Over the weekend, Tipping Point and Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell revealed himself to be a terrible wedding guest. Or at least, a very bad choice to have speak at your rehearsal dinner. His tale, published in The Guardian, is an excerpt from The Moth: This Is A True Story. As The Moth is a radio show and Gladwell uses “this” more than anyone would outside an eighth grade classroom or fishing trip tale, the story is pretty clearly something he usually reads aloud, probably with gestures. And maybe it’s funnier that way! Because, as it reads, it’s a pretty awful story of socially embarrassing your best friend for, I dunno, dating someone other than the person he will eventually marry?
The plot involves Gladwell’s best friend from college, Craig (as I’m sure his real name is not), who had the gall to marry a woman named Leigh, who Gladwell and pals were not fans of. Craig had a habit of nick-naming people in sing-songy Suessian fashion that Gladwell found deeply hilarious in college. Felicity Smith, a busybody, became “Falickity Split.” Kai Carmody, a serious dude, became “High Comedy.” Also, Craig liked singing, which would come back to haunt him on the happiest day of his life. Craig became engaged to Leigh, who had the gall to be rich, American, and assertive. The punishment: Puerile pranks on her wedding day.
We said, “Well, our song will be sung to that.” And we started to sing. [Singing.]
And now, the time has come for us to toast the boy from Barrie. He lived a life that’s true and swore that he would never marry. But then, he met a girl who set him straight he couldn’t run away. So Craig, he tied the knot. He did it his way.
And after we finish the first verse, I look over at Leigh, and she has that same look on her face that she had before, and I can tell she knows what’s coming. She knows enough about Craig, and, more importantly, about us, to know that this will not end well. And were I a savvier or a smarter person, I would have just cut it off then. But I couldn’t. Because we were in mid-song.
[Singing.] Girlfriends he’s had a few, in fact a lot, the list is endless. But Leigh is a woman that’s true. She set him straight and now he’s friendless. He met her mom and dad, who planned his wedding along the freeway. So Craig, he tied the knot. He did it their way.
And then I look across at Leigh, and I see that she’s standing up, and then she grabs Craig by the hand, and she pulls him up, and I realise to my horror that they’re leaving their own wedding reception. And as they walk towards the door, he looks back at me. And the look in his eyes is a mixture of pain and confusion and betrayal. It’s one of the most painful moments of my life. And it’s also the last time I ever laid eyes on Craig.
Gladwell did not spend 10,000 hours rehearsing this wedding speech, is what I’m saying. The moral here is that only Weird Al should be allowed to do parody songs, and that weddings are not ideal platforms for you to debut your adaptation of “My Way.” Oh, and also? Don’t invite Malcolm Gladwell to your wedding.
Follow Margaret Eby on Twitter @margareteby.