This is the song that was playing over the theater’s sound system just before I walked down the aisle at my wedding – completely by accident. I remember standing in the back of the Forum,looking at the stage, as my sisters arranged my dress’s train. I had been feeling very calm and determined, with a “Let’s get this show started” sense – the same purpose and certainty about the part i was to play that I’d felt before walking onto the stage in any successful production I’ve been in.
Then “Touched by the Hand of God” began to play. New Order had been my favorite band since the day I’d first hear “Power, Corruption and Lies” on a tape deck in Adam’s room when I crashed with Jamie back when I was becoming a broker. All through the ’80s, New Order was my touchstone. They still weren’t well-known here in the States, so I would always be excited when I heard them on MTV, or find them on a jukebox, or in the DJ’s box of singles at a wedding. I listened to them continuously during the period when Jack and I broke up; they kept me upbeat with their music, and their depressed and slightly cynical lyrics matched my mood. Joy Division was the choice of the *truly* indie and hip, but i couldn’t listen much to them, because I was actually clinically depressed, and Joy Division made it worse. (Ian Curtis’s suicide was the warning sign on the door of the room that was their oeuvre: “Danger! Fatal if swallowed when under the influence of depression.”
New Order took the same lyrics and embedded them in a far more danceable beat and up-beat sounds. Their first single, “Ceremony” was actually a remake of a song written by Curtis. When you compare the two, you see the difference. It appeared to me that Sumner, Hook and Morris had the same intellectual insights and attitudes about the difficulties of living and finding love in the modern Anglo-American world that I and Curtis and millions of other did. However, they also had a strong will to live in spite of all the misery. It was exemplified by the desire to dance and feel the joy of the moving body. Since I share that basic impulse of never, truly at the bottom of everything, never giving up, I found that combination to match my own experience identically. For me, their music was a lifesaver many nights. I remember listening to “Shellshock” over and over: “Hold on! It’s never enough – it’s never enough until your heart stops beating. . Don’t give up the game until your heart stops beating.” It’s impossible to kill yourself when you’re dancing.
When George and I began hanging out with the crew from the Frog and The Peach – a lot of them gay and in their early 20s, thus at least five tears younger than I. (When I was in my 20s, age differences seemed much larger than they do now.) There was a lot of what was called “alternative music. A party at James’ house was the first time I heard “Meat Is Murder” by the Smiths, for instance. I actually would brings new music by New Order to the events, since I was the greatest devotee of the band that you could find outside of Manchester – well, at least in NJ, it seemed. There was “Brotherhood” and Low-Life.”
Then, when Jack and I started up again, “Bizarre Love Triangle” seemed especially apt. “Every time I see you falling, I get down on my knees and pray…” The videofor it was by the artist Robert Longo, and showed clips of besuited yuppies falling out of a clear blue sky, twisting against gravity. It became the song we always requested at parties, and would always get up to dance to… but to me, it also spoke of the “falling” that happened as one capitulated not only to love, but to the exigencies of life.
“Touched By the Hand of God” was the song that accompanied me throughout the entire engagement, through all the long hours working, all the plans and work for a wedding that I could actually afford, and yet make memorable. The lyric “I’d never looked at you in a sexual way in my life before…” always made me think of that moment in 1980 when I watched Jack – playing pinball back when it was a full-contact sport, using body English – and suddenly felt a surge of desire for him. It was shocking. because I’d known him for at least three years, and had actually categorized him as “not my physical type.” That moment of recognition – and then the moment when I decided to accept it – had always struck me as fateful.
I stood there in my wedding dress – the heavy silk satin with its own story – and looked down the red carpeted aisle, past all the movie-seat rows filled with our guests. I saw the baskets of beautiful home grown bouquets of various colors, the helium-filled balloons in gold and crimson and a translucent pearl tiede to the backs of the chairs. I saw the Unitarian Reverand, standing next to Jack in his tuxedo, and Kevin, his best man. The snes of calm remaniend, but sudeenly I realized that this moment was not one that I could control. It hadn’t happened because I had willed it, or planned it, or worked for it. It had happened because I was acting out an intention that came not from me or from Jack, but from that higher power I identified as God. God had touched me, saying “This step is the way that you have the experiences I desire, for you and for Myself.”
“I was touched by the hand of God … I never knew it, but of course I was.”
It still gives me the same chills it did then – 23 years later.
When I’m really angry or frustrated being married, I play this song, and remember why I made the choice. It helps put all the daily shit into perspective.