Jewish Journal


July 11, 2002

Going in Circles


Glenn and Sharon on their wedding day.

Glenn and Sharon on their wedding day.

When Glenn discovered that I knew all the lyrics to the "Love, Sidney" television theme song that fateful night at Buca di Beppo in May 1998, I think he knew I was the one. I knew it when he quoted dialogue from the Menudo episode of "Silver Spoons." What can I say? We're victims of the early '80s TV generation. From our East-Coast-Jewish-overnight-camp-teen-tour-backgrounds to our love for ice cream and art house movies, I simply adored everything about this man.

But Glenn was a true extrovert, while I was quiet in large groups and a basket case when it came to speaking, presenting, performing or even eating in front of a crowd.

So while planning our May 2001 nuptials, I got into a panic about circling, the tradition where the bride walks around the groom seven times in a Jewish wedding ceremony. Traditionally, circling symbolizes the creation of the new life the bride and groom will share. To me, it symbolized a perfect opportunity for me to fall, faint or throw up in front of 200 people.

My circling panic took over to the point that my neighbors, my acupuncturist, my yoga teacher and even strangers who asked to see my engagement ring got an earful about the sheer terror I associated with this small ceremonial custom. After we attended a friend's wedding in Orange County, Glenn's concern about our big day focused on whether the band would sing the correct lyrics to "Hava Negila" (there was a lot of "la-la-la-ing" by the entertainment provided at my pal's affair). Meanwhile, I couldn't help but think how my wedding would be like the ultimate oral report. Bigger than my bat mitzvah. More major than my four years of Spanish oral reports in high school. Scarier than those unbearable practice pitch sessions we did in my college screenwriting program.

On the other hand, I felt obligated to circle because I knew it was important to Glenn. Unlike me, he'd grown up Conservative and was hopeful about continuing many of the Jewish customs. After I practiced circling with my mom during a fitting in the bridal shop, did creative visualization with my yoga teacher and endured a zillion tiny needles courtesy of my new acupuncturist, my fear approached a new, deeper level. I invented specific details: My dress was tight and I might pass out during the circling; my shoes had little heels and I might trip over Glenn; I was told to do the "breath of fire" breathing exercise before the ceremony and I might hyperventilate my way down the aisle; I could get dizzy and faint during my seven laps; I might develop spontaneous blindness and circle the rabbi by mistake. As I began to count down the days until C-day, my anxiety stayed with me like a clingy friend you just can't dump.

One day, our wedding preparations led us to Crate & Barrel, where Glenn and I faced off with a series of dinner plates. Glenn wanted to have a kosher kitchen, something a bit foreign to me, but I was willing to do it. As I struggled to come up with a mnemonic device to remind myself that the yellow plates would be for our dairy foods and the blue for meat, I suddenly understood my true sense of commitment to my groom-to-be. Together we held a yellow plate in front of us and I stared at our reflection. I liked this couple. I liked me in this couple. While keeping kosher wasn't something I'd choose on my own, it was a small concession to make for a charming man who'd gone on cabin raids and watched in awe as other kids paired off while "Heaven" by Bryan Adams played at the camp dance.

Our ceremony, while beautiful and traditional, was merely symbolic. The reality would be the actual day-to-day marriage -- our lives together.

My wedding wasn't about performing for the masses. It was about promising myself to my new groom. Even if I didn't circle, I knew that my commitment was there.

I opted not to circle, but I did divvy out the Seven Blessings among our siblings, choose a ketubah and managed to read a prayer at our auf ruf before the wedding. OK, so I was a wreck until the last minute -- what could I do? As we were lining up for the ceremony, I looked over at Glenn, who was busy straightening his tie. A wave of confidence came over me as I approached the aisle. I turned to my parents, who were on both sides of me. I nodded, "Let's go."

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