Sunday, 11 July 2010

Auntie Seraphic & So Many Weddings

It's mid-July, and the wedding season is in full swing. And I know how much Singles looooove that!

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I'm wondering if you have any tips or pointers on getting through a particularly active wedding season. Next month I'll be going to the seventh wedding in a year. One of my current roommates is engaged to be married next summer, and a new roommate moving in soon is also engaged. Two of the people I work with are engaged - one of them just got engaged last weekend. A number of other classmates/friends/acquaintances are also engaged, and most of them will be married by the time I graduate next May (master's degree in hand, no idea what to do with it because I was supposed to be married by now!).

The point is, it's a lot of people. And I'm so, so happy for them all, I really am. It's such a blessing, an awesome thing to know so many young, faithful, active Catholics getting married at a time when eschewing marriage seems to be all the rage, especially among my generation.

It is a little bit difficult for me, though. Not that they're getting married, of course, but that I'm not. Many of those I know who are getting married, or who have gotten married in the last year, are at or above the average age to marry these days. They had to wait longer than those just-out-of-college marriages to find the right people for them; most of them didn't meet until well after college. They had to wait and be patient, just as God is telling me to do right now. It's very good for me to remember that.

But that said, it's still so hard for me sometimes. (Or, really, a lot of the time.) I'll be 25 in a couple of months, which I know isn't old by any standards. That doesn't make it easier, though, to attend wedding after wedding single and alone. I really want to be happy for all these friends, happy without anything to mar it, without those behind-the-scenes feelings of "I wish it were me" while being excited for them.

I know that a) wishing is pretty pointless, and b) it's NOT me right now for a reason. God has a purpose. But as more and more friends get to experience what I've only daydreamed about (I've never even been in a relationship), it's been getting harder and harder to rejoice with them as I ought to. Especially lately, when it seems that I'm surrounded by wedding talk everywhere I go. At work, at home, at school. I want to be able to have fun with all the details girls love that go along with planning a wedding, but instead it's started to become a painful reminder of what I might never get to experience.

Long story short, I'm just wondering if you have any pointers regarding how best to get past these ugly feelings of jealousy, knowing that God is keeping me single for a very specific reason. I don't want to keep feeling happy-with-a-caveat. I want to be happy for them in the way I imagine already-married people are happy when they hear news of a friends' engagement. I really want to have hope and peace that maybe someday it will be me, but maybe it won't be. I want to be able to be ok with that, and enjoy each wedding (and the preceding preparation) as the joyous occasion that it is, and not as another reminder of my singleness - although it's hard to avoid being reminded that I'm single when the bride does the bouquet toss. I'm sure I just need to get over these wedding blues already and just let myself be happy for my friends, because I'm sure I would really want them to be happy for me if the roles were reversed.

Thank you so much for reading my disorganized thoughts.

So Many Weddings

Dear So Many Weddings,

You are so positively normal I am wondering where my weird readers are. Nobody ever writes in saying, "I'm in love with my step-brother who is also a priest-archeologist." Everybody always writes in saying, "I have gone to a million weddings, I'm Single, and why can't I just feel totally happy instead of jealous?"

Listen, no Single woman who isn't a nun or/and a living saint feels 100% happy about a wedding that isn't her own. I call this Singles' Wedding Angst, and if you don't feel it during a wedding, you feel it afterwards, when you're on your way home alone. I got it at every wedding I ever went to until after I was married to B.A. It's just part of the wedding, along with the cake and the boring speeches.

(By the way, Single men get it, too, and you can tell which ones have it worst, because they are the ones getting blitzed at the bar while shouting "I'm glad it isn't ME putting MY head in a noose!")

Of course you are envious. You're a fallen creature. I'm a fallen creature. We're all fallen creatures. And it is normal for fallen creatures to feel sad when everybody except us gets an ice-cream cone/to go to Disney World/a European holiday/a wedding/a baby. The thing to do is to realize that we are not Awesomely Alone in Our Outrageous Sinfulness but just boring, run-of-the-mill sinners, and that all Single women get Singles Wedding Angst anyway.

But your question is, how do you cope? Here is a list of things you can do to cope with Singles Wedding Angst:

1. Don't go to the wedding. You don't HAVE to go to every wedding you're invited to. If you send a gift instead, you'll save money, please the bride, and save her money on your dinner. Most guests at really big weddings are totally expendable. If the bride only invited 30 people, though, or is your sister, you should probably go.

2. If you do go, sit with friends or family members you actually like. No friends or fun family there? Don't go. Send a gift instead.

3. If you go, look like a MILLION dollars. Go to the hairdresser. Wear a cute dress. Wear lipgloss. Knowing you look like a million bucks usually chases away the blues.

4. 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! Just faking happy can actually make you feel better. I don't know why this is so, but it is so.

5. You begin conversations with strangers at the reception. You are going to look like a million dollars, so whoever it is will want to talk to you. Especially if they are Single, bored and about to be hit with Singles Wedding Angst. Always remember that you will not be the only Single woman in the bouquet-toss scrum.

6. Do not get tipsy unless you are having a GREAT time. Alcohol is a depressant.

7. If you're at the reception and you're getting bored and depressed, go home. Go home now! Take cab money because it is terribly depressing to go home from a wedding alone on the bus.

8. Have a big treat waiting for you at home, like a DVD of a comedy you really want to see.

9. Thank God it is your friend and not you marrying that specific guy. Only once in my whole Single life have I ever found the groom attractive enough perhaps to have dated myself. And since his wife is one of my best buddies, I should stop mentioning that. Seriously--most grooms are nice but not universally attractive.

When I got married, I really worried that my Single friends (and readers!) would feel badly that I was getting married. I definitely worried that my Single friends would get Singles' Wedding Angst at my wedding. But then I realized that there was nothing I, Seraphic, could really do to prevent that and, besides, my nose was bleeding from Brides' Wedding Meltdown.

MEANWHILE, I have three more things to say to you, Missy:

1. I know turning 25 is hard for Single women. I was a basketcase when I was 24, thinking about turning 25. It is not a coincidence that I made my first, disastrous, and now annulled marriage when I was 25. But 25 is really, really young. Go look at your 24 and 3/4s year old skin in the mirror and say, "I love you, beautiful young skin!" Do this right now!

Would you rather marry Mr. Divorceable when you are 25, or wait and marry Mr. Perfect for You when you are 38? I rest my case.

2. An M.A. is not something that you do to kill time before meeting Mr. Right. An M.A. is what you do to avoid getting a full-time job. But an M.A. looks great on your resume, so if you don't have a career-type job yet, get one as soon as you have the pricey piece of paper. Money, beautiful money! Whenever you start thinking about how you are Single, get a travel book from the library and research your first real, paid-by-you, adventure holiday. My first one was to Italy, and it was fantastic.

3. Congratulations on so far not getting suckered into a romantic relationship that went nowhere. Sometimes it is great never to have had a boyfriend. I have had eleven break-ups, and that is just ridiculous.

If I could do it all over again, I would have not dated at all, or I would have gone to Aberdeen in 1990 and waylaid B.A. on his way to First Year Philosophy class.

Me: Hello, it is I, your future wife.

B.A.: I'm sorry... Do I know you?

Me: You're going to eventually, so why don't we get married right now and save a whole bunch of people a lot of heartaches?

B.A.: Very well, then.

But life does not work out that way, alas. Meanwhile, believe me, not having had a "relationship" is not necessarily a bad thing. Keep on developing "friendships" and try not to worry about "relationships".

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,


fifi said...

Personally, I hate the bouquet toss. Every time I've done it the girls have tripped over each other to avoid the embarrassment of catching the bouquet. I always develop an irresistable urge to powder my nose, make a phone call, get something from my car, or generally disappear for fifteen minutes when the bouquet toss comes around. Of course, if dancing with the man who caught the garter is an option, and he is not smarmy, I might re-think that.

I don't know if helping out at weddings is a good way to avoid angst for everyone, but it seems to help me. Running around putting up decorations or helping with flowers and food, or picking up the band from the airport can be fairly manic, and gets your mind off your self. And helping and serving others is a good way to spend your singleness.

When you're behind the scenes, weddings stop being the romantic, dimly lighted rom-com finale and you can put them in perspective again. You can see how the families squabble, and Aunt Ethel is a royal pain, and the caterers screw up the cake. Weddings=SO much work! Wow, aren't you glad you don't have to do all that planning! And blue straw hats as table decorations? It's lovely that dear Hedwig finds them meaningful, but no, thank you. And the musicians! tee hee!

If you go into it with a sense of realism and humor, (NOT looking for things you can mock at the couple's expense, but seeing the humanity in it, like you're living or writing a novel) it can be quite fun. Assuming the bride does not take advantage of your generosity and turn you into an unpaid bond slave for your pains...

It can also be a good way to meet the other friends and family members who are setting things up, who can then introduce you to the handsome cousin of the bride or talk to you during the reception. Did you know a huge percentage of couples meet at someone else's wedding?

I did this at a wedding last month, where I knew very few people, and helping set up really broke the ice. I also really screwed up my courage to talk to a few other people I knew only slightly, and to introduce myself to the parents and grandparents of the couple. Once upon a time, this was just good manners, but you'd be surprised how few people do it anymore. I made the rounds of the people I did know, chatted with a few of the little children, had a great dinner conversation with the newlyweds at my table. Then I went home early, and stopped by for a cup of tea at a single friend's house on the way home.

P.S. Going to showers, though equally hideous from a single perspective, can be another good way to meet family and friends you can talk to at the reception.

Julie said...

Oh hooray, another almost-25-year-old in grad school who's never had a proper boyfriend! I always figured there must be others beside me but never actually come across one.

Although, maybe I qualify as a weird reader since I've never actually been to a wedding. My cousins all got married when I was too small and far away to be invited. The faithful Catholic types I knew in college were male and several years older than me, so although they got married pretty quick no invites there. I joined a young adult group at my new postgrad parish, and they're all married already. And then none of my close friends have gotten engaged or married their boyfriends yet, so I'll probably have to wait until after we all pass quals or something.

I guess my contribution to this can be that it is still possible to get Singles Wedding Angst without being invited to the dang things. Seeing photos on Facebook of yet another person who got married and didn't invite you (however completely unreasonable it would be for that person to invite you) isn't very pleasant, and involves (on hard days) having to reassure oneself that one is not a failure at either romantic or platonic relationships. It's just that my Venn diagram features two circles that don't intersect: "people getting married" and "people I know well enough that they might invite me to their wedding".

theobromophile said...

I adore the suggestion to leave the reception (or not go!) if bored/alone/etc. One of the many problems, however, of the lack of a modern receiving line is that you don't actually get to say your congratulations to the bride and groom before the reception, so you might have to hunt them down to see them in person before you depart.

Christine Pennacchio said...

So Many Weddings, I'm another SWA sufferer. But, there's comfort knowing that all of us feel it too. And I like that idea of leaving early, or not going at all, if possible. Good luck and happy summer to you!

Julie said...

I just realized that my previous comment sounds like a total whiner. Oops! My point was that other people your age or in your circle are getting married regardless of whether you are invited, ditto that you will be aware of this in detail, so if you are invited it is probably better to be proactive in the ways our hostess suggests! There is no use wishing that it weren't true, both on the count of being invited and on the count of them getting married at all. I like Fifi's suggestion too; parallel to the comments about grooms, I think wedding plans, however much the bride loves them, are not usually things that are really truly enviable when you get close to them and probably help to keep some useful distance.

I am actually feeling remarkably Seraphic about my Singleness this week, perhaps because I am feeling very un-Seraphic about my current roommate situation. Auntie doesn't take gripes- er, questions, on that point, does she?

Anonymous said...

Julie, you can count me on the " Almost 25 years old grad student that never had a boyfriend" group, or ATFYOGSTNHB, to make things short. Do you think it would look nice on a t-shirt or a coffee mug?
Fifi, once, during a wedding reception, I was leaving the powder room at the same time of the bouquet toss and it came in my direction. A crowd of single ladies almost knocked me out and thus I learned to keep a good distance during this weird ritual.

Alisha said...

I totally recommend suddenly needing to go to the bathroom during the bouquet toss...and nobody should ever make you feel like it's obligatory. My new excuse is that "It gets competitive in there. I need to protect my feet from being trampled so I can dance!"
Besides, the one time I did participate, I touched the bouquet and it fell to the floor. I didn't quite catch it but because I touched it first, I went to get it, figuring it's kind of like soccer - last one to touch the ball if it goes out determines the next play. Unfortunately, my going to get it made it look as though I intercepted or tripped someone else which people really ribbed me about and it made me feel terrible, as though I came across as really desperate...after that, no more bouquet tosses!
Even as a generally Seraphic and Serious Single, I get that sort of angst - not so much jealousy, since the idea of setting up house stresses me out!, nor about actually going to the weddings, because I like social situations and dancing etc, so unless the people are ridiculously boring, it's always fun for me - but about the fact that everyone seems to be settling into a way of life that will not really include the way I live (sort of wayfaring etc) and that that way of life is something exclusive. When everyone is relating simply as friends, and they don't belong sacramentally to a union, there's a similarity and equality to that. Marriage makes a distinction that was not there before, as is good and proper to its nature...but its demands make accessibility, whether due to time restraint, or an inability to not let a couple's intimacy become a set of blinders to fruitfulness outside of the biological kind...something I'm grateful Auntie S is so aware of - thank you for not leaving us stranded!

Kate P said...

The other interesting thing singles can do at a wedding is hang with the kids! I had to go to two (2!) weddings the year a LTR relationship ended and at the second one I struck up a conversation with the bride's twelve year old cousin. She was so cute! A really cute picture of us turned up in the proofs and the groom (whom I know through family) asked how I knew his wife's cousins. . . I didn't; we just had a nice talk!

And, uh, a year from then I was in a graduate program. But I was over 30 so I was working full time in a real job at the same time, so Auntie Seraphic can tell me what that means!

aurah85 said...

Count me also in the ATFYOGSTNHB group!
However, I haven't been caught in those difficult situations during weddings, but that's probably just because I haven't been invited to any :)

Most of my friends and fellow grad students are already married and therefore I have witnessed how difficult it is for them to manage both school and raising kids. That helps me to appreciate my Singleness... at least during this stage of my life anyways.

Fritha said...

Not in the ATFYOGSTNHB group unfortunately being significantly older then 25, my grad student days being quite a way behind me and having had several boyfriends, but still in the "Not Another Wedding To Attend" group. Have a family friends wedding coming up, along with my youngest brothers so this was useful advice.

Seraphic said...

I always loved the bouquet toss because I could see who all the other single ladies were. Really, it's supposed to be a bit of fun, not a ritual humiliation of single girls.

This may sound strange, but I felt a bit left out at the last wedding I went to, when all my single girls got together to catch our friend's bouquet. Yes, I know, cry me a river. But I offer this as a startling perspective on the ritual.

Of course if you don't want to do it, you don't have to do it. And you don't HAVE to go to weddings at all. However, my conscience prods me to tell you that the bride of that last wedding I went to met her husband two years before at his cousin's (and our friend's) wedding.

Seraphic said...

I think I bullied Alisha into my bouquet toss. Did I, Alisha? I seem to remember having to flog all the Single girls into the driveway so I could throw the thing.

My sister caught it, and I was so relieved, because I would have been disappointed if it had just fallen on the pavement. At my first, doomed, wedding, my bouquet hit the ceiling and exploded.

Looking at the bouquet toss from the bride's perspective, faking enthusiasm--if you choose to attend in the first place--is a great wedding gift.

I think this should be the general rule: IF you decide to go to a wedding (and please feel free to say no to any wedding not actually that of a CLOSE friend or family member), you must look happy and "a good sport" the whole time you are there. As soon as this proves impossible, you should go home, both for your own sanity and for the feelings of the bride. She will remember this day--the good and the bad--for the rest of her life.

I wish now that I hadn't spent so much time worrying if mine was modest enough for a second wedding and fighting to keep it "husbands only, no dates". One of the worse things that happened was a single friend announcing--before the cake was even cut--that he was leaving. My thought at the time was, "But we made it such a short wedding!" And it was. It was over by 3 PM.

This is the exact opposite of what many brides say, but if I could do it over again, I would have spent more money, invited more guests and had an evening reception.

Anonymous said...

I'm 23 and have never been in a relationship. In my mind, when I'm being rational and talking to Jesus about it, this seems totally normal. However, when I'm surrounded by my friends of similar age who are ALL jumping from serious relationship to serious relationship and desperate to get married, I get really sad.

The thing is, I'm HAPPY that I didn't spend my high school and college years dating a bunch of guys who were wrong for me anyway. I think of it as a special gift from God. I've watched so many of my good friends have their hearts broken so many times... it just doesn't seem good.

But that hardly makes it easier to be the ONLY one in my circle of friends who hasn't had a relationship. My friends don't even mention it -- it's like they expect me to be single, and they can't imagine that I would want it any other way. They will talk about guys in front of me but never ask me what I think. It makes me feel like I'm their little sister instead of their friend. (On days when my self-esteem is particularly fragile, it makes me think I'm ugly and they're gorgeous and that's why this happens, although I can safely say that that's ridiculous.)

I guess my point is that I'm very happy with where I am in my life right now -- starting my career, good friends, good health, wonderful family, many blessings. But it's harder to remember my own contentedness when I'm constantly surrounded by people who act as though reaching the age of 25 as a single woman is the most terrifying thing imaginable.

And if I ever get married, there's no way I'm having a bouquet toss at my reception!

Alisha said...

I wouldn't say bullied...just herded me in :) I hope I didn't come across as a bad sport! In your case, I didn't really mind :)
In general though, because I know I'm capable of catching it, I avoid it because then I have to deal with teasing or questions re the folklore that the person to catch it will be he next one married.

theobromophile said...

But that hardly makes it easier to be the ONLY one in my circle of friends who hasn't had a relationship. My friends don't even mention it -- it's like they expect me to be single, and they can't imagine that I would want it any other way. They will talk about guys in front of me but never ask me what I think. It makes me feel like I'm their little sister instead of their friend. (On days when my self-esteem is particularly fragile, it makes me think I'm ugly and they're gorgeous and that's why this happens, although I can safely say that that's ridiculous.)

I'm not Auntie Seraphic, but you're hitting my Big Sister Chocolate-Lover side here, Anonymous!

I used to be like that (although I started dating at 18 - but that was about four to six years after most of my friends). I used to have friends like that, too.

I found out the hard way that the friends were not really good friends. They got angry when I got a boyfriend, and refused to give me even an iota of the friendship that I had given them after the (horrible) break-up.

Now, having dated so many truly horrible people, I wish that my 23-year-old self were in your shoes: a lot of it changed me, and not for the better. I also threw away my 20s because I couldn't handle the pain.

Most of my friends who saw that, who were 22, 23 and had never dated, never really minded that they had not dated. Most of them have found husbands - husbands who adore them and husbands who do not suffer for the sins of bad boyfriends.

Seraphic said...

Dear Anonymous, I just saw your comment now.

First, of course, you are not the only 23 year old woman who has never been in a romance. There must be thousands, or even millions. You should probably add some of them into your circle of friends!

It is not weird, it is not special, but you are right: it is a good thing. It is a very good thing not to spend your extreme youth floundering from this man to that. The price you pay for not having your heart smashed and your soul stained is not having your friends ask you for guy advice. If they were really smart, they would ask married women.

But I digress. When some man does come along and sweep you off your feet, you will have an adult brain and an adult heart to deal with the situation. And being an adult, you probably know that you have to wait for the man to sweep you off your feet, and that chasing men is a pointless exercise, right? You might not know that, because I didn't clue in until late, but you have the advantage of reading my stuff, and I had nobody's advice to read. (Sniff!)

It drives me insane that with all our education, jobs, grrl power and money, women still think it is a massive tragedy to be partnerless at 25. Such women must lack imagination. I think being stuck with a husband or boyfriend you hate at 25 is a much worse fate, and I know what I'm talking about.

I enjoy bouquet tosses, but if they were phased out, I wouldn't weep.