The first thought that crossed my mind when my best friend got engaged 1.5 years ago was: “There’s no f*cking way in hell that I’m going to this wedding alone.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those girls, the ones who refuse to attend social events solo, terrified of being shunned as the last single lepers standing. Come think, I don’t ever recall attending a wedding as part of couple, unless you count my girlfriend-slash-lesbian-lover, Loggy. (I’m kidding, mum.) Rather than fearing social judgment, I prefer to see weddings a prime opportunity to meet fellow singles in the magical setting of 30K flower arrangements and Frank Sinatra tunes.
However, this wedding was different. At this wedding, I would be the Maid of Honor, the secondary centerpiece of the affair, interrogated on my own romantic status by every Russian parent in the Tri-State area. En plus, given the elevated stress of hustling a wagon of Vera Wang tulle all day, I could certainly use a hand to squeeze (and hand me Klonopin when necessary).
Two months prior to the big day, I still had no viable options. Even if I did start dating somebody, I couldn’t exactly ask them to hop on a plane to New York at the blink of an eye to meet my closest friends and family. And so, I decided to recruit a date, filtering my selection by two simple criteria: he had to live in New York and own a tux. Immediately, I came up with the perfect candidate – Juan Pablo, affectionately nicknamed by my Bachelor-loving girlfriends for his distinctly Latin persona.
I met Juan Pablo at group dinner at Hotel Côstes last November. He was on his way to Monaco for a wedding and had stopped in Paris just for one night. We quickly bonded over a shared love for negronis, and it was soon decided that I would accompany him to Monaco as his wedding date. (There clearly seems to be a pattern here.) Thankfully, we were both too drunk to maneuver our iPhones into purchasing a ticket, a stroke of luck that saved me from a 300 Euro charge and a flight to Nice that I never would have boarded sober.
Nonetheless, we kept in touch, even seeing each other in Miami during Art Basel, where Juan Pablo gallantly organized another group dinner and even babysat my girlfriends through a game of “who can pick up at the biggest loser on South Beach”. With the looks of a Telemundo news presenter and a career as a banker, he was a rare catch and a shoo-in for the wedding date candidacy. And so, I uttered my inner YOLOs and sent him a flirtatious Facebook message. An hour later, I had a date.
Suddenly, I felt empowered and independent, a woman in control of her own destiny! I didn’t need a boyfriend to make things happen, I could do it on my own! I eagerly anticipated the wedding, feeling like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Finally, I didn’t have to rehearse anecdotic brush-offs to invasive personal questions, or dread that moment when all the couples would flock to the dance floor and I would be left behind to gossip with my 1.5 single girlfriends like the old ladies from Gone With the Wind.
Arriving to New York a week before the wedding, I decided to re-ignite our negroni connection and introduce Juan Pablo to a couple of my friends. He suggested Café Cluny, an excellent choice that got me excited enough to abandon my pre-wedding juice cleanse for a night. Imagine my disappointment when JP informed me that he wasn’t planning on eating anything but an appetizer. It turned out that he generally preferred not to eat much, as there was simply too much pressure on bankers in New York to be skinny these days. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, meet bankers, the new lingerie models of 2014!
Problemo numero dos emerged when I realized that Juan Pablo’s English was not quite on the level that I had remembered it. Sure, I had no issues understanding him, but I had also dated my way through the UN by then. However, my friends seemed a bit perplexed by his habit of sprinkling in Spanish words like “pero” and “mira” and “pero mira”, which made it almost impossible to understand what he was talking about in-between. Realizing that it was too late to back out, I uttered a quick prayer to the wedding gods, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.
Three hungry and neurotic days later, the big day finally arrived. Juan Pablo greeted me at our table, looking like Latin Ken in his jet black hair and perfectly-tailored tux. Excited, I decided to introduce him to my family, hoping against hope that two negatives would make a positive and their ESL skills would come together in a beautiful conversation. (Hello, world leaders do it!) No such luck. Both parties stood there, smiling nervously at one another, unable to hear a single word over the booming Russian club jams. My brother, God bless him, simply handed us two glasses of Grey Goose.
The culture shock continued as I introduced Juan Pablo to all the intricacies of Russian-Jewish tradition, from the Hora chair dance to the “Gorko!” vodka toasts, with nothing but herring and pickles to wash down the magic potion. Petrified by the northern delicacies, he downed his liquor on an empty stomach, drinking himself to the point where he could no longer converse in English and revered to expressing himself fully in Spanish.
So there I was, trying to decipher what this guy was saying, when I saw something on the other side of the room that was even more disturbing. My normally quiet and reserved father had decided to show off his gymnastics skills to the groom’s entire British family by doing squats on the dance floor. (That’s right, I couldn’t make this sh*t up even if I tried.) As I stared at this performance, praying to God that the black & white checkered floors would open up and swallow me alive, my guardian angel of a brother came up to me with a full bottle of Grey Goose that he had swiped from a neighboring table. Realizing that there was no other alternative, I took two consecutive shots and allowed JP to hurl me around the dance floor in what may have been an attempt at salsa dancing to the beat of Pugacheva.
Albeit the semi-disastrous outcome, I don’t regret a thing. If nothing else, then the experience proved that family events will always be mortifying and there is no point subjecting yourself (and some poor shmuck) to them if you don’t see a future with the person – especially if you don’t feel like ending up in rehab by your 30th birthday. And so, if you are like me and have another half dozen weddings to attend this year, I suggest you embrace your single status, spare yourself the headache, and fly solo. You will probably be doing plenty of things in life as part of a couple, so there’s no need to rush. Just activate your inner Scarlett O’Hara and enjoy the ride.