I woke up at 5:40 this morning (a Saturday) after a “nightmare” in which I asked four friends to be my maids of honor and then stressed out about whether four maids of honor was too many. The answer is “probably.” The stress jolted me out of a deep sleep, and my clock said 5:40, and the birds chirping right outside my window (really, right into my window) made any attempt to fall back asleep useless. My dog was happy to see me. She hates when everyone “sleeps in” until 8 or 9 on weekends and she’s stuck out in the kitchen all by herself, parched and with a full bladder. She made her happiness known by running around in a circle, picking up her ball and then dropping it, picking up her bone and then dropping it, and then smiling up at me with her head cocked to the side. What a dummy.
Last night I went to the library, took out four Curtis Sittenfeld books and one Liane Moriarty and one Meg Wollitzer, and then wrote out two “Will You Be My Maid of Honor?” cards while eating a frozen Greek yogurt bar (not terrible). The point is, I’ve never felt older. My mom read each of the book jackets and shook her head: “Yup, you’re getting old.” She’s referring to the fact that I always used to turn up my nose at her “women’s books” while I sat on the beach reading meditations on the African diaspora or the “liminal state of the Irish-American identity.” One day I’ll read the high-brow books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelves since 2007 or so, but for now I’m very comfortable delving into the lighter side of literature. It gives me flashbacks to reading the North and South trilogy on our screened-in porch (may it rest in peace) as a twelve-year-old. Nostalgia is what it’s all about.
By the way, it’s true: I’m getting married. I’ve been engaged for five months and three days, and I’ve already picked out plates and a China pattern, which actually isn’t a pattern at all, but plain old bone white, which makes me feel classy. Like Nantucket classy. We also set a date and met with the priest, who has an Irish brogue, which is part of my wedding aesthetic. (Just kidding. But that small detail will earn me huge points with my grandma, who I will need to distract somehow because the wedding is not going to be American-flag-themed in honor of July 4th as she demanded.) My latest side project has been Googling ideas for asking the special ladies in my life to be part of our wedding party that don’t involve a customized wine bottle, which feels just a little too Pinteresty. (And good lord, why is this an expectation in the first place?) Besides, my gals would rather have customized pizza or hummus or ice cream or scotch (just for the story), but pursuing any one of those things might lead down a really weird DIY path that I’m not prepared to commit to. I’m not the creative sort. Or the do-it-yourself sort. And that is why I decided on cards: I can’t design a personalized pizza box, but I’m pretty good at writing notes. And so here we are.
Every new wedding-related thing we do feels very weird, like I’m out of my element. I am very out of my element. It took us over four months to do anything at all. We got engaged in Brooklyn a week before Christmas, and the days after that felt like a whirlwind: my parents rushed out to buy us an engagement-themed Christmas tree ornament, and we went around making house calls to my family members like we were in a goddamned Jane Austen novel. My left hand was held up, ring facing the camera, in every picture taken of us that week. People lose their minds over engagements. Engagements, weddings, and babies: it’s not very edgy to like these things, and yet we all do deep down.
But getting engaged was easy––on my end, anyway. All I had to do was show up and not give anyone a problem about showing up, even though it was a Friday night and I was tired from the work week. I succeeded about halfway. (I showed up, but I made my displeasure known.) The harder part, which I only discovered later, was the business of getting married. I always knew I wanted to get married, but I didn’t have any plan or vision or preconceived aesthetic. I wasn’t that “type” of gal. I had better things to think about, like how to persuade my boyfriend to propose in the first place, but in a way that would allow him to maintain the belief that he has autonomy and free will. (Hehe.)
Anyway, the not-knowing was paralyzing, as was the not-having-money bit. This is no secret, but weddings––at least in New York––can be gross. Just a gross, gaudy display of faux-luxury that is nevertheless intimidating for someone who earns a very modest publishing salary. Walking into a wedding venue on Long Island for the first time, I felt kind of like how I feel whenever I’ve walked into a high-end store, which I’ve done maybe five times in my life. Like they can smell the poor on me, like they know I’m in over my head. But then the manager pronounced dim-sum as “dim-SAM” and it immediately put me at ease, like okay, this is fine. He pronounces words like my grandma. It’s going to be okay. From then on, venue shopping became more like negotiating the price of a car. I had to do that about a year ago, and how I handled myself in that situation is something I still brag about, because well, we all need something. See, the customary wisdom is that women are car salesman prey, but I felt it was just the opposite. A more apt metaphor is that they were my suitors and I was the cold, detached duchess who could not be won over by leather interiors and GPS, or in this case, an ice sculpture and something called “uplighting.” Duchess don’t care. Duchess only paying this many dollars. And that’s how it went down.
So, to buy into the narrative of wedding planning as a stressful, highly emotional chore, I could say that the hardest part is now over. We have a date, a time, a place, a priest. A groom, a bride, two maids of honor (update: they said yes!), an ornament, a registry. Two framed pictures from IKEA for our future home, which has yet to be determined. Of course, last night I woke up at 3 AM in a cold sweat, nervous about how we’re going to figure it all out and make it all happen. But we will. It’s just a party.