Family Gatherings: Being Single at Weddings
Last week the phone rang. One of the worst kind of phone calls, the one that keeps you awake at night. The kind of ring tone that makes you stop dead in your tracks and breathe deeply to overcome that instant feeling of dread. I couldn’t explain it. I just knew. ‘Hello, I hope you haven’t forgotten that it’s your uncle Trevor’s wedding next Saturday and will you be bringing anyone nice with you?’ And I could hear myself let out a silent scream. I was sure I had frightened the next door cat but in fact it was inaudible. How do they do that, how do they manage to remind you and make you feel as if you are an aged spinster or hermit in so few words.
I’m a single guy. Admittedly I am 37 and single and still never married and much that my mother weeps over the lack of grandchildren, she put son a stoic face when yet another family gathering takes place. Generally I am sure she makes gentle excuses to friends about how busy I am with career and how I am doing so well whilst at the same time wondering if I really do like the opposite sex. But nothing is more uncomfortable than being placed in the arena of family life where relatives near and far get you all to themselves to quiz you as if it was the final question in Who wants to be a Millionaire. Perhaps I am The Weakest Link! And nothing is more ideal for such a situation than a family wedding.
Now you and I both know that we are going to be asked one thousand times before the big event who we are bringing with us. To announce nonchalantly that we are coming alone is generally treated with silent disgust so it’s back to the almost-melted phone to try and fathom out how we can cajole into being our invited guest. The dread in fact started a few weeks earlier when the actual invitation arrived.
The invitation sits staring at you and eventually has to be dealt with. Of course there is the possibility of simply turning up at the wedding ceremony alone and just freestyling it with enough beer, champagne or wine inside you sink the Titanic however you won’t get away that easily my friend. Apart from a cast of thousands watching you with sideways glances and nudging winks as you enter on your own, there is the empty chair next to you to contend with as well as the place next to you at the after-ceremony dinner. Because however cleanly you explain that you won’t be bringing anyone, they will set two places anyway. Almost to show you what you are missing to everyone else.
Okay so let’s get on the phone and round up an ex. An ex partner is always good for weddings as everyone already knows them and you are comfortable enough to find them your ally in your hour of need. They will of course accompany you to make you feel severely uncomfortable, quaff as much free drink as they can and flirt with the best man or bridesmaid outrageously, as well as getting admirably drunk and dancing just to shame you. Of course the family loved you ex which is why you should never ever invite them. The wedding gives them ample opportunity to drone on about how you made such a loving couple and mistakenly how it will be your turn next. They will ask prying questions like why you guys ever split up. The fact that they never saw how your ex used to eat banana fritters in bed at 5am or leave the basin full of hair has nothing of course to do with it. Secretly of course, your ex wants you back and will turn the evening into a dialogue about how you should both get back together and give it another try. Avoid.
The second option is to bring along a friend of the opposite sex. Big mistake. What will happen on this occasion is that your prying relatives will decide that you are a match made in heaven. Add a couple of bottles of champagne into the equation and before you know it, you will have slept with your best friend and woken up with the hangover from hell and all your relatives will have matched you up for the next ceremony and feel wrongly proud of their matchmaking abilities. Don’t go there.
Okay so at this point its time to think about bringing the person along who you have dated three times but don’t really like. She or he will do nicely as you don’t really see yourselves being together but you can pretend and your guest will be impressed. Wrong. Your relatives will smell the sense of fear on your guest and make a B-line to them to reassure that you are a nice boy or girl really. The family will trawl our endless tales of when you were three and were sick down your cousin’s neck at a christening. If your burgeoning relationship wasn’t doomed before it is now. Your relatives have just been replaced by the cast of the Adams family. Your guest will be able to see what they would be marrying into and well meaning relatives will revel in making you squirm. It should be an Olympic sport.
Right so it’s decided then. Go it alone and take the consequences. You will deal with the empty chair next to you scenario later. Great. Not great. If you do announce that you are coming alone there is the great difficulty of where you are going to be seated. As you are a single number the seating plan has become troublesome. You could run the gauntlet and be placed with Aunt Rose and other assorted relatives. But you won’t be given that chance. No, you are more likely to find yourself on the ‘weirdo table’ behind the pillar at the back. It’s always the way. How come all the single strange folk are placed at the furthermost outpost of a wedding dinner. Here you can dwell like long lost inmates of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest whilst pointed whispers from distant tables are carried over on the breeze of the quartets’ music in the corner.
On the other hand, a fate worse than death means you will be seated next to second cousin Edwin(a) who everyone has decided is now your perfect match.. You and I know that hell needs to freeze over before you’d ever go near this person but fate, my friend, is no longer in your hands. The full battle force of relatives have taken over and are watching in glee as you try and stay as far away from your proposed match as you can whilst seated directly next to them. They will squeal with delight as they announce loudly how you make the ideal couple and why you had never seen it before. Pray and pray some more. Then run.
At the wedding reception, you have not yet realized that this isn’t just a wedding celebration but a gladiatorial spectacle with you feeding the lions. This manifests itself at the outset by every well meaning elderly couple interrogating you about if you are single, why you are single, whether you eat properly and if you have any friends. They usually look incredulous when you say that you do actually cook for yourself and they then usually respond by asking what you cook as if once again you have just descended from space or are 3 years old. You will have to repeat this conversation with approximately 15 separate elderly relatives smelling of Lavender before heading of outside the marquee to take up smoking again.
The final insults are so numerous we should make a list. As a woman you will be expected to catch the Bride’s bouquet before enduring a marathon’ its your turn next’ dialogue.. During the service the wedding vows will remind you of why you are still single and probably now always will be. Dancing after the ceremony with awkward gangly teenagers will make you realize you are only a stone’s throw from old age and death, and all the while you will wondering if your own wedding is going to be like this whilst secretly promising that you’ll only get married on a desert island with no family whatsoever.
Going home at the end of it all to a silent house is one of the biggest feelings of relief you will ever feel and your single home will never look more inviting. Put your feet up and have a coffee and next time that phone rings..don’t answer it.