The addiction began innocently. I dared to Google “wedding gowns,” telling myself I was “just looking.” Before I knew it, I’d arrived at the registration page for The Knot, and I began sweating as I gauged the creep factor of registering on the site even though I had no intention of getting married anytime soon. “No,” I thought, “that would be going too far. Don’t leave a trail.” I hit the back button and made sure to erase my browsing history so that no one else would see what I’d done. But, I’m ashamed to admit, I started secretly visiting other wedding sites, all the while denying I had a problem. It’s just a little, I told myself; I can stop whenever I want.
I couldn’t stop. I even started feeding my addiction in public. For a while, every time I passed the magazine aisle at Safeway, I would stretch my neck so that my eyes could linger on the cover of Modern Bride. Soon, I began to feel magnetically drawn toward the whole group of wedding magazines, and finally, I wasn’t able to pass by without pausing to look at the covers in detail. Eventually, I’d stand in full view of everyone, devouring each page of Martha Stewart Weddings, so brazen that I didn’t even bother to glance over my shoulder to see if anyone I knew was approaching.
Rationally, I knew that even if someone I knew did pass by, and even if I wasn’t able to close the magazine in time and the person saw what I was reading, he or she probably wouldn’t have cared. Still, I imagined a more-than-awkward exchange in which an acquaintance would ask, “Oh! You’re getting married?” The only suitable response being “yes,” and “yes” being a lie, and lying being something I try to avoid, I’d be left with no course of action except something illogical and socially inappropriate, like pretending I’m deaf. Or saying, “I’m sorry, I’ve never seen you before” in Spanish, and then holding up a can of refried beans for veracity. Or suddenly letting out a loud fart. Would it be better to risk telling the truth? That while waiting for the pharmacy to fill my crazy pills, instead of bettering myself by reading Time or Newsweek, I sink to a pathetic level of fantasy in which I dare to imagine that the key to happiness lies in layers of organza and Jordan almonds in little tulle bags? Could I really say that? More important, could I actually use the words “tulle” and “organza” in a sentence without sounding like the biggest unmarried loser in the universe?
I think the only proper response in such a potentially embarrassing situation is to go all-out crazy, without worrying about the consequences.
“Are you getting married?” the acquaintance would ask.
“No,” I’d reply earnestly, “but my cat is.” And I’d flash a huge, un-self-conscious, crazy-cat-lady smile.
The social pressure was the worst part of being unmarried. I’d go out with a group of friends and realize that I was the only one there not married or engaged to be married. Sometimes I’d be the oldest one there, which made me even more miserable. The very next engagement announcement, I believed, would be the final straw. I’d crack. There was a couple among my work friends who was about to get engaged, it was rumored. I hoped that if it were announced at happy hour, I’d be really drunk at the time. If not, I imagined myself bursting into tears in front of everyone, and maybe even throwing something—a heavy, breakable object, like a twenty-ounce beer glass or a large mirror. I’d probably yell while throwing it too, most likely something that had “fuck” and “stupid” in it, like “I hate my stupid fucking life.” And there would be no way to recover socially from that.
I was constantly measuring myself against other women, thinking, If she can get a husband, why can’t I?
One day, it hit me: I was thinking of marriage as merit-based, when it clearly isn’t. Marriage is like that floating ducks game at the carnival where you pick up a plastic duck, and if the “magic number” is on that duck, you win a prize. In other words, you can’t do anything to earn marriage; it’s a matter of luck. You can be the prettiest, wittiest, most charming woman in the world, but whether or not you get married is really just a matter of picking up the right duck. Unlike spelling bees and ideal student awards, I realized, I would not be able to “win” marriage. I should just accept my own powerlessness. If the marriage fairy were meant to shit upon me, then she would, in due time.
Ray told me many times to stop worrying. As my own personal pregnancy fairy, he often reminded me of his plan to inseminate me artificially if I reached 35 and still hadn’t found a husband.
“You know, your eggs don’t start going bad until you’re, like, 30,” he reassured me.
“Ray, I am 30. And would you please not use the term ‘go bad’ in reference to my ovaries? It sounds like you’re talking about mayonnaise.”
“Plus, every time you say that, I get depressed.”
“I was only trying to be helpful. We don’t even have to do it. I’ll just take the turkey baster and—”
“Ew! OK! I get it! It’s grossing me out worse than that time you did a somersault on my bed in your boxers and I accidentally caught a glimpse of your scrotal flesh.”
“I said I was sorry about that.”
“It burned an image into my mind. In fact, I repressed that memory. Let me get back to the business of repressing.”
I tried to imagine being married to Gills-and-Fins, but I was never sure if I liked what I imagined. I thought of the question Joe had asked me as we lay side by side in our motel room that fateful night in Albuquerque: Have we ever really connected? I wished I could answer it, but my brain was so muddled with unrealistic expectations and failed hopes that I didn’t know what “connecting” meant anymore.
To be continued next Memoir Monday.
Photo credits: mygownpreservation.com, hautecature.wordpress.com, etsy.com