Plus One is the Loneliest Number…Or Is It?
My friends are starting to get married. And it’s terrifying. If you’re reading this from the “other side” aka safely past the age when everyone makes the big jump into couple-hood, then try to remember how it felt when you were in your early twenties and people starting tying the knot. Before this year, the only weddings I had been to were family weddings where my significantly older cousins got married, I danced in patent leather shoes and tried a sip of champagne for the first time. Now my peers were doing this? It seemed so strange.
I, for the record, am still single. Until I received the first wedding invitation, I was completely happy with my status. In my mind, we—meaning my friends and I—were all still at the very beginning of our professional and adult personal lives and being single was what we were meant to be. However, when I got the phone call from a friend I grew up with that he was getting married to his college sweetheart and that I would be getting the fancy, lacey invitation in my mailbox soon, something shifted. If he was getting married, should I be thinking about marriage? And if I should be thinking about marriage, that meant I should be thinking about finding a serious boyfriend, which meant I should stop being so casual about casually dating people I met here and there in New York.
It was a crazy tailspin and it lasted for the months between receiving the invite and attending the wedding. I can’t really explain why a shift in someone else’s life caused such an examination of my own life. Maybe some latent desire to “keep up with the Joneses” that I hadn’t realized I possessed, maybe I was looking for something to worry about, who knows. Their wedding was on my mind almost all the time. I began to feel sorry for myself for being single and feel like I was pathetic for not having a life partner, for not even having anyone in the running for being a life partner. This only made the “situation,” as I had begun to think of my single status, worse because being pathetic is never attractive to potential boyfriends or even friends.
After two months of this worrying about my singlehood and trying to fill the plus one on my invitation, I decided, at the last minute, to go by myself. It would only be more depressing to bring some date I was awkward with, I thought. I’m so glad I went alone because while I was there, watching my friend, who I had known through all of the awkward teen years and the silly college years and the growing pains of the first few adult years, walk up the aisle in his suit to wait for his bride, I began to feel something different. Instead of focusing on my own singlehood and how pathetic that was, I started appreciating the love my friend had found. I was glad I hadn’t brought a date to the wedding. He wouldn’t have known anyone and I would have had to introduce him to everyone instead of just enjoying this moment, this celebration of love.
When I took the pressure off of myself and my own singlehood, I enjoyed the ceremony and the party afterwards. I was smiling and candid when people asked about how I was doing. I got to talk about me. Now when I start to feel anxious as more friends tell me they are getting married or thinking about it, I try to think back to that first wedding that I made it through. Not only made it through but thoroughly enjoyed and cherished. I am, I realized, not behind on some life goal, because it’s not a race. It turns out that plus one is not the loneliest number, because it means you have good friends inviting you to celebrate their love. I realized, most importantly, that I am not lacking love, but surrounded by it.
by Katie Rice