I had originally only planned one post about my sad state as a long-term single woman in her early 30s, but apparently this is turning out to be a series…
On Thursday, a friend who I have known for my entire life posted on Facebook that she had now been married for five years. I stopped and did some mental maths for a minute. May 2012. I honestly hadn’t realised it had already been five years since her wedding day. Back then I’d never even had a boyfriend. I mean, can you imagine? One of your oldest friends gets married when you’re both 26, and you’ve never even experienced what it’s like to be in a relationship? It’s just so completely beyond ‘normal’ people’s experiences. You see photos of her in her white dress, smiling with her new husband, holding her bouquet; knowing that the odds of you being able to do the same thing, to have that magical wonderful day, the best day of your life, are very much stacked against you. Nobody even wants to go for a drink with you, never mind marry you. I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, and yes, they were beautiful experiences; but on both days I was fighting the black cloud that was lurking in the back of my mind – the persistent voice of doom, the ‘I’ll never have all this’. The thought that I’ll always be the bridesmaid in blue, never the bride in white. People assume that they’ll get married at some point in their lives, or at least find someone to spend the rest of their days with. I don’t remember ever being convinced about it, and certainly not in my teens. As my friends made steps forward with the opposite sex, I stayed in the exact same place until a couple of months before my A Level exams. My two oldest schoolfriends are now both married, and I’m just as single as ever.
This morning, I woke up to coverage on two different news channels of a wedding. A wedding that didn’t mean anything to me. I’m anything but a royalist, but that’s a discussion for another day. It’s the cult of celebrity I suppose, people who are famous not because of anything they’ve actually done, but simply because they’re there, who they know or who they’re related to. I had been starting to think recently when wedding season was going to start again, and I got my answer this morning when I was having breakfast. There’s a hashtag for it which is already trending on Twitter. This is an exaggerated example of what happens during the summer, I wake up in the morning, and if I’m stupid enough to think that going on Facebook is a good idea, I’m met with wedding photos and statuses of friends congratulating people on getting married, or excited about their own wedding.
I was so embarrassed by showing up as a single 29 year old to my younger brother’s wedding, and the conversations I had during the course of the day about my single status only made me feel worse about myself. I was one of four women in the bride’s party, and the oldest by far. The two teenage bridesmaids had their boyfriends join them for the reception. It feels like it’s taboo to talk about this, single people aren’t supposed to feel sad at weddings, and especially not talk about it. It’s a day for everyone to be happy, regardless of any issues they’re dealing with internally. And I genuinely say this without any bitterness, it’s a day where anyone apart from the bride and groom don’t really count. It’s their special day, and if that makes you sad, you just have to bottle it up and deal with it another day.
This past week, I didn’t watch an episode of my guilty pleasure TV show (Scorpion, in case anyone’s wondering) because two of the characters were getting married. It’s a show that I enjoy watching because I can turn my brain off and let myself get carried away with the over-the-top ridiculousness. I was so disappointed when the wedding storyline started to unfold, because I knew it would ruin the show for me to a certain extent. I tried to watch the episode, and I did get a few minutes in, but with wedding preparations right from the beginning, I was forcing myself to watch something I really didn’t want to.
Society, drugged up on reality TV and titillating celebrity headlines, doesn’t deem someone like me to be of interest. I know that can sound incredibly bitter, but I completely agree. I read a lot, I obsessively love audio drama podcasts, I spend a lot of my free time learning languages, and I listen to K-pop for crying out loud. I behave like someone who is at least 10 years younger than I actually am. Because everyone tells single people to find hobbies. The problem is, I found the wrong ones. I am a perfect example of a woman who is anything but girlfriend/wife material. And that’s not necessarily even a bad thing. I’m the first person to criticise myself, but I speak three languages fluently, can read another two, and I’m learning another; I’ve lived abroad, I read a lot, I enjoy writing. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’m talented, but as people told me on Thursday night, I’m interesting and unique. But the problem with men is that there’s interesting, and there’s interesting.
I’m aware of how ridiculous all this can sound to people who are married, or are in relationships, but this time of year can be very damaging to lonely people like me. I said I was going through a phase of acceptance of my long-term single state, I never said I was happy with it. Last August, I stopped posting on Facebook, and deleted the app, because seeing so many weddings every single weekend was detrimental to me. There are people like me who have stopped going on Facebook, have stopped communicating with people through that site, because there are too many images and words on there that wound us. Waking up on a Saturday morning and faffing about on social media because you’re not quite ready to leave the warm cocoon of your bed, and seeing wedding photos can be harmful. If you’re not careful, if you don’t have the right state of mind, it will chip away at you. I’m fully aware that I’ve become bitter. I say that I hate weddings, but that’s only half the story. I hate being reminded that I’ve never had that special day, especially now that I’m in my 30s; and that more than likely I never will. I’d love to be a bride, to wear a beautiful white dress. I’ve got a fairly clear idea of what kind of dress I’d like to have – maybe in another lifetime where things will go right for me – as counterproductive as such thoughts are for someone who’s spent nearly their entire life alone; there still always seems to be that vague glimmer of hope in the back of my mind, that one day, I’ll get that too. To be as happy as all of the people I’ve seen in photos on Facebook over the years. I would suggest that couples spare a thought for the single people of the world when they post photo after photo on social media, but who am I to tell them to not be happy? They got lucky, and I shouldn’t begrudge that. It’s just, I wish I had that too.