My cousin is getting married. He is one of six siblings, three of whom are already married. I did not go to any of their weddings. Historically, our families haven’t been very close. And I go to great lengths to avoid spending time in a church. If nothing else, restraining the head-spinning and projectile vomiting isn’t worth it.
Voice one: Ooh, ooh, could we talk about marriage as an institution?
Voice two: Yes. Later. You were about to make a point for once…
The cousin in this particular case has been very kind and friendish with my mom when she visits her sister. Unlike some of us, he is willing and able to mix a cocktail, is easy to talk to, and seems to successfully ignore all the weird, icky, Mean Girls subtext that our extended family is so rife with.
So I was going to go to the wedding. They sent around lovely little invitations that had a tiny card to mail in as RSVP. It said, “We’ve marked you down for ____ seats!”
My cousin or his fiancee had written 1 on that blank line.
I got the mail one morning and opened this as I came down to my car. My first reaction was hesitant delight that our incredibly troubled family had reached this one, glorious, probably tiny window in time where there was a wedding I was both invited to, AND wanted to go to. Oh boy, I thought, I am going to mail this in and buy them a present and find a cute dress and…
I sat in the car for a second staring at that 1 written in marker. It had the significance only recognizable by a woman who has been single a long time and knows a trigger when she sees one. I finally decided that I would pretend it was fine and wait till later to freak the fuck out.
I set the card in the middle console, between the garage door opener and the mascara, and drove to work.
Somehow, sometime in the next week, I accidentally threw the whole thing away.
A few days after that, the fact that I couldn’t find the RSVP card was starting to bother me like a heart beating under the floor. I had subconsciously thrown it away because it pissed me off, or because I hated that I was single, or that I hated that I was afraid to go to a wedding alone…
Semi-related digression: Since graduating high school many years ago, I have had recurring dreams that I had played hookie so often that now it was spring of my senior year and I was walking, two periods late, into the school building, and I couldn’t even remember what classes I was supposed to go to.
The fear was always that I had missed so much school, I wouldn’t graduate.
The other night, I dreamed a new chapter of that scenario. In this dream, I didn’t remember my classes, but I also knew that I couldn’t remember them because they didn’t matter. It didn’t actually matter if I graduated.
The funny thing is that it’s true. I never went to college and am completely self-taught. Few interviewing me have ever asked about my education, and those who have, have been as likely to react positively as not. Nothing I studied in school prepared me for the job I have now, except the obvious life value of having studied and survived.
I could have dropped out of high school my senior year and navigated pretty much exactly the path I actually did.
The point of the dream was: If you don’t care, it’s okay. You don’t care because it won’t really matter.
It’s funny how often that sentiment applies.
Back to my original narrative, I told myself it was fine, this business of the lost RSVP card. No reason to look for meaning where there was none; I just hadn’t paid attention when I had had a rare cleaning fit. And there would be no issue. My cousin just knew I was single right now and had thought it would be better to start with 1. All I had to do was RSVP and change it to “2.”
Make no mistake: I am single. I’m in a chapter of my life where sitting through an entire date with a man without spontaneously hissing and whacking his face with my claws feels like a huge success in the personal growth department. Yay, she let someone in! For ten minutes.
But I also know what gets to me. I know when Valentine’s Day will be “a thing,” and when I can shrug it off. I know that I’m fine eating out alone, but that I don’t travel alone anymore. I know that I can hang out with a girlfriend and her husband if they’ve been together long enough that they act like roommates. And I know that if I have to go to another family gathering alone, I’ll stab one of the nieces in the ear with one of her own toys.
Anyway, I RSVP’ed via their website on The Knot: So excited to see you get hitched! Put me down for 2. Love!
I felt better. All I had to do was honor my own needs, and ask others to respect them. Done. All would be well. I’d lure in some unsuspecting dude long enough to convince him that attending the wedding of a family I barely spoke to would be a sexy, renegade affair. I’d buy the couple a totally inappropriate wedding gift, like the “sex box” I gave a cousin on the other side a few years back. I’d do push-ups for the next two months, so that my arms in a spring dress wouldn’t have the puffy, Grandma-esque vibe they did now.
It would be awesome. I was ready to write the screenplay: A standoffish “career girl” finds love when she convinces a total stranger to attend her cousin’s wedding. And she looks incredible!
Then my cousin texted back. Super sweet about it. Just, y’know, our list is limited, so you can’t bring a date.
What he may not have realized is all the crap a statement like this comes with. For one, “If you had committed your heart to a man six months ago, before we made the guest list, we would be legally required to find a seat for him now. But you missed the open enrollment date for boyfriends, so you’re on your own!”
Two, “You’ll be sitting with your parents and your brother and his wife! You won’t be alone!”
Three, “I don’t care if you just said going to a wedding alone makes you feel awful!”
Gosh, where do you start. I’m so glad I moved back to Seattle to be closer to these people.
I told him I couldn’t go, in that case. Because graduation matters most of the time, but not all of the time. Because RSVP cards sometimes find their way into the trash.
Because I have been on one good date, but not two.
My coworker told me today that until she married, in her forties, there were things she didn’t do. Go to dinner alone, for starters. She was only now, married, learning to do things on her own.
I told her I have done all of the things, alone. I didn’t list them but, on this one point, I’m pretty confident. I’ve moved across the country, flown to other countries, decided to take and leave jobs, started new careers, danced nearly naked in the East Village, without the support of a boyfriend or husband.
I didn’t list those things to her. I just said, I have done the things. I’m not afraid. But I know, now, that some of them just aren’t worth it.
And maybe, for once, I just want my deeply religious, often sexist family to roll out the red carpet for the single, infidel slut. Maybe all I really want is for my cousin to say: Yes, bring a boy toy! And do my fiancee’s hair! And give us the coconut-lime flavored lube in your Sex Box wedding present!
Maybe I just want me and my vibe to be something I don’t have to defend or explain to my relatives. Maybe I want them to get me more than, say, new coworkers and strangers on the street get me.
We’ll have to explore this, Voice One says to Voice Two.
Sure. After I throw out the trash.