A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person."
- Mignon McLaughlin
I awoke in the dark at 5:21 after finally managing to get a full night of sleep: rest I desperately needed. The weather outside is a bit chilly. I turn the deck chair and arrange everything so that I am facing the massive mountains of Breckenridge. The moon shines above and I cover my legs with a fleece blanket and place a steaming hot cup of coffee on the arm of my chair. By 6:17 the sky is bright -instantly informing me that another day has if fact arrived. It wasn’t an explosive sunrise or remarkable in any visual sort of way, but being awake and present at the moment night changes to day or day changes to night is always breathtaking for me and makes me feel so incredibly small while somehow reminding me that I am an integral part of things.
To my right is the giant glassed in dinning hall in a multimillion dollar house where the bride and groom will be holding their reception. Fifty round paper Chinese lights hang from the ceiling and white table cloths cover tall intimate tables. The house has been rented by the bride and groom for the purposes of hosting their closest friends and to facilitate the celebration of their nuptials. Heaters are set up outside so people can gather like moths in the night to keep warm during the reception.
I arrived exhausted and fatigued from West Africa two short days ago sans luggage, sans gifts, sans energy; but, due to the fact I am surround by such familiar individuals, such loving one, I feel soothed and reenergized. These friends of mine, friends I almost feel unworthy of, surround me and engulf me in a warm blanket of concern and curiosity and my heart aches at their tenderness towards this friend whose careen choice forces her to repeatedly abandon them and not be around for the important events in their lives. They give me undeserved credit for my endeavors and I sit alone wishing that they could only understand that their ability to do what they do – teach, nurse, design, advocate, build, create, love, procreate, settle, invest………..far surpassing my confused attempt at creating a career for myself.
On my left I see a lovely waterfall and an unending pine forest. Ahead a beautiful balcony facing the slopes of Breckenridge ski resort. At this time of year, the visual is a mixed palate of different shades of green. Lights glimmer in the valley only making this snapshot even more enchanting at night and I look forward to being present as the day unfolds into another night…….
They wanted to keep it small: something that is easy to say but amazingly difficult to do. Because they are so loving and interesting and outgoing in such different ways their closest friends and family already outnumber their desired size. So they make a big decision – no plus ones. Although a nice idea, the reality is that single individuals often bring unimportant charters from their own lives simply so they have “a date.” These unknowns, these “fillers” take up a lot of unnecessary space and cost a lot. Obliviously, for single people this can feel like another hit to an already marginalized existence - the uncompleted goal of coulpdome. Being single is a transitional point between childhood and commitment. No one is believed when they say “but wait, I am happy, I am complete I am me fully, and yes…I am still single.”
I have never been one of those people who take fillers to weddings and at the tender age of 30 I have attended far more wedding single than as a couple. Even though there were moments in my early twenties where I was struck by pangs of anxiety thinking about what table I would be sat at or paying for hotel rooms and renting cars solo, I grew into appreciating the aura of a wedding as a single observer and have a very interesting set of wedding attendance memories as a single gal.
Following a very meaningful but slightly challenging wedding attendance in Sanibel Island, Florida a few years ago, where I was forced to splurge on all of the aforementioned logistical necessities while in grad school; feeling exceptionally poor and tired of my unrequited love affair with a dear friend of 4 years, I attended a wedding solo because I couldn’t image not being there. I simply adored the couple and rank them in my top five of couples who truly know how to do this thing we call marriage. In attendance would be the first love of my life and he would be attending with his girlfriend. I managed the anxiety and had the most amazing time with the bride to be on the eve of the ceremony, connected with other amazing individuals, enjoyed the couple and the company and ended the night sitting on the balcony with the groomsmen smoking a cigar. The ex and I had a tender moment and I felt confident, beautiful and completely ok with being alone.
But I digress……The reason I even mention plus one is that the groom may have given me the most touching compliment about this state of oneness. While arranging the guest list a few months back the groom told the bride the following: “Let’s leave the option of plus one on Gwen’s invitation because I know that if she were to check that space she would want to be bringing someone amazing, someone I would want to meet.” Even now, as I write this, I tear up at the subtle way in which he complimented me and the way in which these two people truly know me.
I had an amazing time, surrounded by love, hope, excitement and memories and I realized that even though I saw so many beautiful things with my eyes sitting on that deck in Breckenridge, the most beautiful thing I experienced that weekend was felt with my heart.