Weddings are gauntlets for the single, especially the newly single. I suppose if one is inclined toward drunken hookups - and who but a Puritan or me wouldn't be? - there is a sexual buffet aspect to it. You find the bridesmaid who looks saddest and give her a charming smile and a vodka cranberry. Within an hour, her tangerine taffeta dress is hiked up to her waist in a centrally located broom closet. I've seen sitcoms, I know how it works.
A few weeks ago, for the span of a day, I had a proper date to Angela's wedding. I had been chatting with a local woman, JQ, since the beginning of April, either about cultural evolution (as one does) or our respective partners. When Melanie dumped me, JQ happened to be one of the first people I told because she was online. She consoled me/talked sense into me. A few weeks later, she left her boyfriend for unrelated reasons. Days after her breakup, we flirted online for several hours and she seemed excited to be invited (I had hopefully RSVPed just after Melanie's leaving that I would be bringing a guest as a way of pushing myself to be a social butterfly), though her work ended up conflicting - or JQ simply comprehended that she had tried to promise herself to a stranger's wedding with a man she did not actually know. I should have known she would not come, it was too facile. Whoever writes the screenplay of my life prefers pushing me toward uncomfortable situations so as to titter at my reactions.
As JQ was no longer an option, I then posted a solicitation to my Facebook friends, insisting that my guest had to be pretty, able to outrun the police should the occasion demand, wear a dress, and bring her own weapons. A full dossier would be provided to the right woman. I did not say, but hoped it was understood, that whoever I brought could not attempt anything like a cockblock should I take a shine to a single woman just before the bouquet is tossed. A perfect guest would club the shins of anyone who got in my way.
Thankfully, unlike Dave and Nikki's wedding (when I was coupled with Melanie, but spending our first summer apart), I am confident and gregarious. I can think of no reason not to approach comely strangers, though I do not know that Angela or Mario have invited many. (How thoughtless.)
In a sense, a wedding is the ideal place to flirt. Everyone is inconvenienced and emotional (giving topics for discussion), thrown together (giving opportunity), drunk (I won't be, but therein is the fun), and dressed to the nines (even if they would ordinarily dress in sweats, they will not be today). As an additional plus for me, I like dancing and have sufficient experience asking people to wrap their arms around me before I know their names.
My main hope before arriving is that the wedding is indoors, as sweating in formal clothing is not sexy. It is a tragedy that summer weddings are so popular, as summer clothing looks so unflattering on men. (Women of a proper shape and demeanor can positively rock such clothing. Also, let's be clear here, sundresses were forged by a beneficent goddess.)
I arrive minutes before the ceremony and alone. Jacki - though I had insisted I could handle this wedding stag - had intended to meet me at my apartment, but was running late. I settle in a back row on a plastic lawn chair before the gazebo outside and try to deduce whether I am on the bride's side or groom's side, if these designations exist outside of television, and if it matters. I scan the crowd for Melissa and Krista, who I know were invited and who will positively be on Angela's side of the aisle. As I cannot spot them, I feel I have my answer.
Just as Angela comes out and the music kicks up, I see Jacki wandering toward the venue. I focus the entirety of my will on telepathically communicating with her that I am over here. I cannot very well wave my arms - all that is required to me as a guest is to not distract from Angela's day - and Jacki rarely answers her phone under the best of circumstances. A mind lasso is the only reasonable course of action. When Angela can reach the cobblestone path that serves as the aisle, Jacki finds me. She is wearing a dress that Death might as a bridesmaid, all blackness, ruffles, and lace. As I am in black pants and a black jacket, the only color coming from a purple shirt, we make a fine pair. (Melanie, hearing what I was wearing, said that I would be utterly dashing and that maidens will wilt at the very sight of me. I argued that I don't think I would much care for wilted maidens, but she assures me only the unwilted ones would be worthy of me.)
The ceremony itself was quick, accented by the officiant threatening the guests when he came to the "Is there anyone present here today who knows of any reason why these two should not be joined?" portion. "All I'm going to say is that I'm Italian and maybe you want to think twice before saying anything," he informs us.
I would say that Mario seems like a kid on Christmas morning as he rushes through his vows and says his "I do" prematurely, but that level of joy seems to be his default setting. Angela seems on the verge of happy tears but makes it through her vows to the kiss.
After this, the guests are ushered to the roof for hors d'oeuvres. I order a white wine, wondering if it will contain the same magic my red wine did the night before. But, no, it gets me a little tipsy but does not make me like anyone here the better. This is fine, as I tell Jacki, because there are no cousins that are to my taste. Instead, I keep accepting the crudités and mini-pizzas the waitstaff bring my way. I suppose one can transcend the gauntlet of singledom simply by having no need to participate. Or, as I seem to have chosen to do tongiht, one can attempt to get enormously fat on free food.
When I am full of the preamble and just the slightest bit wobbly from my wine, we are ushered down to the reception proper.
"There is more food? After the food we've eaten? That, and then more?" I ask no one in particular.
Angela has wisely seated me in a corner, but near the open bar. I make conversation with the woman across from me, who is excited about being a purchasing agent or something of that nature. I don't quite understand this delight - I tell people that they ought to follow their bliss, but it never occurs to me that some people will genuinely like nothing better than to order supplies or practice the dark art of accountancy - but tell her I am a teacher because it is a more convenient version of the truth ("unemployed novelist" leaves such a clichéd taste on the lips). I am fairly certain many would rather have their teeth yanked out than wrangle the children or words I do, so I am not judging. There is much to be envied in a job that isn't seasonal or conditional. Supplies will always need to be ordered.
Jacki and I begin discussing weddings, since the topic is unavoidable. We try to figure out successes from other weddings - a Bertie Botts sampler in the center of each table, ample freedom for the married couple to enjoy themselves, the couple being immediately sequestered on a rock overlooking the ocean to process away from the guests under the guard of the wedding party - for planning our respective future weddings. Neither of us have partner that could propose, at present, but I am essentially a girl when it comes to weddings.
"For funerals, you can have pre-need contracts drawn up," I tell her. "You pay for exactly the funeral you want so, when the time comes, you are certain you get the sending off you wanted. I almost feel like that should be done with weddings, though I wouldn't want to be slotted into the 'groom' role in someone else's pre-need wedding."
"Yeah, that's a problem I see in a lot of weddings. It isn't about the couple at all. It is just a cookie-cutter version of a wedding. Almost anyone could be getting married, it doesn't matter."
I drink my diet soda and look around the hall. "When I was getting married to Emily, the nature of the ceremony kept changing. At one point, it was going to be this potluck with all of our friends and likely few of our family members. But then the guest list kept growing. She would add a branch of her family tree and I would have to respond in kind, you know? Given the stodginess of some of her relations - to say absolutely nothing of mine - the kind of wedding had to shift to a hall and a caterer. It ballooned into this production, which was not us. I saw pictures of her wedding to Tim - because, seriously, I was going to examine them. It seemed lovely. She was so content..." I pour an ice cube into my mouth and bite it. "And my wedding with Melanie... She said she would grab me one day and drag me to a town hall to make our union state sanctioned. But I never could let myself believe it would actually happen. I don't need the production, but I do need something more than the signing of a piece of paper. I don't need all this," I say, motioning around at the empty dance floor and the DJ playing the same music every wedding DJ plays, "but I do need it to be about us. Whoever 'us' ends up being."
I know it is all navel gazing at this juncture. I have yet to kiss someone new, planning out my future wedding is an exercise in seeing how pathetic I can feel. "With Emily," I continue, "I told her that I didn't want to be 'weddinged'. I was with her for over seven years, there are marriages that do not last that long. Being married did not scare me, not by the end. But I couldn't imagine our relationship being defined by this affair that wasn't about us. So many people seem to go into crushing debt for this party, seem to set out on their new life together with more debt than I accrued being a student for six years."
All of this is not to say that I do not like weddings. I like being invited to celebrate love, I like the pageantry of it. Emily once referred to it as a prom in our honor and that was an image that stuck. Angela should feel today as though she were elected prom queen.
Jacki jokingly suggests that, if she persist in being unwed when she hits forty, she and I should shack up. I laugh. Yes, I would like to one day be married, but I want this is happen because I love someone so much that I want them to be my family in a way no one else can. I do not want to be married for the sake of being married. I would rather be single, no matter how many weddings I must go to where I avoid the thrown garter as though it might explode or have to mope that no one will dance to "Thriller" with me.
Soon in Xenology: Parties.