One problem with emotional pain is that it corrodes the character. The number one enemy of long-term Singles who don't want to be Single is bitterness. Bitterness is a powerful enemy who must be guarded against with strong fortifications of self-care (sleep, food, exercise), gratitude, chaste friendship, enjoyable work, homemaking, humility, prayer and a sense of humour.
There are times when a Single has to retreat right behind these solid walls and shout "Battle stations!" Hearing of a friend's engagement is often one of those times. Receiving a wedding invitation is another. Feel the yucky feelings, forgive yourself, and let them go. Let them drift like phantom balloons through the ceiling into the sky out of sight.
"Oh Seraphic," wailed a friend over IM. "I have seven weddings to go to this summer. Seven!"
"That's great," I said. "You must be very popular--much more popular that me. I haven't been invited to any!"
The friend stopped wailing. She had not considered the invitations as evidence of her popularity, only as reminders that some other women--and not she--were getting married that summer.
Mass, dinner, dancing. If it weren't for the emotional upheaval, weddings would be nothing but fun, really. Local weddings, I mean. I don't think anyone ought to feel obligated to travel more than 100 miles to a wedding. If you'd rather DIE than miss it, that's quite another thing. As for the gift (I am shockingly bad at wedding gifts, but I have no money), well, it reminds me of old-fashioned children's birthday parties. You dress up, you bring a gaily wrapped present, you play traditional games, you eat cake, you drink fizzy, er, pop.
Girls often write to me about weddings, and I say the same things again and again (A) you do NOT have to go to every wedding to which you are invited; (B) almost all Single women feel Single Woman's Angst after (or, worse, during) almost all weddings; and (C) if you do accept a wedding invitation, you must never show a gloomy face while there.
Her wedding day might not, in fact, be the most important day of a woman's life, but it certainly feels like it. Take me, for example. No boyfriend in high school. Married at 25. Divorced at 26. Annulled at 27. Single until 38. It took me forever just to get used to the idea of being Single for the rest of my life, and then a fantastic guy fell in love with me and actually wanted to spend the rest of his interesting life with me. Quite understandably, I wanted to celebrate.
But not everyone else did. Readers sent in notices to quit. Near-strangers sneered at my bridal nerves. My parish priest did his best to argue I had no right to be married in his pretty church. He also preached a homily on the selfishness of brides. (We steal attention from Our Lord during the nuptial mass, you see.)**
The person who made me feel best about the whole deal (after BA, of course) was, oddly, Albus the extremely camp make-up artist at MAC. Albus was excited. Albus clapped his hands. Albus and I now wear the same same of tinted moisturizer, so I am unlikely ever to forget him. Whenever I pick up the bottle, I hear Albus say, in his sing-song voice, "Your eyes are not--tee hee hee--small; they are medium."
A bride is an emotionally fragile creature; you simply have got to be nice to her in the same way you would be nice to a woman beginning labour. I was so stressed out about my tiny home wedding that my nose started to bleed the day before. You must not argue with a bride about her wedding plans unless she is making too fierce a demand upon you personally. And you must not, on a day when she fruitlessly longs for everyone to be as happy as she is, show her how unhappy, lonely and envious you are. I know it is a cliche, but like many cliches it has the authority of truth: It's HER day.
Do not go to a wedding if you don't think you will enjoy it. It is better for the bride not to see your unhappy face, which she very well may remember for the rest of her life. It is better for you to do something you find fun that day. And if you do go to a wedding with the best of intentions and suddently find yourself crying in the Ladies', it is time to go home. Have a good cry in a stall, wash your face, fix your make-up, and leave with an Oscar-worthy smile. Take a cab, because I can't imagine a more depressing way to get home from a wedding than the night bus. Have something yummy waiting for you there, plus a good DVD, plus a blanky.
Having crossed from Single to Married, it now hurts me to imagine that any of my guests (and my guest list was draconian) might have suffered on My Day (TM). Mindful that it was a second wedding (for me, not BA--hmm, didn't think of that), the spirit of the whole thing was rather "Don't Mind Us! This Won't Take Long!" The reception lasted two and a half hours; the food was on the table pronto; there were no speeches; there were bottles and bottles of Henkell Trocken. The one insensitive thing I can think of doing was making my friends and sisters go outside for the bouquet toss. But as my first bouquet toss was such a failure (hit the ceiling, exploded), it was tremendously important that I get this one right. It wasn't about who-was-still-Single. It was about ME.
B.A. thought it a perfect wedding; now I feel aggrieved that I didn't say "**** the traditional shame of second weddings; I'm booking a ballroom!" Being so meek and unassuming was so not me and--hmm, this post is going in strange directions--my advice to Single women who find themselves suddenly not Single is to be brave and bold and rent peacocks to strut on the lawn if that is what your heart desires.
Oh my little Singles! Act on a friend's wedding day the way you hope your friends will act on yours. It's the golden rule for weddings.
** The pinpricks continue. Someone recently asked me why I wore a white dress to my second wedding. Her tone was judgmental, and I will not forget. However, to end on a cheerful note, I am so glad I was a hardliner about my wedding dress. It is white (with green buttons), it is silk, my mother made it, it is beautiful and fabulous and I love it, love it, love it!
Update: And no making snarky comments all the way through Mass or dinner. Snarky comments have a way of finding their way to the bride's ears. Snarky comments mean you shouldn't be at that wedding, eating the food the couple or their parents spent so much to provide.
Update 2: In my mind's ear I heard someone (ooh, two people! Three!) wail, But when will it be MY day? Poppets, seriously, I have no idea. Ask God right now. (I'm serious. Shut your eyes. Ask. Listen for an answer.) It's almost completely up to Him, you know.