“Shut the heck up!”
They were the first words that escaped my mouth when one of my dearest sorority sisters called me last September to say, “I just got engaged!” Obviously, had I been prepared to hear the news, I would have crafted a more graceful response along the lines of “Oh my gosh, that’s great! Congratulations!” and I would have delivered it in my completely genuine, ultra high-pitch Jersey accent I reserve for such occasions. But in that moment when her message came through the phone and shot into my ear, my body’s natural reaction was to deny, deny, deny. My approaching-30-year-old friend who had been madly in love with her boyfriend for nearly two years was not telling me she was getting married. NO! The first from my close-knit circle was not leaving me behind in singledom.
Like going to college, living on my own, and establishing a career, finding a special person to share my world with has always been on my life’s to-do list. It’s just that over the years I’ve found that when it comes to relationships, there are two different kinds of people: the default relationship people, who manage to always have a significant other (not always the same one, but significant nonetheless); and the default single people. The latter may get serious with someone here and there, but for the most part you can find them on the dance floor with a hand raised high to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” That’s where I fall.
After finally getting out my well wishes and (of course) requesting a play-by-play of the whole proposal, I hung up the phone, climbed into bed and realized every single nerve in my body was on the fritz. Breathing exercises wouldn’t work. Scrolling through Instagram didn’t distract me, nor did calling my comic relief of a best friend in L.A.
But that day last September was just the start; soon enough, wedding invite after wedding invite started arriving in my mailbox—and every time I was met with an accelerated heart rate and an immediate need to pretend the whole thing wasn’t happening. It’s a condition I later dubbed “dissociative invite disorder”—when that feeling of pure excitement and joy for your friend or loved one quickly turns into the dread of “here we go again…” The hopping on dating apps, trying to secure a legit date; the awkward “did you give me a plus one?” conversations, or—better yet—the wedding reply cards with “1” already prefilled in the “number of guests” box. The reality is, as a single woman during wedding season, an excuse to get dressed up and put on fake eyelashes is nice, but it often serves as a reminder that you are, in fact, single.
Over the years I’ve learned to take my relationship status mostly in stride. I still eat the occasional bag of popcorn for dinner, go out after work several nights a week, and take off for weekends away with just a few hours’ notice. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the flexibility and quiet time my no-husband-or-kids lifestyle provides. But with every call from my mother and grandmother somehow shifting to a “just calling to remind you that you’re single” conversation (okay, they don’t actually say that, but that’s essentially what I hear), I’m starting to feel a bit left out. As if at 29 I already should have this house and spouse combo I have yet to attain. A fridge door filled with Save-the-Dates and a Facebook timeline with notices of people getting engaged and married, having babies, and enjoying the family life do little to help the feeling. I too would like to send out invites, go on cake tastings, try on pretty white dresses and have the wedding of my dreams. It just hasn’t happened yet, and I certainly won’t force it.
This summer, I intend on going to every wedding I’m invited to, putting a sincere smile on my face, and bringing a gift I would want for my own shared home. At the rate my Tindering is going, there’s a good chance I will be there solo, likely in a room full of couples, doing my best to pretend that I’m completely comfortable with the fact that I’m the only unattached person at the table. And if you see me there, do your best not to ask me when I’m getting married, or if I’m dating, and definitely not “Why are you still single?” It’s a silly question. Let me sip my champagne in peace while I scope out the room for a nice young man to flirt with. I’m keeping hope alive (along with my mother and grandmother) that one day soon I’ll hear the call for “All the Single Ladies” and remain planted in my seat. I’ll look over to my right, gaze into my fiancées eyes, and notice that he’s smiling from ear to ear simply because he put a ring on it. That day, however, is not today.