SUMMER LAMENT, OR THE DELLA FEMINA CURSE

Jerry’s Ink

Jerry Della Femina posts this essay on Facebook every year. He keeps posting it because he keeps finding offenders.

Jerry Della Femina (born 1936) is an American advertising executive and restaurateur. Starting from a poor Italian background in Brooklyn, he eventually became chairman of Della Femina Travisano & Partners, an agency which he founded with Ron Travisano in the 1960s. Over the next two decades they grew the company into a major advertising house that was billing $250 million per year and had 300 employees and offices in both New York and Los Angeles. Della Femina is known for his larger-than-life personality and colorful language, and was referred to as a “‘Madman’ of Madison Avenue”. In 1970, he wrote a book about the advertising industry, humorously titled, From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front-Line Dispatches from the Advertising War. The book became a best-seller, described by The Guardian as “one of the defining books about advertising”, and eventually inspired the television series Mad Men.

The side of Jerry everyone knows best.

By Jerry Della Femina

I publish this column every year as a public service to make sure your friends and relatives will think twice before they send you an invitation that will screw you out of a precious summer weekend.

I ask this question every year.

Why do they do it? Why do our friends and relatives destroy the summer for us? Why can’t they get married in February? Why do they choose the middle of summer to have birthdays, anniversaries, Bar Mitzvahs, family, college, high school and even nursery school reunions.

That’s not all. Frankly, some of them are thoughtless enough to die in June, July and August, and there goes another summer weekend.

I promise that if it’s possible, when it’s time for me to go, I will go on life support until some rainy Friday morning in January so that my mourners can bury me early in the morning and still enjoy a three-day weekend. That’s the kind of generous guy I am.

Now I know you’re wondering what I’m ranting about, since you’re on top of the world because it looks like another endless summer ahead. Let’s just see how endless it really is.

Memorial Day has come and gone.

The 4th of July is only 34 days away. Then you blink and it’s Labor Day. That’s why every day of summer is so precious to us.

If you work Monday to Friday like me, that leaves you with around 14 summer Saturdays and Sundays, plus three (make that two) long holiday weekends.

So from the minute you’re reading this, summer weekends are a total of about 30 days.

Now you know that at least 9 or 10 of these days will be cold, rainy days where no matter how hard you try to avoid it you’ll end up arguing with your spouse.

All a man has to say is, “No, I don’t think it’s romantic to freeze my behind off walking in the rain on the beach. Why don’t we stay in bed and fool around?” and that’s when the pouting starts.

So write off 10 miserable days to weather and you’re left with around 20 days.

Sound like a lot?

I bet everyone reading this already has one lost weekend coming up when your Aunt Matilda is celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary and she and your Uncle Benny would be broken-hearted if you don’t show up on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to their house in Brooklyn or the Bronx or Westchester or wherever the hell they live.

So, now you’re down to 19 days. If you’re young enough to have children, that means you’re stuck with a trip to some summer camp with an Indian…er…er…Native American name in Maine or Massachusetts, in the middle of what always turns out to be the sunniest, most beautiful weather weekend of the summer.

This is where you are sentenced to spend the weekend admiring neatly made bunk beds and ceramic ashtrays (which in these politically correct days are called candy dishes). Show me a camp that is wise enough to schedule parents’ visiting days on a Monday and Tuesday and I will show you a camp that deserves the exorbitant amount of money they get to guard your kids for the summer. An amount of money, I might add, that is more than it took, a few short years ago, to cover the tuition that would get a child through four years of an Ivy League college.

If your children are grown it’s even worse. They have children and all their children are having birthday parties in town in July, where you will find yourself overcome by heat while you’re surrounded by 20 sticky five-year-olds playing musical chairs.

What frosts me is the weather. Did you ever notice that every one of the weekends you have to go to a family event is beautiful? The sun is shining. The sky is blue. And you are stuck in some disgusting catering hall, or, worse, drinking warm white wine out of a plastic cup in some relative’s backyard in White Plains.

Which brings me to summer weddings in New York City. They must be banned.

There are some facts that people who drag their friends away from the beach for their wedding must be made aware of. Jerry Seinfeld, an East Hampton resident, had a message for all the newly engaged couples: “Nobody wants to go to your wedding! We are not excited like you are.” Mr. Seinfeld is so so right. The only people who must attend a summer wedding are the bride and groom, their respective parents, the best man and the maid of honor and maybe a priest or a rabbi. All the other guests are hostages who may be smiling but inside they are seething because they have had one of their precious summer weekends screwed up.

I remind every dewy-eyed couple in my family that in the summer it’s bad luck to get married any place west of Westhampton. I remind them of the famous Della Femina curse, which is still going strong. I have, in my life, attended four weddings that took place on a summer holiday weekend (three Memorial Day, one Labor Day) and must report, in all honesty, only one of these couples is still married.

Pass the word – the marriages of people who screw up my holiday weekends are doomed.

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