Dear Auntie Seraphic,
My friend and I are angsting over a decision which we finally decided you would be well-equipped to answer. We have a feeling we know what you will say but we're wondering if you can give the reasons in a more eloquent and less embittered way than we are inclined to, given our situation.
Here is the deal. I have been invited to weddings of near and dear friends who have gotten married all over the US and overseas. With every wedding invitation comes the analysis of friendship vs. cost: deciding if I am close enough to this person to validate the expense. I haven't attended many weddings as a result.
However, my single friends and I have noticed a disturbing reality. Regardless of how close we were to friends before their wedding, regardless of how much we help assemble favors in the days leading up to the blessed event, regardless of how much time we spend cleaning up after the wedding while the newlyweds escape on their honeymoon, regardless of the fact that we sacrificed vacation time, money, etc... we really don't hear much from the friends after their weddings.
Newlywed friends cross over into that blissfully married-hanging-out-with-similiar-vocationed people and only communicate with us in attempts to set us up with other single friends or babysit their eventual children. They don't attend the weddings that occur after their own ([too busy with babies]). Their Facebook messages are restricted to wedding pictures, sonnogram pictures, over-sharing about Natural Family Planning strategies, and commenting that our lives seem so fun and easy, and they sure wish they could trade places with us and leave the diapers for a day (LOL)...
Never again do they ask us about our jobs, lives, etc. There have been one or two exceptions to this rule, but it's a reality that we've grown used to and have even embraced as an opportunity to find more friends and validate not attending some weddings that in our younger, naive state, we may have attended thinking it would make us closer friends.
Here's the question. A best friend--the kind of really good friend that we've known and traveled with and talked to about everything and have laughed with and cried with and swore that no matter what happens and who you date you'll stay friends--is now engaged. To complicate matters, she's moved to a very random town that is a day's drive away and very expensive to fly to, and this is where she's having the wedding. We're looking at a trip that will cost us around $800, and the bride has already started to demonstrate the "distancing" that has become all too familiar.
At what point do you say no? Obviously, a good friend should understand that some things are just not financially possible, but we all know that brides-to-be are not always in the most rational state of mind. And, obviously, as a single person you can work extra hours, go without luxuries, beg, borrow and steal and make it work, but frankly, we're starting to feel like hamsters on a social treadmill that ends with a humiliating bouquet toss. While it can be fun, it often leaves us exhausted, broke and behind on work.
There's nothing my single friends and I want more than to take the thousands of dollars we spend on weddings each year and just go on a cruise, but we fear that re-prioritizing would mean the end of our friendships. But then again, weddings have seemed to be the end of many friendships over the years anyway.
So we ask you, Auntie Seraphic, as the authority on being gracious yet realistic, What are nice Catholic girls to do? When do you say "enough is enough"? And is it a universal truth that friendships seem to be lost after weddings? We know we're both at fault, but after a while you grow so tired of trying...
Your wisdom would be much appreciated,
Long Distance Wedding Victims
Dear Long Distance Wedding Victims,
I feel your pain. And I would like you to know that instead of getting married in my husband's beautiful, exotic city across the Atlantic Ocean from my family and girlfriends, I got married at home in my dear old hometown. This is, in fact, the traditional thing to do, and I am all about tradition. There are reasons for tradition.
Sure, I invited friends who live in the USA, in Scotland and in Germany, but I didn't really think they'd be able to pony up the airfare. It would have been cool, but even a bride must be reasonable, and that fact that one of the Scots and the German (Der Gute, from the book)did come was a great treat.
What also would have been a treat would have been gifts from the friends who couldn't make it, not because I am a monster of greed, but because gifts work as representatives of absent friends. Der Gute, who came, also gave me a crystal cake plate, and every time I see it, I think of dear old Der Gute, away there in Germany.
My advice is that you not go to friends' expensive long-distance weddings but always send a wedding present. Send your regrets as soon as you get the invitation, and then send the present. The regrets will momentarily sadden the bride, but then she will mentally subtract $50-100 from the cost of the wedding dinner and feel better. And when your present arrives, she will be delighted with you.
Meanwhile, weddings are beautiful occasions in which to say good-bye to the past and to wish your friends all the best in their new lives, lives in which you will not hold as much importance, especially if you live far away.
It just occured to me that, although I've very often read Singles' complaints about the new priorities of their Married friends, I've never read a complaint about their friends who get ordained or go into religious life. No-one has written, "Ever since Susie went into the cloister, she never calls me. She never hangs out. She never even uses Facebook. In fact, she only writes twice a year: Christmas and Easter. What gives?!!!!"
Speaking as a Married woman, being Married is not like being Single with benefits. It looks like that from the outside (and in the bridal magazines), but it so isn't. I love my husband, so I won't say Flee! Flee! Let's just say that "blissful" is the wrong word to sum up married life, especially married life with children.
The fact is, Married people have a vocation to each other and our children (if they arrive), and very often this does not leave us much time to socialize.* And when we do socialize, we long for people who understand what it is like to be us. When a NCG marries, she has to get used to (A) sleeping with a man (B) living with a man (C) doing housework for/with a man (D) fighting with a man she can't just leave (E) being pregnant (F) having a small, screaming baby. This is an awful lot, and it often happens all at once. No wonder the frazzled newlywed turns to other newlyweds, and not to her Single college pals.
So far you have very wisely been filling in the new gaps in your social life with new Single friends. That is an excellent idea. I suggest you also maintain ties with your old, married friends by sending birthday cards, Christmas cards and perhaps even little presents. I send a Christmas parcel to my girlfriends back home and assign one of them to hand out the gifts. Oh dear. All of a sudden I felt a wave of missing-my-friends.
And that reminds me: just because your engaged and married friends seem distracted and distant doesn't mean they don't love and miss you. So please don't be bitter. Just accept that their vocations mean constant sacrifice (including of fun with you), and keep them in your prayers. Send the wedding presents, send the Christmas cards, and go on your cruise with your still-Single friends.
If Married friends write "Nice to be you" on your Facebook cruise announcement, don't get in a snit. Simply write "YES IT IS!!! :-D "
Grace and peace,
*I don't have any children yet and I work from home, so I have an unusual amount of freedom for a Married woman.
Update: My conscience says I have to say something about married people with babies not going to their friends' weddings. One of my best friends, whose husband was one of my two ushers, went into labour the day before my wedding. And therefore, quite obviously, neither friend nor usher could come. It was sad for both my friend and me, but c'est la vie. Another friend sent wedding photos via phone to her hospital bed.
When I think of how difficult life with babies is made for my friends-with-babies, I want to cry. Some people write "Adults Only" on wedding invitations. Some priests reprove parents for bringing babies to Mass. People on airplanes look at babies with undisguised horror.
The thing is, babies scream. They scream and scream, and it is one of the worst noises in the world. And parents know only too well what other people think about that. They, too, must do an analysis of friendship vs cost--not just cost in money and time, but cost in patience, energy and guilt for (A) upsetting Baby's schedule and (B) Baby's slightest scream upsetting other guests.
Update 2: Nobody should pay $800 to attend a social function. That is simply outrageous! It costs less than that to go to some high-society charity balls!