How does it feel to be a single divorcee at a wedding?
I found out this weekend.
I’ve been to two weddings since my divorce. One of them was with my first ex-cub, and my parents – a cousin’s wedding. The second was a close family friend and I had my sisters and parents to sit with; they served as a security blanket.
I attended a wedding of a new friend this weekend. It was a spur of the moment decision that came about when he was kind enough to invite me, and I was honored. I had originally had plans with a romantic prospect, but in the weeks leading up to it, I sensed they were going to fall through. The guy and I didn’t have any longevity in the cards, including the week leading up to Labor Day. When he canceled due to work conflicts, I wasn’t surprised or sad. I was even relieved, and used that opportunity to seize the chance to go do something different- an adventure. A wedding in gorgeous Vermont where I could spend some time alone, celebrate a momentous day with my friend and his bride, and perhaps meet some new people.
Looking back, it was probably a bold move. I’m social, I like meeting new people, but I wasn’t prepared for the discovery that every single person there was in a relationship. Two of the four couples at my table were engaged. I was the single odd gal out.
It didn’t freak me out, or upset me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice it, or that it didn’t underscore my “aloneness” - a state of being that has ceased to bother me more or less, especially living in NYC and spending time with my single friends, or married friends in the midst of divorces.
I arrived the night before the wedding and enjoyed the few hours leading up to post rehearsal dinner drinks luxuriating in my aloneness. I declined getting a ride up and instead I took the train to Albany followed by a taxi for the hour drive to Manchester, so I could read and spend time in my head. I took a bath, ordered a bottle of wine for one, and then joined a few people (some I knew and some I didn’t) for drinks.
When I walked into the bar and sat down amidst the couples at the table, something dawned on me. And without thinking, I blurted, “Today is what would have been my eleven year wedding anniversary.”
Record scratch. Followed by a few empty stares, and one look of pity. “You’re divorced?”
My response: “Yeah. But I’m okay! I’m not sad. Really.”
How’s that for some rain on a hopeful romance parade?
The following day I went into town to have lunch and to enjoy some outlet mall retail therapy. When I walked by a quaint restaurant, I experienced a strange dejavu sensation. I had been here before. Had I blocked it out? And then it occurred to me (and I had to text my mom), I had been to Manchester over a decade ago with my ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law.
The wedding was exquisite, held at the exquisite Hildene grounds of Lincoln’s historical mansion. The weather was perfect. Until it wasn’t. An hour into dinner, the sky grew black and the winds fierce, thrashing the grand tent overhang and knocking over glasses. What followed was an hour of torrential downpour and a tornado watch on Vermont. Everyone relocated into the grand living room of the mansion. People sat along the stair case, hands empty because the bar was outside in the downpour. But they adapted. The bride and groom danced in the small space before the fireplace, and the father of the bride gave a moving speech.
I couldn’t resist the obvious metaphor. We plan for perfection. We hope for flawlessness, but of course, there is no such thing. Instead, we learn to adapt. And adapt quickly, and revel in the mess that can show life at its most beautiful.
My wedding on that day eleven years ago was what you would call flawless, weather included. People called me for months to say it was the best wedding ever. “It was perfect!” As if it was a good sign that our marriage would be too.
When everyone moved back outside, I felt a surprising pang of sadness. But I didn’t miss my ex-husband. I missed my ex-boyfriend (who I had spent Hurricane weekend with). In retrospect, weddings will do that to you. Duh. So I shouldn’t have been surprised, or mad at myself for texting him that I wished he was there. But I was. Perhaps I should have been more emotionally prepared. If I had to do it over again, I would still go. I was glad to be there. But next time – and a note to all yea single women – if you’re going to a wedding without a swim buddy, rain or shine, you have to know what to expect. Or leave your Blackberry in your hotel to ward off needy misplaced texting.
My two close girlfriends who are also divorced are both in serious relationships and contemplating marriage number two. I wondered what they would be thinking had they been there with me. Would they be viewing the young engaged couples at my table, or the bride and groom, through different lenses? We’ve all heard that it’s different the second time. An older woman who I happened to sit beside on the shuttle to the wedding, offered the following to me unprompted: “It’s better the second time. Trust me.”
I have yet to find out. But I’m hopeful.