Off the Clock: What happens in Vegas

You know that saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Well, that’s wrong. Sometimes, you drag what happens in Vegas home and try to live with it, even though you and what happened are almost complete strangers.

Never a slave to tradition, last week I updated my Facebook timeline with the Life Event “Got Married” and walked away. Almost instantly, a whole mess of people commented and messaged “WHAT?”

It’s true, I got married. And, while it might have come as quite a surprise to friends and family, it seems perfectly rational and, perhaps, even expected to me.

My husband (yes, it still feels strange to say that) and I had dated, and even been engaged, two years ago. After a series of ups and downs that would make even the most ardent roller coaster aficionado cry “uncle,” and a case of arctic feet (I won’t say whose, but I will admit to buying several dozen pairs of socks since then), we went our separate ways for a year. Only recently did we get back together in a completely Lifetime Movie-like plot twist that probably everyone saw coming but us. So we decide to get hitched, once and for all.

While impetuousness was not a factor in this trip down the aisle, I do have one of those stories. It takes place, of course, in Las Vegas.

I was 27 and a year and a half beyond my divorce from the father of my children. I felt untethered. Having been married since I was a teenager essentially condemned me to only knowing two ways of inhabiting the world: child and wife.

I was dating a very good-hearted but strange man. The goodness was inside, and I definitely saw and felt it, but the strangeness was hanging out there in front of God and everybody, and he didn’t make friends easily. Let’s just say that if he were a character in a movie you’d guess that he was the murderer, pretty much from in the first minute that he was on the screen.

But I liked him, and when he suggested we drive to Las Vegas, just five hours away from our hometown of San Diego, and get married one long weekend, I was surprised but couldn’t think of a good reason why not so I said “yes.”

If you’ve never been, you probably don’t know, but there’s very little between the bright lights, big city of Vegas and the next closest town. What this means is that, except for signs assuring you that you are headed in the right direction, life is scarce between the West Coast and the land of legal prostitution and slot machines. Just when you think “this can’t possibly be right, surely we got turned around somewhere” because you are passing your one billionth tumbleweed, the billboards for Cirque du Soleil start popping up. Then the city rises up out of the dunes like a really, really well lit mirage.

Late Friday night, we drove right into that glowing mirage, which will burn your retinas if you’re not cautious, and settled into our hotel, which just happened to have a theme, like all good Vegas accommodations.

Now, it’s not important where we stayed, but it was very large and triangular. Maybe even pyramidial.1 We saw the sights of the Strip by foot, because you’d have to be mad to ever take your car out of the parking garage in Vegas, and had a lovely buffet dinner, because duh. We sometimes held hands, but mostly didn’t, because we weren’t really like that. It only crossed my mind once or twice that I had agreed to marry this man the next day.

Saturday came and getting married still didn’t seem like a terrible idea, so we went and did it. Again, it’s not important where it happened, but it was shaped like a giant castle and had a medieval theme. We had our wedding dinner while watching a jousting match.

We were dressed in garments so fancy that they didn’t need things like different sizes or dry cleaners. The heavy, musty robes were wrapped around us and belted using what looked like curtain ties, complete with fringe-y tassels on the end. Shiny plastic gold crowns were then placed on our heads, and we were told they were ours to take home. The ceremony was like all others, save for the man dressed like royalty who was performing it, and was over before I knew it. Just before the “I now pronounce you husband and wife” kiss, I looked at my intended, in his drapery and Burger King-esque headwear, and suddenly felt sad.

When we were finished, I tried to smile. He seemed really happy, but I was overcome with immediate regret. We saw some more of the city, slept in the giant pyramid, then went home a day early. The ride back to San Diego was extremely quiet.

When we got home, my new husband moved in with me and my kids, but we only stayed in that living situation for about six weeks. Once we’d settled in, it didn’t take long for him, too, to figure out that it was a mistake. We split up, and a few months later I received divorce papers in the mail. I signed them and mailed them back. I’ve never heard from him again.

I don’t regret my short-lived Vegas marriage. In fact, I highly recommend everyone try it, just once. After all, life is short, and you only get so many chances to be photographed in a curtain and a plastic crown. Besides, it makes for a great story.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. I think I just made that up. What’s the word for pyramid-shaped? “Pyramid-shaped”? Well, that makes sense. 


Photo by: BuzzFarmers

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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