Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Being Single Sucks at Weddings

Being single is something that I know better than most people (having had most of my adult life to master it), and with that knowledge there are some things that I frequently have to remind people in couples that they have the cliche right, and other times where I have to state that they have the cliche wrong.  For example, I am constantly hearing when you are single "you get to do whatever you want," and for the most part this is actually true.  Provided you don't have a familial obligation or a work event, I can pretty much always get away with going to a movie midweek, staying up late writing in my novel, going to a yoga class at 7 PM, or heading to a restaurant that I've wanted to try and no one is going to point out that I have to stay at home and clean the gutters or watch the kids.  In a lot of ways, there are definitely pluses to being single, and in almost every social situation you can find a silver lining.  This is not, however, the case at one of the most discussed places in all single-person lore: weddings.

Every single sitcom of the 1990's will point out that weddings are a great place to be single, but they are lying through their teeth.  Despite what Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have pointed out, being single at a wedding is a nightmare on-top of a nightmare, and I'm going to point out four reasons why this sucks below, because it's good to know when it comes to why your single person might not be as excited to be there, and it has nothing to do with them being jealous (well, for the most part).

1. The Gifts

Yes, I'm going to start out with something we all struggle with at weddings: the gifts.  This is, it's worth noting, particularly troublesome for women (and gay men) as those who don't identify as single straight men have to deal with more than just the wedding present: they frequently have to also pony up for an engagement party gift, a wedding shower gift, and occasionally even buying multiple daiquiris or a plane ticket for the bachelorette party.  Heaven forbid you're a bridesmaid and also have to throw in a dress that you will never wear again.  I get that the meal is supposed to be something of a quid pro quo here, but let's be honest-chicken from a warming tray and dry vanilla cake (that's what 98% of weddings end up serving) is not really worth the $300 some guests have to pony up by the time the wedding is over.

The problem here is not just that this tradition is ridiculous and odiously expensive, but it's also that, as a single person, there's a good chance I don't get reciprocation.  Earlier on in life, there's the implication that you'll all get married at the same time and so you'll all be doing some sort of bizarre balancing act, each filling up each other's kitchens and bathrooms at an accelerated pace, but as you get older the people whose weddings you went to you fall away from (not-so-secret fact: couples travel with other couples, and the single person has to work twice as hard to stay in the circle because it's awkward being the third wheel for too long and even then the "Phoebe" gets lifted out) and so you're not getting that investment back.  And this is just assuming you even get married period.  If you hit 32 and are still single, there's a very strong possibility it's never going to happen, and your only chance of getting a free blender is a drawing at Sears.

2. The Seating Arrangement

If there's one thing that I always recommend prior to a wedding, for the sake of your friends, is a seating arrangement.  I honestly figure out before I RSVP to a wedding whether or not there is going to be one, because otherwise I am probably checking the no box, and here's why: single people, by-and-large, end up in a very awkward situation where there's a table of ten and there's eleven people at the table and suddenly there's a tense conversation where either the single person feels like they're breaking up the group when half of them have to go sit with an aunt or they have to pony over to a table filled with people they don't know.  Best case scenario-the reception is at an open bar with stools, and you can find solace in a series of increasingly complex cocktails.

Even if there's a seating arrangement, though, you, might end up at the singles table.  In TV shows, this is always a good thing, as there's always a bunch of lecherous older men and then one handsome, gorgeous perfect guy that comes in and is a friend of the groom's from college who saves puppies on the weekend while volunteer firefighting and has arms like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper.  In reality, though, it's just a cruel time mirror of where you've been (the groom's younger cousin who is constantly complaining to his sauced parents that he wants to go home) and where you will be (the bride's spinster aunt that is complaining about the music being too loud and giving you unsolicited advice on literally every conversation you're attempting to avoid).  By the time the dance starts, you are desperate to leave and sneak back to your hotel room to get room service and maybe do something regrettable on Tinder, but the second you attempt to leave you're called a buzz kill even though you've been ignored by your coupled friends through dinner.

3. The Matchmaking

Ahh, the matchmaking at weddings-a timeless tradition, again inspired by TV sitcoms where it always ends up with a cute ending (you end up falling for the caterer while hiding from the girl you're being set up with), or with another wedding instead (which the bride takes credit for when she transitions to your maid-of-honor).  As someone who has been repeatedly single at weddings (I've never actually managed to have a boyfriend at the same time as a wedding), I can vouch that it never goes this way.

For starters, this is someone that wasn't quite good enough for you to be set up previous to the wedding, so there's something wrong there.  Sometimes, admittedly, that's geography, as they live in another city and are flying in for the wedding, but that's just inviting trouble (best case scenario is that it's a one-night stand with an awkward "so where do we go from here?" moment the next morning when the mojitos wear off and you need to do a walk-of-shame to the continental breakfast).  Worst case scenario is that you've been a "discussion topic" amongst those planning the wedding and what once was a "that probably wouldn't work" has spiraled into a deeply pressured "I just want you to be happy" guilt trip from the bride and suddenly you're being oddly spectated on by a woman who is insisting the entire night be perfect.

This is particularly true for gay guys, for the record, and something we have to deal with in really awkward ways.  For starters, the gay population is much smaller at straight weddings than you'd expect, and so the guy you're being set up with is quite possibly the only other gay guy there.  Especially if you're a friend of the groom's, there's a good chance that it's going to be a "you're only being set up because you're both gay" situation.  On occasion, this might pay off for you where you're suddenly forced into a date with a guy outside of your league (though in this case it might suck for him), but most of the time you're suddenly on a date with someone twenty years older than you or with a guy you literally have nothing in common with, but the entire wedding party is spectating on you so you feel the pressure to continue chatting and maybe even dancing later in the evening with each other to choruses of awes before sneaking back to your hotel room and tripling your OKCupid game so this never happens again.

4. The Dance

Oh dear lord, the dance.  SO much pressure here, and never the good kind.  Here's the thing about wedding dances that coupled people forget but single people never do-that there's an artful combination of going out during group dances like "Footloose" where everyone has a rare flashback to when we were all in college and would do things like this all the time and then suddenly "It's Your Love" pops up and suddenly the single people are forced to exit the floor, pretending to awkwardly have remembered that they have a cell phone or a Tom Collins that needs finishing.

And the thing is, you make a scene of it for one of two reasons.  One, you are pretending that the people in that group dance who are now all gooey-eyed notice that you don't have a dance partner (they don't), or more likely, you're trying to avoid the awkward dance with a coworker or cousin that feels so unnatural and yet always seems to pop up at weddings.  As a gay man in particular, I can tell you that part of ruling out dating girls also ruled out wanting to slow dance with girls years ago, and while I'll occasionally indulge if it's a close enough friend (particularly if it's the bride, because that's always a coup at a wedding), it almost never is, and it's usually that friend who never quite got the "I'm really not into you" part of you being gay and is also single at the wedding, and views you as their most viable prospect.  If there's one part of a wedding that I truly wish I could just skip (always), it would be the dance.

So, as we're in the heart of wedding season, what should you do for your single friends in these situations?  Don't match-make unless you'd be willing to do it outside the parameters of the wedding.  Maybe recommend no presents at the engagement party and the bachelorette party as it just seems greedy.  Don't pick hideous bridesmaids dresses-make them attractive enough that theoretically they could be worn again at other weddings or at chaperoning gigs.  Don't be too horrified if the friend RSVP's no or just wants to go to the ceremony.  And stagger the dances a little bit better between fast and slows, with more pressure put on the fast songs instead of the slow ones.  You're about to have a honeymoon-you don't need that many slow dances.

No comments: