Love in a Time of Karaoke
Love is mandatory in Vietnam. While places like Vegas and Rio beckon you to the glitter of singledom, Da Nang is decidedly monogamous. Just ask any of the trillion couples camped out along the Da Nang promenade oblivious to the roar of scooters, children and dogs around them. Their love blinds them from remembering to look before they cross the street – or look before they walk straight into me. But I don’t mind being stopped in the name of love.
After all there is nothing quite so beautiful as love in a time of karaoke.
Which brings me to my first Vietnamese wedding. The happy couple are friends of my friend’s sister. We met once over a shot of tequila at a Catholic BBQ (who knew?). While back home it not might seem that one slice of lime and a bit of salt warrant a wedding invitation, it’s different here. Weddings are big affairs. Yes, America, even bigger than yours. There’s a whole section of the city dedicated solely to enormous wedding halls that are rocking day in and out. In Vietnam weddings don’t just happen on the weekend. They happen on Tuesday mornings, Thursday evenings or whichever day the Fortune Teller has foretold as being lucky. This one was a Thursday at six.
I couldn’t wait for my first wedding. If the tales were true, I was in for a two hour bonanza of karaoke, beer, and an elaborate engagement photo slideshow. I was ready to dance, sing and be generally obnoxious.
To help conceal my fish-out-of-water-ness, my very kind friend gave me a ao dai,the traditional Vietnamese dress and pants. These outfits are gorgeous! They are a perfect blend of sophisticated and sexy. Of course, that’s if you are an eighty pound Vietnamese woman with no hips. My well-meaning friend forgot that I am an enormous monster here. I finally managed to squeeze my way into the miniature ao dai only to discover I couldn’t move my arms (think: Randy from Christmas Story). Anyone else would have given up on the ridiculous looking lug in dainty clothing, but fortunately my friend has a kind heart. With only the smallest hint of a laugh she helped pull me out of the ao dai and discretely took it to the tailor so they could add an extra four meters of material. On the day of the wedding Ao Dai and I were ready to tango.
In I waddled…only to discover that the only other person wearing traditional clothingwas the mother of the bride. White, huge and inappropriately dressed. Great. Oh –but there was more to come! My friends had only one request of me…that I sing karaoke for the crowd. Why? I don’t know, but since they never ask anything of me I couldn’t say no. Fifteen minutes after arriving I was desperately trying to think of a song – any song – that I know the words to other than Jingle Bells. Normally my karaoke involves several shots of whiskey and some Ice, Ice Baby. Somehow this didn’t seem to suit a wedding. I finally landed on What a Wonderful World. Only problems were that a) I can’t sing b) the band didn’t know that song and c) I still couldn’t fully move my arms in that dress. Needless to say it was a disaster. Not even my friends pretended otherwise. They finally motioned for me to bow just to help me off the stage. But they still loved it. Everyone loved it. Her Hugeness crooning the wrong words to a song no one knew while the band tried to free form was surely the comic relief of the night.
Things could only go up from there…and they did. There were fireworks, glitter, renditions of Hotel California and Que Sera, Sera complete with all the 7 Up we could drink. Fast forward three hours and I was out on a sidewalk cafe with friends learning new Vietnamese words and making napkin hats with my friend’s five-year-old.
Bedtime is hot on the horizon for this stuffed singer, but to end on a high note let me say that love in Da Nang is a strange, confusing but wonderful thing.