I started writing this in response to this article, and thinking about how single women feel about other peoples’ weddings, but the more I re-read it, the more smug I found it, so I’m not actually going to talk about the article at all. But I’ll still ramble about the topic because, well, it’s my blog.
Weddings and all that goes with them are one of those things that, as a Single Woman of a Certain Age (I’ll call us SWoaCAs), you can be happy about and also dread at the same time. It’s not just about being single; the ‘of a Certain Age’ thing is a definite factor in how you feel. You pass the stage when your peers are getting married, and you enter the phase where everyone younger (sometimes much younger) than you seems to be getting married. And your peers are now having children. Lots of children. I suppose later on, you get to the stage of ‘all your peers are becoming grandparents and you’re not’ (which can also be a painful thing even if you did get married and have children, but your own children didn’t (sorry mum and dad)). So you’re at this weird place of being a grown up who hasn’t experienced the milestones that many other grown ups just take as part of life, and watching as others celebrate…and celebrate…and celebrate again.
It isn’t that you will always feel sad about a wedding or you will always feel ambivalent or whatever. Like any other human, as a SWoaCA, your reaction to the news of another engagement or upcoming wedding isn’t so much about the couple themselves, it’s about your own situation and how you feel at the time. Sometimes you might be feeling quite robust about being a SWoaCA and you are excited for them and wish the couple well. Other times you might have had a week of feeling sad about being single and the news just tips you over into the depths of despondency and people look at you like you’ve sprouted another head when you get upset because it has nothing to do with you and how much of a grinch are you that you can’t be happy about someone getting married?
Weddings amongst your church family can be especially awkward, because the couple can’t invite everyone to everything, and they’re not the same level of close to everyone so invariably people are going to be left out. But it isn’t the same as not inviting someone you were friends with at uni, or a distant cousin; you’re seeing all these people every week (sometimes multiple times a week). Unfortunately it creates that situation of everyone covertly trying to work out who has been invited to Part A of the day (the ceremony and an afternoon tea in the church hall perhaps) and who has made it onto the list for Part B (the reception) without looking like a total paranoid weirdo or insensitive git, and then you get wary of talking about it at all. Or just assuming someone’s been invited and then finding out they weren’t and…oh so much awkward.
I’ve had conversations about wedding functions at Bible study a few times in the past year, with a fellow who isn’t adept at picking up social cues (for one reason or another). He’s just trying to make conversation about happy events and doesn’t understand that it might be just highlighting more awkwardness. For example, last night he said,
“Hey Bec, were you at xx and xx’s engagement party on the weekend?”
“No, I wasn’t. I did see photos on Facebook though, everyone looked lovely.” I tried to end the conversation there, but he continued.
“Why weren’t you there? Oh you weren’t invited,” he said, in his booming voice that seemed to cut across the whole room (even though it probably didn’t). “It was really good.”
I paused. “Hey, if you were there, why did you ask if I was there too?”
I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. Is it disingenuous to bring all my ramblings back to, “ultimately, we need to be more like Jesus” or “ultimately, in the new creation, none of this will matter”? It feels like that’s the slightly more grown up way of saying every answer to every Sunday school question is “Jesus” or “the Bible”. But that doesn’t make it any less true!
When trying to work out how to respond to things that come up in life, the best thing is to go back to the Bible, right? The more we do that, the more we can train ourselves to avoid our knee-jerk responses of self pity or jealousy or anger or [insert emotion here] when we hear of someone having something wonderful happen in their life that we haven’t shared, and instead:
When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone.
Romans 12:15-16 (CEV)
That’s the aim, even if I still fall short sometimes (okay, a lot of the time!).