, maybe a manikin communicates at some level.
Whatever the case, Mickey’s adoration of Heather was undeniable, even if it proves transient. In granting his wish for a wedding, we’d been witnesses to something magnificent, if only the way a handicapped man found an unusual way to meet his romantic needs. It taught me a lesson in tolerance. No one would think of disparaging someone with a physical or developmental challenge. Yet people to whom I’ve told the story have called Mickey a “weirdo,” even “pervert.” In fact, he’s just a man with a personal challenge, trying like the rest of us to have a richer, fuller life. I felt blessed to have helped him on that pat