I licked the seal and pressed it closed before I could change my mind. I had slipped the response card with only my name written on it inside the eggshell envelope seconds earlier, and now the prepaid postage and embossed address prevented me from ripping it open and adding "+ Guest." There was no turning back. When I wet the glue on the ridge of paper, I committed myself to attend a wedding alone.
The invitation to my friend Dominique's wedding sat in my planner for over a month while I weighed my attendance options. I considered inviting a friend, I considered inviting my ex, and I considered inviting a gay man. But none of those options seemed appropriate. It felt unfair to bring someone with me just for the sake of bringing someone. But whenever I thought of going alone, I was filled with panic. I could see myself, dressed in my beautiful black gown, full hair and makeup, sitting all alone at a table for ten while other attendees danced and laughed. I saw myself perched by the hors d'ovres, cramming coconut shrimp into my painted mouth watching the party happen around me. I saw myself, fourteen vodka-cranberries into the evening, completely inebriated and lamenting to a stranger about my failed engagement, my most recently failed relationship, and my failure to meet a great guy now, while they searched for someone to save them. The visions were so pathetic, I shook my head to rid myself of them. So I thought, instead, of the chances of me actually spending the whole evening alone, of finding not even one person to talk to during the night. Fairly slim, I decided. So I made the choice to do it alone: To make the long drive alone, to stay in a hotel alone, to walk into a celebration of love and partnership alone. This, for me, is huge.
At this particular wedding, I will know the bride and no one else. I don't even think I could pick the groom out of a line up; Even though they've been dating for almost five years and I've known her for almost ten, I may have seen him twice. I won't know the wedding party, either of the families, and I'll certainly know none of their friends. And in that situation, I'd prefer to know that there's someone I can talk to in order to avoid that painful predicament of "Well, no one's talking to me, so I'll just sit here and feign utter interest in my glass/cocktail napkin/dinner/shoes." And it just would be gauche for me to whip out a crutch like a book or my cellphone in an effort to seem otherwise occupied.
It's true that I enjoy spending time in public alone: Shopping, lunch and the movies are all perfectly acceptable solitary outings. But a wedding? Where there will be slow dances and toasts and vows and an obvious undertone of love and forever? That's heavy.
I've been a part of a couple for six years straight. Any weddings I've ever attended have caused me no stress in terms of my date. He was always built right in. So this is my first-ever instance of even contemplating writing my name alone on a response card. And it would be very easy to drag a friend along to soften the blow of my first social event sans boyfriend. But I'm challenging myself. This, I feel, is how I will announce my independence. This is how I will assert to myself and everyone around me that, for the first time, I am not afraid of not having a man at my side. That I can sit in the pew and watch my friend commit her life to someone else, and be genuinely happy for her, regardless of the fact that I'm far from married.
So I dropped the calligraphied card into the mailbox in front of the post office.
I called the hotel and booked my room.
I got driving directions from MapQuest.
I am going to do this, if it kills me.