There I sit, alone at a table covered in white linens, dramatic floral arrangements, and place cards with calligraphed names I’ve never seen before. I’m surrounded by tables full of people from different walks of life, none of which are mine. Constantly checking my phone to see when the wedding party will be done taking their portraits, I tell myself to put my phone away for fear of looking disinterested or despondent.
“Where am I? Who are these people? What have I gotten myself into?”
Now, I love weddings. I love the happiness you see in everyone’s eyes the moment the bride emerges on the aisle. I love the toasts that combine the awkwardness of public speaking with the love they have for their best friends. I love seeing old friends grab each other’s arms during cocktail hour while taking advantage of the time they get to spend together only once or twice a year. But when I’m attending a wedding as someone’s date, I lose the familiarity which causes me to feel like I’m on the outside looking in.
Every conversation begins with, “Will deFries, great to meet you,” and ends with me walking away thinking, “Dammit, I have no idea what their name is,” before heading into the next conversation that follows the exact same script. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk to these people and they don’t want to talk to me. It’s just that they’re not there to coddle a stranger; they’re there to celebrate the bride and groom so strangers have no place on their radar.
Sure, I can get a good rapport going with one person at the rehearsal dinner, and deep down I just want to cling to them for the entirety of the weekend in hopes that they’ll be my guiding light. But the expectation that they’ll be my babysitter through thick and thin is both irresponsible and flat-out creepy. After all, they’re most likely familiar with everyone there in the first place, and they don’t need someone riding their coattails all night.
Meanwhile, my date gets caught in conversations that don’t lend themselves to just jumping into. They’re catching up and exchanging stories about people you’ve never caught wind of. So there I stand, two feet behind them, as they catch up with old friends or family acquaintances while I wait for them to say, “Oh, meet my date, Will,” so I can jump in and act like I have any semblance of what they’re talking about.
I get herded around with the other plus-ones like cattle en route to the butcher. There I stand with four people I’ve never met before in a forced friendship just praying that you hit it off with one of them. And If I do? I’ll probably never see them again and both of us know it.
“So where’d you go to school? What do you do for work? How long have you two been together?”
I can only ask so many questions before pretending to care wears off and I stare into the distance while “Shout” plays in the background wishing I was surrounded by twelve of my best friends chanting my name. I want to get out there and show everyone how it’s done, but I’m handicapped by the fear of looking like a try-hard who’s overstaying his welcome and taking too much of an advantage of the open bar.
I become a caricature of my introverted self and test the waters to see if an extra cocktail here or there will loosen me up enough to come off as relaxed. But all of a sudden I’m falling in and out of conversations because I’m buzzed off too much champagne and not enough appetizers.
I dream of a world where I can be the wild card where people say, “Who was that dude that one bridesmaid brought? I want him at my wedding.” A world where people can’t blatantly tell that I’m just along for the ride. A world where I’m not debilitated by my self-awareness and everyone else’s view of me despite them having no idea I’m even there. A world where I can dance like no one is watching. A world where I feel natural.
But until then, I’m sorry for being a terrible plus one. .
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