Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Auntie Seraphic & Birthday Girl

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 29. I am feeling very depressed about approaching 30. I would not mind being 30 at all if I was married with children. Recently a 6 year old told me I was older than her mum.

I will be attending the wedding of a friend who is 24. Another girl I know is getting married this spring to her boyfriend of 5 years. She is 22.

Please pray for me, Auntie Seraphic. It is so terribly hard to be single right now. Also, any tips on how to get through the wedding(s)?

Birthday Girl

Dear Birthday Girl,

How I wish I were 29, with skin as clear and luminous as that of a South Sea pearl. Alas! But I feel your pain because I have often thought that I would be depressed on my 40th birthday if I had no husband or children. I now have the husband, but no children, and next year I turn 39, so eek!

Now, my poppet, I was 37 when I met B.A. Thirty-seven. And I got married at 38. Thirty-eight. And on my wedding day, I was not thinking, "Boo hoo, I am old." When I wasn't thinking "oh my God--it's not just raining, it's HAILING and if my dress gets wet/dirty I will DIE," I was thinking "Yay! Yay! Yippee!" It was a day worth waiting for.

You should also know that I went through a "form of marriage" at 25 and then suffered a yucky divorce, a yucky annulment and years of therapy that cost mucho dineros. It is better to be Single, 29 and hoping than Married, 26 and in despair. Trust that God knows better than you do what is good for you. It could be marriage to Mr. Perfect when you are 50, for all you know right now.

Ignore the six year old. Believe it or not, having children in one's early twenties is not an unalloyed delight. A conscientious Young Mum gives up career opportunities, travel, wild nights out with the girls, sleeping in--you name it. Of course, there are Young Mums who keep on partying like they have no children. They feature largely in the British newspapers, especially when their babies end up dead.

I can't remember if I had a boyfriend on my 29th birthday. But I definitely did not have a boyfriend on my 30th birthday. And what I did for my 30th birthday was this: I called up a ton of friends and reserved a big table at the BEST Chinese restaurant in town. After our magnificent feast, we all went back to my tiny apartment and ate cake and drank champagne and took photographs. I put the photographs in an album along with my birthday cards, and treasure them all to this day. My birthday ROCKED. And my brother was so inspired by my rocking 30th birthday party, that he did something similar to prevent his own I'm-30-and-not-married depression.

Culturally-scary birthdays like 25, 30, 35 and 40 are the birthdays in which a woman splashes out and makes sure that she, at very least, treats herself like a princess. If 29 is a scary birthday, then I suggest you spend today making sure that tomorrow totally rocks. Here is a possible banner: "First Time Twenty-Nine". Book an impractical and enjoyable appointment at a beauty salon. Book a table at a restaurant. Line up a club or a film to go to afterwards.

Now weddings. Wedding suck when you are Single, this is true. You know there is no law saying you have to go to them, right? But if you have to for the sake of family harmony or friendship, there are things you can do to survive and even have fun:

1. You sit with friends (this includes well-beloved family members). No friends there? Don't go. Send a gift instead.

2. You look like a MILLION dollars. Hairdresser. Cute dress. Lipgloss.

3. You remember that this is your friend's big day; it is not about you. Be a considerate guest. If you have to fake happy, fake happy!

4. You begin conversations with strangers at the reception according to the rules I laid out. You are going to look like a million dollars, so whoever it is will want to talk to you.

5. Do not get tipsy unless you are having a GREAT time. Alcohol is a depressant, after all.

6. You leave the reception as soon as you politely can, going with a friend or in your car (or if tipsy in a cab) because busses are so depressing.

7. You have a big treat waiting for you at home, like a DVD of a comedy you really want to see.

Now I hope all this is helpful. Birthdays are for celebrating.

Grace and peace,

P.S. You might notice that I mention my age all the time in my blogs. It is my rebellion against the stupid (but, in the West, age old) cultural prejudice that being over 30, as a woman, is a mortal sin. And I want to rub it in well to all that it is okay not to be married before 35. It is okay.


healthily sanguine said...

Wow. You are great! :)

B said...

The other thing that helps with surviving weddings (besides wearing a killer dress) is bringing a date, even if your date is Just A Friend, or your favorite sister. Having someone to chat with, whisper snarky comments to during the toasts, and a guaranteed dance partner can make things magically bearable, if not lovely.

Amy said...

"...having children in one's early twenties is not an unalloyed delight."

I always thought I would have many children, beginning early. (After all, my mom had me at age 20, and don't daughters do what their mothers did?) Anyway, when I get blue about being nearly 40, single and childless, I remind myself that all the personal growth I've done over the past 20 years will benefit any children I may be blessed to have. I will be a better mom at 40ish than I would have been at 20 or 30 or whatever. I think most moms agree (I especially hear this from moms of large families) that their children born later in life have the benefit of their parents' wisdom...wisdom resulting from mistakes made with older children, perhaps, but also from basic life experience. No, you don't have the energy to chase after your kids as much, but you also don't have the energy to control their every move and force them to be what you want instead of what God wants (something that younger parents seem to be prone to).
I have people in my life who insist that we Catholics have a duty to populate the world with large families and that I am living a second-rate life because I am single. In my case, had I married prior to this it would have been to the wrong person, and that would not have done children (or me) any good whatsoever. I am not living the script I would have written for my life, but it's the script I've been given, and so I'm going to rejoice in the benefits to the situation. And I'm trusting that regardless of what others say, God's plan for me is better than their plan for me or my plan for me. Like you, Seraphic, I'll wait and hope for the right situation.

Dominic Mary said...

Dear Seraphic;

as ever, wonderful advice !

At the same time, you don't need to 'eek !' about your forthcoming 39th; your own advice is GOOD !

Birthday Girl;

listen to Seraphic; she knows !

It doesn't matter how old you are when the right man comes along; what is important is that you're free when he does.

(And remember; God ALWAYS answers prayers - just not always in the way we expect !)

Seraphic said...

Thanks for all praise, comments and additions, poppets!

B-- I must sail in and differ on one point: no snarky comments! It's their SPECIAL DAY! Snarky can = bitter. (If the speech is really horrid/inappropriate/boring/long, a meaningful glance at a buddy is okay.) And please, noooo bitterness at a wedding. Bad guest! Bad! If uncontrollable bitterness creeps, it's time to go home.

And remember that not all wedding invitations have a plus-one. Mine didn't. Mine were DRACONIAN. (I didn't even invite "boyfriends of". Only "spouses of".) If you are specifically invited to bring a plus-one, then that's great great. But if not....always remember that you can say No to most wedding invitations and, if you need to sweeten your No, to send a gift in your place.

Seraphic said...

Oh, and Amy, these people who think a Catholic's job is to populate the earth are out of touch with the last 2000 years of Catholic theology. Augustine would argue that, now that the Christ child has been born, it is now more important to have spiritual children than to give birth to dozens of physical children. Augustine or some other pro-life-long-virginity person thought that the prinicipal reason for marriage was to create more virgins.

According to traditon, voluntary virginity (rape doesn't take it away) is ontologically superior to marriage, although martyrdom trumps even that!

This whole idea that the married life is the BEST STATE IN LIFE for Catholics is new, novel, innovative and hmmm....

Kate P said...

Wow, the "treat" suggestion is a great one, Seraphic!!! I like it a lot. That may have to get applied to bridal showers and baby showers as well. . .

A belated Merry Christmas to you!

Dominic Mary said...

how true. I have a much-loved Godson (nearly two) whose father is early 50s, and mum is about to turn 39 . . . and he is so lucky, although he's (so far) an only child, because he has commitment from wise and intelligent parents who know what commitment is about; and also know what he really needs.

in the old books, female saints were basically virgins, whether martyrs or otherwise : viginity was the defining condition - leading to the unlucky few who were described as 'Holy women neither virgin nor martyr' !

theobromophile said...

Single at weddings is a NIGHTMARE. What's worse is to be put at a table of "people whom you'll love to meet!" when the aforementioned are a group of couples. I was at a wedding in which one of the gentlemen at the table asked when the empty seat next to me would be filled. Humiliating.

I've been unable to avoid weddings - my very good friends have been getting married in droves. I handled the first ten or so Single weddings alright, but I've hit the wall, truth be told.

Unlike Kate P, I no longer attend bridal showers. Some of this is because I'm broke; what little I have is going to my student loans, not to pay some woman's dowry. Some of it is because it's terrifically insensitive (IMHO) to invite women like me - who hardly ever date and probably will never marry - to yet another celebration of what we'll never have but do want. I'm not paying for the privilege, nor pretending to put up with it any longer.

That said, wedding advice is very good - especially about leaving the reception early!

Seraphic said...

Theobromophile, you are right about the "Single at a Table of Married People". It IS a nightmare. It should be written into every bridal planning and etiquette book that single women should never be placed at a table of married couples. Tables should be divided into High Table, Married Tables and Single Tables.

Twelve years ago, I went to one wedding like that. It was also subdivided into English-speaking Single or French-speaking Single. I had a fantastic time, and made sure I danced with the best-looking man in the room, even though he was at the French Singles table. (Aha!)

Weddings don't have to be nightmares if you're Single. But if you're reasonably sure the next one will be--don't go.

Seraphic said...

Theobrom--why do you think you will probably never marry? The majority of people eventually do, after all. I know professional women who didn't marry until their late thirties or early forties. But this feeling of "I'm probably never going to marry" is sometimes shared by beautiful girls in their TEENS.

If you like, feel free to send me an email at seraphicsingles@yahoo.com.

Dominic Mary said...

Amen ! to your suggestion about tables at a wedding : and may I add a suggestion about ritually slaughtering couples who decide to arrange the seating in order to make sure that everyone is seated on a table composed exclusively of people they DON'T know ? There can be few greater nightmares.

(Might I also point out that the problem can actually be almost as bad for Seriously Single men; in my experience, people tend to assume that Single Women are waiting for the Mr Right - men are presumably not meant to be so fussy, and it tends to be assumed that we're either gay or dangerous; neither of which makes for good conversation, especially with total strangers !)

Seraphic said...

No ritual slaughters on the couple on their special day, though I agree this is a bad idea except for guests who are wild extroverts.

The assumption that single men are gay is indeed an issue, one that I will discuss in due course. There is also the problem of assuming that all gay men (or gay women) are sexual active and anti-Catholic.

Maybe I can get a Catholic with SSA to write a guest post on that topic.

Dominic Mary said...

Oh, all right then; no ritual slaughter . . . am I allowed to take back the wedding present, though ?

some guy on the street said...

So, I'm a single guy (you may have gathered...), and oft-times this singularity irks --- *HOWEVER* I can say that I've been to something like eight weddings (other people's, of course), and at only one of them did I end up feeling blue. And *that* was because also in attendance was La Belle Dame Sans Merci --- I think I'm quite recovered, btw. Otherwise, I've always thought them jolly occasions, and eagerly await a chance to throw one myself.

That's all, carry on.

Nina said...

Dear Birthday Girl,
I know exactly what you are feeling. Three of my siblings are now married and each celebration was a new learning experience. A lot of what Auntie Seraphic wrote is exactly true, hang out with friends at the event, make this event about them and not you. I personally choose to either sit out the bouquet toss, which is supposed to "show" who is getting married next. I also made these events about my siblings and not about me that definitely helped my attitude. It still does not make it easy. But now instead of lamenting those well-meaning relatives and friends who ask, "so when are you getting married," I have started to come up with fun responses like," when you meet my husband, let me know,". God Bless and know that you are not alone.

Sheila said...

About birthdays: My aunt told me that when she turned 30, she decided she was "too old" for birthday parties. So she sat alone on her birthday and was miserable. "Forget this," she said to herself. "Henceforth I will have a HUGE party every year, and tell everyone LOUDLY how old I am!" Her 40th was fantastic. The attitude of the birthday girl was, "I've done a heck of a lot in 40 years, and I look pretty darn good for 40, so I'm not going to be ashamed of how old I am!" It went over splendidly. (My aunt is now around 50, and engaged.)

About weddings: My goodness, are people ever difficult to singles at weddings! At mine, we grouped our single friends (i.e. all our close mutual friends -- we were the first we knew to get married) together. About half of them knew each other well, and the other half knew each other slightly. (One girl -- our best man's new girlfriend, who had to sit apart from him at the wedding -- did not know a soul. But she said she made tons of friends at our wedding.) Our thought was that they would all enjoy each other's company, and some of them might find each other intriguing and exchange numbers. You never know.

I am not 100% sure, though, that it isn't a little presumptuous of me to put single people together like that as if I were setting them up. I want to do them a favor, especially as I know a few of my single friends would really like to have a significant other, but on the other hand, is it really my business? Does it make single people feel bad to have me meddling?

Seraphic said...

You're right about not meddling, but not about why you sit Single people together. They're not together to find spouses; they're together as protection and comfort against all this lovey dovey marriage stuff. Having been in this boat, I can tell you that there are few social situations more miserable than being an unmarried woman at a table of married strangers. It was so unnecessary, too, as when at last I prepared to leave, a whole bunch of bachelors (at an "extended family" table) in the lobby said, "Oh wait! There are SINGLE girls here?"

Let me see, Sheila, you married at 22, right? Lucky you may never know the discomfort of being a Single woman at a wedding!