Nobody wants to be the old maid or confirmed bachelor at a wedding. And yet, there I was wearing a hot pink dress, holding flowers, and more than a decade older than the other bridesmaids.
Yes, I was the old bridesmaid at my baby sister's wedding. Let's get this part clear from the get-go, I was, and still am, very happy for the bride and groom. I think they make a wonderful couple together. That doesn't change the fact that I am not a big fan of attending weddings.
It is no secret that I was not looking forward to attending the wedding. But no one really knew why, and since no one asked, I kept it to myself. I knew others would immediately assume I was bitter or jealous that I wasn't the one getting married. (How did I know that? People said it to me.) But that was far from the truth. I didn't want to go because I knew it meant a night with a lot of really awkward conversations.
Weddings are just not that much fun when you have to spend the evening answering, “So Erin, when are you ever going to get married?” Or from the old friends of your parents who can't keep you and your siblings straight, “Now, remind me, how long have you been married? Oh, you're the one who didn't get married, that's right. So what do you do now?” I even got a few, “Now how many kids do you have now?” as my nephews ran circles around me.
I could jump straight to the witty comebacks I'm too polite to use in response to those kinds of questions. But let's just admit they are fun to concoct, but rarely get put into practice. Instead, let's just be straight with each other here. Sometimes weddings are painful for singles, and it just gets more uncomfortable with time. We go because we are happy for the couple. We want to support our family and friends. But oftentimes we go in spite of how awkward we will feel.
But this time I learned a lesson from my 12 year old cousin. As I shifted around uncomfortably at the wedding, I noticed I wasn't alone. My darling 12 year old cousin looked as out of place and as uncomfortable as I felt. Normally a very vivacious personality, she sat alone, arms crossed, and not smiling. She sat a few tables away from me, no one between us, both of us alone at our own tables. I got up and asked her what was wrong and why she wasn't up dancing. She admitted she didn't know how to dance to “those songs.” The song in question? “Footloose.” I grabbed her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor to join the dancing throng of bridesmaids in hot pink dresses. She reminded me again, “I don't know how!” Now, I know she knows how to dance. In fact, I know she's a good dancer. But at 12 years old, she's never been to a dance before. So I “kicked off my Sunday shoes,” and on sore and blistered feet, showed her that there is no previous knowledge or talent required to “cut footloose.”
Once she understood that dancing to “Footloose” is really nothing more than jumping around and kicking a lot, she had a blast. But as the song ended (is it just me or is that one really long song?) it was replaced by the “Electric Slide” (another song that would benefit from fewer chorus repeats). She ran off the dance floor (her father and mother ran on), and she proceeded to watch the adults in the room boogy-woogy-woogy.
After a few minutes of electric sliding I went to go see if she was okay. She very honestly asked me, “How am I ever going to know how to do all those dances?” I told her she would learn the same way the rest of us did- by showing up at church dances, watching from the wings, and finally getting up the guts to just jump in and try it one day. (And I told her I will gladly show her before she turns fourteen if she wants, but then she'll dance like me, and I'm not sure that's a good thing.) Before long I noticed she was up and dancing during every song. She even asked a young man to dance with her a few times.
I asked her later what had changed, and she said, “I just wanted to have fun, so I did.”
Eventually it was time for the bouquet toss. I consider this to be one of the most humiliating experiences a single woman can endure, especially when name-checked by the bride, groom, deejay, or anyone else at the wedding. And yet, there I was, the much older bridesmaid standing in the middle of a group of 8-12 year old girls, and a 19 year old bridesmaid. I did not fight to catch the bouquet. I knew the 19 year old bridesmaid really, really wanted to catch it, but the honor went to an 11 year old. And yet it took less than two minutes for someone to walk up to me and say, “We were all hoping you would be the one to catch it! We've got to get you married off!”
All I could do was sigh. Oh how I hate it when people say things like that to me. Am I nothing more than a girl who isn't married yet?
But then I remembered my cousin. “I just wanted to have fun, so I did.”
And so I did. I wanted to have fun, so I did. I had a very enjoyable time at the wedding. It was very fun (for both me, and the 12 year old).
As I sit and write this I can see a big singles event on my schedule next month. I want to attend and have fun. But I will be driving several hours alone to attend it alone. If you are an introvert, or even an extrovert with a self-conscious side, you know events like this can be scary. It is never easy to walk into a big event full of people and feel like you are all alone. I know full well this event next month could be fun. It should be fun. It could also very well be scary and intimidating, and I may very well find myself sitting in a corner, arms crossed, looking miserable, and feeling like the odd man out. We've all been there. Being included and popular doesn't always happen. Most of the time, we're all very alone and single and trying not to be miserable.
I won't let it happen. Instead I will remember the words of wisdom from a 12 year old girl. “I just wanted to have fun, so I did.”
Erin Ann McBride is a writer, dreamer, blogger, and sleep addict. Equal parts Mary Poppins, Carrie Bradshaw, and Mother Theresa, she goes where the wind blows, writes about relationships and dating, and is devoted to serving others. You can learn more about her at the Story of a Nice Mormon Girl, she also writes about politics at the
Meridian Cares Alert: Largest Fire in Washington State History: Immediate Needs from Meridian Readers