A Pre-Wedding Exchange
This essay is a part of unMUTE, a collection of pieces written by participants in the 2020 Design Writing and Research Summer Intensive Online.
Scene: A young couple sitting in their living room.
Sam: It looks like I’ll be taking shifts in the ICU starting next week. Things are looking pretty serious.
John: I’m sorry, honey. Please be careful and stay safe.
Sam: I will. Thanks. It looks like we will have to reschedule the big day as well. I mean, when do you think it’s going to happen if we can’t have it next month?
John: I don’t know. It’s hard to predict.
Sam: It’s just . . . that . . . I’ve been planning this for over a year. We’ve been waiting seven years for this day.
John: I know. I’ve been counting down the days.
Sam: It’s going to be one of the most important days of our lives.
John: It will still happen. We’ll just have to be patient.
Sam: I’ll need to talk to the venue, the vendors, the photographer, and everyone else involved.
John: I know you’re worried, but I’m sure they’ll understand and let us reschedule.
Sam: Maybe, but what about everyone else? They’ll have to reschedule their travel plans.
John: They’ll understand as well.
Sam: What about our honeymoon? I already took off work for that whole week.
John: We’ll reschedule. What if we just have a smaller gathering instead of postponing?
Sam: That’s easy for you to say. Most of your family is already in town. My parents are coming in from out of town. My sister, brother, and the maid of honor all need to fly in too. My relatives overseas might not even be able to enter the country by then.
John: Right . . . We could consider using Zoom . . .
Sam: Yeah, no. I don’t want to look back at our wedding and remember it as boxes on a screen.
John: You’re right. Plus, I want your family here with us too.
Sam: (long pause) I think we just have to admit that now is not the best timing for a wedding.
John: Okay, fine. (hesitantly) Let’s just wait longer . . . and postpone it.
Sam: Okay . . .? I’ll email the guests tomorrow.
unMUTE Group Statement
Take a moment to think about how strange a video chat is. You can see and hear someone, but all the nuance of body language is lost—flattened into two dimensions and reduced in resolution. Conversation starts and stops, unaided by technology cuts and lags. How do you even know when someone is about to speak?
Now take that single moment of video chat and multiply it by sixteen, each tiny square on the screen filled by a student hoping to mentally escape the 2020 pandemic.. Norms need to be created so that everyone feels comfortable contributing, and group dynamics have to be explicitly established so no ideas or experiences—indicated sometimes by only the slightest wave—go unshared.
On the surface, a large group video conversation seems unwieldy. It morphs into something entirely new when the meeting happens every weekday for two weeks, pressurized by rapid-fire lectures, readings, and assignments. It’s hard to imagine, but what if—in the midst of a global health crisis and nationwide protests over racial inequality—those sixteen people created bonds so deep and discovered things about themselves so profound that they left the meeting changed? What if they wrote prose so revealing you stole a glimpse into who they are?
If you’re curious, please unMUTE.