by Juli Weiner
From time to time, Juli Weiner will review pranks and their aftermaths. We begin, as all good things should, with an introduction.
My sophomore year of college, winter break was thirty-one days long. The first part of the break I went on a trip, but from the end of December to the end-of-the-middle of January, I had exactly zero plans, goals or tasks for my time in suburban Philadelphia. While I was on vacation, my friends Dan and Asa returned from their own schools. By the time I got back, they had both already received citations for public urination. They too were very bored. We realized though that their arrests would probably have made the police blotter in the local paper, the Ambler Gazette. Eventually, we found a copy of the paper in my parents’ recycling bin. Our scheme was to cut out the blurb, sneak into our high school, and tack it on the bulletin board reserved for clippings of alums and students in the news. The point being, our graduating class had been, to date, extravagantly undistinguished. The only students and alums ever “in the news” were the ones who sent in their wedding announcements. Which, come to think of it, would be a much funnier thing to have in the paper or on the bulletin board than a citation for public urination.
We decided that it would be Dan and I who would pretend to be engaged. We figured the thing would have a better shot of getting published if it were a straight wedding, and the paper wouldn’t be basically required to accept Dan and Asa’s gay engagement announcement because to reject it would be a hate crime. We went to the Gazette’s website and filled out some form that asked for our schools, ages, parents’ names. We weren’t able to come to a consensus about whether it would be funnier to supply actual facts or realistic-seeming lies, so we just put down both. “His education: Graduated from Upper Dublin High School in 2006, will receive a B.F.A. in studio art with a concentration in ceramics from New York University in 2010.” (True, false, false, true!) For “his employment (company, location and title or position)” we put: “He had sold a number of clay pieces in New York City to private buyers and is hoping to one day be signed to a gallery.” (False, false, false!) For the photo, Asa’s mom volunteered to let me wear her wedding ring and let Dan borrow her hairbrush.
Away we sent it. Our expectations were low, due to this stern policy:
Montgomery Newspapers reserves the right to edit announcements according to our style. All announcements will be confirmed by phone. Please expect our call. Thank you.
Well, this was the most outlandish lie on the entire form. No one called anyone to confirm anything, or even wrote back to let us know that they received our materials.
And so two weeks later, it appeared.
We did not anticipate a number of things: one, the comical effect of the juxtaposition of our fake engagement announcement next to some couple’s actual wedding announcement-”no but like… those people are like actually getting married!”-and two, the demographics and size of a smalltown weekly paper’s readership.
I received a flurry of Facebook friend requests over the course of that week. (Apparently, you become more friend-worthy when you are engaged.) I eventually changed my default photo to the the words “NO, WE’RE NOT. IT’S A JOKE.”
The afternoon the paper was delivered, people that my parents had not spoken to in years called to offer their curious congratulations. My mom had to explain to her friends, their friends, the parents of my friends, and some of my friends-who were too nervous to ask me, in case it turned out to be true-that I was not pregnant. Some nurses at the hospital where my dad worked chipped in and bought him a gift basket and flowers and taped cards to his locker in the operating room. Another of his colleagues told him that she was excited that “our daughters are getting married the same day.”
My parents weren’t even that mad, really, they just forbid us all from carrying out what we decided would be part two of The Plan: to try to submit a wedding announcement every week but with various combinations of me, Dan and Asa until someone at the Gazette finally noticed. And then we went back to college.
Juli Weiner is an editor at Wonkette.