23 June, 2013

Always a Bridesmaid...

I’ve been a bridesmaid eight times over the last 15 years. EIGHT! Part of me wonders if someone stole that idea for that movie about all the dresses from me. And out of those eight times, guess how many of those people I still talk to? Three: My sister, my best friend (my second sister) and a friend who got married 6 months ago. Two people who are stuck with me and one person who hasn’t been married long enough for us to drift apart. But it will probably happen. Why? Because it always does. And this is how...

You have this fun single friend you’re pretty close to. You go out on weekends, you hang out a lot, you can chat on the phone for hours, it’s really great. But then she meets a guy. All of a sudden you stop seeing her. She’s not available to go out on the weekends because she’s out with the new boyfriend. Or they’re doing date nights with other couples. If you’re also in a relationship at the time it extends the friendship a bit because you can do things as couples (if the guys get along). Once in a blue moon she’ll want to do a “girls night out”, usually conveniently on a weekend when he’s out of town. But then they get engaged and start planning the wedding and her focus draws inward. She’s thinking about her and her fiancé, starting a new life together. Dresses and wedding locations and how many kids they’ll want to have. She doesn’t have time for her single friends because she’s too busy getting advice on florists from her married friends or looking at houses. So you talk less and less. But, because you’ve been such good friends for several years, you get asked to be a bridesmaid. And then it starts. The word “bridesmaid” is so apt because that is exactly what you become. A maid, a servant to the bride. You talk her down when she has a freak out because the groom-to-be won’t help her choose what color linens to use at the reception or because her mom and his mom are both trying to invite too many people. You get roped into helping with things like showers, bachelorettes and making wedding favors. You have to go with her when she tries on one gaudy poufy gown after another and bite your tongue when she exclaims about how gorgeous they are when all you can think about is she looks like a giant snowball with back fat rolls (not every woman looks good in a strapless gown, by the way). You are forced to shell out ridiculous sums of money for a horrible dress that looks awful on you (because every bridesmaid dress does) that you will never, ever wear again despite what the woman at the shop says about cutting it short and making it into a cocktail dress. If you’re less fortunate, you also have to buy matching shoes, special undergarments, jewelry, a new dress for the shower and one for the rehearsal dinner. And then there are the gifts. If a friend is getting married, you can expect to buy at least 3: something domestic for the shower (if there’s only one. Sometimes there are several!), a piece of lingerie for the bachelorette, and then something off their registry for the wedding. And don’t forget each gift requires a card and gift wrapping! So, while you’re doing more and more FOR her, you’re hanging out with her less and less and her interest in your life is reduced to things like “Can you get to the restaurant an hour early to help set up for the shower?” and “Are you bringing a date to the wedding?”

Then there’s the wedding. First you have to give up a Friday night for the rehearsal which you are told is going to be a “quick run through” but NEVER EVER IS. Someone (usually one of the groomsmen) is always late. And then the minister wants to make you all practice walking down the aisle over and over again, because apparently none of you has mastered walking yet. All this walking practice never makes an ounce of difference, though, because on the day of the wedding everyone just goes, 2 pew rule be damned! That’s followed by the very late dinner in which you have to make awkward small talk with the couple of bridesmaids you don’t know. Like the groom’s sister or some old college friend you have never met. Then there’s the actual day of the wedding, which usually starts with you paying way too much money for a really horrible hairdo at the bride’s favorite salon (“You look fantastic!” She coos “It could even be bigger!”) and then the rest of the day is waiting on the bride hand and foot until the moment she walks down the aisle. It’s trying to make her eat something even though she says she’s too nervous and blotting the sweat off her forehead so her makeup doesn’t smear. You answer her cell phone and act as liaison between her and the groom, you try to convince her to “make a try” before she gets into her dress and then hold her many layers of skirts for her when she has to go 10 minutes after putting it on. You keep a running checklist of all the things she needs to have on her: veil, grandmother’s ring, hanky, ceremony shoes, reception shoes, who has the rings, where are the flowers, does her mom have her corsage, did grandma get seated, does the flower girl need to make a try. You try to keep out of the way of the photographer taking the “bride getting ready” photos and make sure she’s ready to go at the appointed time, while trying to get ready yourself. And then you do your best to walk nicely down the aisle with some random guy you met less than 24 hours ago at a two pew distance and stand without fidgeting while looking pleasant and pleased for the couple. You smile and shake a million hands in the reception line. You dutifully dance with the groomsman who doesn’t want to dance with you, either. You stay clear of the bouquet when it’s tossed and do the electric slide even though every time you do it, you swear you will NEVER EVER DO IT AGAIN. You hug her and congratulate her and thank her for letting you be part of her special day.

And then you don’t hear from her for about a month. 

Eventually you get a thank you note. And then she’ll invite you to “catch up” for brunch or coffee so she can tell you all about her honeymoon or about the horrors of buying a new home and she’ll casually ask “What’s new with you? Are you seeing anyone?” before getting back to pictures of Italy. After that, you hear from her less and less. A month will go by. Then maybe two. She might have a housewarming party and invite you (mentioning her husband’s single friend you might want to meet who turns out to be a total creeper.) But, the distance keeps getting longer and longer between phone calls or visits. Eventually her husband gets a job in another city or you move away or she gets pregnant and you follow each other on Facebook for a while (“Your life looks so busy and fun!” she comments. “I wish I had time to go out like you do! But, with the baby on the way…”), but eventually even that stops. You no longer have anything in common. You are living two very different lives and her wedding wasn’t just the day she married the love of her life, but it’s also the party she’s throwing to say goodbye to your friendship because she doesn’t need you anymore. You were just a placeholder until someone better came along. 

And that's why I hate being a bridesmaid. It's just a really expensive, time consuming and painful way to lose a friend.

17 June, 2013

35 and Single

I find myself in a unique place: 35 and single.  I’ve never been married; I’ve never even lived with a guy.  I just got out of a relationship that didn’t even last a year.  It wasn’t a bad relationship.  It just wasn’t working.  And so now I ask myself, “How did I get here?”  Nobody starts their adult life thinking they’ll be single at 35, that they’ll be living alone with a cat in a one bedroom apartment, working a boring job they’d really like to get out of that doesn’t pay them nearly enough money.  Of course not.  We all think we’ll meet someone in college, get married in our mid-twenties and live happily ever after.  We may all have different versions of that same fantasy, but the bare bones are all the same.  So naïve.

So, how did I get here?  I wish I knew.  I have some ideas, like how I squandered my early 20’s dating a man who, when he proposed, I realized I could never marry.  I spent several years in love with a much older man who I would have happily married or just stayed with forever, but that ended very badly and I’m still hurting over it several years (and several men) later.  We all have heart break stories. I’m not the prettiest, smartest, most stable person ever but plenty of ugly, stupid and messed up people find love every day.  So why doesn’t it happen to me?  If I knew that, I wouldn’t be where I am. 

The thing is; I’m not miserable.  I’ve never been one of those girls who dream of a big white wedding.  I kind of hate weddings, actually. I’d rather sign a piece of paper and spend the money travelling. Or maybe never bother getting married anyway. That wouldn’t bother me, especially as marriage success rates are so abysmal.  And since I was 11, I’ve been saying (and meaning) that I never wanted to get pregnant. That if I decided to have a family, I’d want to adopt or be a foster parent.  So, there has never been that urgency to reproduce that other people seem to have.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore children. My nieces are highlights in my life.  But I’ve never had the desire to get pregnant and have my own.  I think more people have the same feelings as me than are willing to admit or realize (until it’s too late.) And it’s not like the planet needs more human beings.  I’m ok that I’m not married and that I haven’t reproduced.  But, I’m not completely happy that I’m alone. 

What really gets me, though, is how little society acknowledges or makes space for people like me.  Society is set up for the family unit. You are supposed to pair off and reproduce.  Kids eat free, fun for the whole family, family game night, etc., etc., etc. TV shows, movies, ads and commercials are all geared towards busy moms or hip single 20-somethings. Singletons fall through the cracks.  Society tells us there is something wrong with us. That we aren’t following the rules and they aren’t going to let us play until we do it right.  But it’s not that easy.  Single men in their later 30’s don’t fall into my lap on a daily basis. The older we get, the smaller the pool of eligible partners.  And then so many men are now divorced, maybe have kids, and there is so much more baggage we all carry around than when we were naïve and hormone-ridden 20 year olds.  And the older we get, the better we know ourselves, our wants and needs. It makes it harder to find someone who fits. 

And so I find myself here:  35, single, and willing to talk about it.