The Inanimate Bride

bride and groom A Bargain Minister Denver

They drove from Nebraska to be married in our chapel and to my delight were wearing tennis shoes with their wedding apparel. It meant no shame in my sporting similar footwear.

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 named Micky called 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.

About every other day thereafter Micky called. At first, I welcomed the calls as a way of learning more about him. He’d seen the manikin, now named Heather, in a store window. It was love at first sight and he bought her. Now he wanted to spend some of his earnings as a dishwasher 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 the 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: Micky 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, Micky, 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 will 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 law by marrying gay and lesbian couples. 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 Micky’s who had referred him to me in the first place came along too, as she said, “See who this crackpot is 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 shall have it.”

Her speculation about Micky’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. Micky was neither old nor cantankerous but soft-spoken, polite, and smiling. I reckoned to him for about thirty. 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 Micky fetched Heather from inside, my eyes popped. She was a svelte brunette in a bright violet dress. Sunglasses added to her mystique. Silently I commended the groom’s taste.
We gathered under some pines, the bride and groom, the groom’s friend, his friend’s friend, and my girlfriend. Lots of friends. The bridesmaid stood against a tree. I loaned her my sunglasses for more consistency of costume.

“Who will speak for Heather?”

A pause. “I will,” said Micky.

“Good. Let’s begin. We’ve come together to join Micky and Heather in marriage. Marriage is that special bond we call a covenant. Covenant is a spiritual relationship in which the parties pledge their love, care, and responsibility for each other. Its demands are enormous, as are its rewards.” I looked at Micky and what I saw is among my favorite marriage memories. He was gazing at Heather with an expression of pure and profound delight. In no other bride or groom’s eyes have I ever see a look of such love. It grabbed me in the gut and made me feel part of something beautiful, a unique and unexpected blessing.

“Micky, do you take Heather for your wife, promise to love, cherish and protect her, keep her clothes clean and her exposed limbs dusted?”

“Yes.”

“Heather, do you take Micky for your husband, promise to be faithful to him, not speak unkindly to him or otherwise disrespect him?”

“She does.”

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 the magic words of union and an invitation to Micky to kiss the bride. He did so with great tenderness. She accepted the gesture with her characteristic cool.

When Micky went inside to get refreshments for the reception, I asked his friend to tell me more about him. Drugs, both illegal and prescribed, had done permanently affected his nervous system. Though by no means a physically unattractive man, he was not many women’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 rampant. Acquiring Heather was the best possible solution to his dilemma.

Micky returned with cake and orange juice. My friend toasted the newlyweds. I asked if they planned a honeymoon. Micky smiled. “We’re 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, Micky’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 a wonderful way to meet his challenge. It taught me a lesson about 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 Micky a “weirdo,” even “pervert.” In fact, he’s just a man with a psychological challenge, trying like the rest of us to have a richer, fuller life.

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