One of my first cousins is getting married this evening. I used to like weddings. I like the love and the loyalty and the commitment. I like the metaphor of two people becoming one. But just in the past year or so, I’ve felt myself becoming a little cynical about them. Which I don’t like, because I’m not a natural cynic.
Today, I don’t really feel any joy or celebration of love and loyalty. I feel social obligation to spend time with my dramatic extended family and a set of in-laws I’ve frankly heard nothing good about. And I feel like it’s all just a big show. A lot of the drama circulates around who is standing up for the bride (and who isn’t) and what order those people standing up for her get to walk down the aisle in/are listed in the program. It’s…odd and uncomfortable for me to hear about. I’m sure it’s totally cringe-inducing for my cousin.
When I was young, before I met J, I simultaneously felt like love was just a big crock of Disney Princess shit, but also…every time I read or saw a fictional love story, or witnessed a real life one…particularly every time I went to a wedding…seeing and hearing all the language about love and how powerful it was…I felt hopeful. That maybe someone would love me that much one day. Someone would want to marry me. I never dreamed about a wedding though. And so when J proposed, planning all the details was kind of overwhelming and felt like a lot of work, which wasn’t amazing in itself. But…kind of like my birthday seems to do every year, planning my wedding seemed to pull my social anxiety into sharp focus. It was a spotlight on my lack of real connection with other people. I didn’t have a person in my life that I felt close enough with to ask them to stand up for me. My only attendant at my wedding was J’s sister. I honestly think J didn’t ask even his best friend to stand up for him at our wedding because I didn’t have anyone I could ask to balance it out. I wouldn’t have had any drama and bickering and resentment to deal with like my cousin has had/is having. The ‘drama’ I imagined with asking people to stand up for me would be that they’d turn me down. Because I mean…asking them to stand up for ME at my wedding? Um…we’re not that close, Jen…we’re not connected enough for that…
And no one has ever asked me to stand up for them at their wedding either. That means no one else felt close enough to me to ask me to be a part of that day for them. You’ve all heard the phrase, ‘Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,’ I’m sure. Well, I was only a bride once, never a bridesmaid.
Which brings me to the happy part of this post (yes…there’s a happy part…this isn’t a social anxiety pity party…I promise…here it comes…)
I would have asked A to stand up for me at my wedding 15 years ago. Even though it might have made her really nervous, I’d have asked her. And then apologized for making her nervous probably. But still.
I wish I’d have known A then. I wish I’d have known her in high school. I wish I’d have known her when I was a little girl. I’ve written before about A, but not in detail. Because, like me, she’s socially anxious and she prizes her privacy. What I’m going to write about her now won’t identify her in any sort of concrete way, but…I mean, it’s for her. I’m feeling very grateful and fortunate to be connected with her today. And I don’t have a lot of gifts to give her, because we live really far from each other (boo!). But I can write words.
Today is also A’s wedding anniversary with her husband. 22 years. ❤
And I’m just guessing (hoping), that maybe had I known her 22 years ago, she’d have asked me to stand up for her at her wedding too (maybe). Maybe I’d have gotten to be a maid of honor. Which would have terrified me, to be honest. Standing up for someone as their maid of honor usually means you have to give a toast at a reception (at least it does culturally and traditionally where I come from). And public speaking is clearly not my favorite thing in the world or something I’m good at. But I would have gladly done that for her. So here’s a speech I would have/could have given for A 22 years ago if we had only known each other then, and if it was something I was brave enough to say out loud when I was 19. (I am brave enough to write it here now at 41)–
A is my best friend. She is the best friend a person could ask for. Sometimes I think I made her up, because that’s what a great friend she is, and I am grateful for her every single day. When I met A, we connected almost instantly, about all kinds of things. Anxiety, stay-at-home parenthood, taste in mass media, personality compatibility, introversion, moral code and personal value alignment…and the first time I saw her in person, I thought, “Wow. A is as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside.” That is uniquely scarce. A is like…Liv Tyler as Arwen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy meets Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice in all of the best ways you can imagine that combination. She’s ethereal and kind and embracing and impossibly cool. She’s like a flower child punk rock mermaid. And being in her presence for the first time made me wonder why such an evidently magical being would ever be friends with dorky little me. But she is my friend. My best friend. Somehow, she makes me feel a sense of belonging with her, even though I am not a beautiful and cool flower child punk rock mermaid. Not even close, even on my very best day. (I mean…I could be the walrus…) But I still feel like we belong together and she is undoubtedly my best friend and that we’re the same…or maybe not the same, but complementary…congruent…something important and permanent together on the soul level. Platonic soul mates. And on this day, she married her romantic soul mate. I like to fancy myself a writer, but sometimes I feel like my own words aren’t good enough for the occasion, and this is one of those times, so I am borrowing words from a widely recognized writer that fit it better.
C. S. Lewis, at the close of The Last Battle, the final book in his Narnia series, wrote,
“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life…and all their adventures…had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
That’s what I hope and wish for A and M today. And every day. That their love story goes on forever, and every chapter is better than the one before.
Happy anniversary A (and M too, of course). I hope your day is amazing and your life is amazing. I’d stand up for you. ❤