I didn't expect her social media status update to hit me like it did. My cousin, two months older than I am, announced that she got engaged for the second time. She has a big sparkly ring. Her first ring was also big and sparkly. I have never been one to begrudge a lady for her big sparkly things, but this one hurt. It felt like a kick to the gut.
I've been content knowing that my path is different — slower, apparently, with a lot more turns and big branches in the way. I've attended nearly three dozen weddings in my lifetime (seriously, that many), been involved in a handful as a bridesmaid or maid of honour. Aside from the weddings where I didn't know anyone and didn't have a date (okay, so technically I phoned it in at those three weddings and sulked over my glass in the corner), I am usually your most supportive attendee. I bring gifts! I dance! I beam and cry happy tears on your blessed day!
Throughout it all, I've been patient with myself, knowing I just had some things to take care of before I was ready for marriage — like finish grad school, establish my career, and, um, find the right guy. Details. Yes, there used to be the offhand (or even direct) comments from my extended family pushing me towards marriage and family, but I think they've given up — and that’s fine with me. I’m on my own timeline.
One particularly charming fellow, the best man in a friend’s wedding, actually had the balls to say to me, in front of the entire wedding party, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, huh, B.?” Did I mention that guy was…drum roll…single? How did a catch like that ever get away?
But, when my cousin announced she was swiftly moving into this next phase of her life, I could not summon supportive, happy feelings for her. I was pissed. “She’s working on a SECOND MARRIAGE, and I haven’t ever been engaged?” I hissed at the computer screen, jealous. She already had the opportunity at a fairy-tale wedding, the princess dress, the expensive reception, the McMansion house, and the happy kid. Instead of feeling happy that she had healed from the pain of her divorce and found someone new who made her smile, I seethed.
I never wanted those fairy-tale things; I've always been a simple lady who would prefer a small potluck meal and barn dance wedding, a humble pearl ring to any of those expensive things. And yet, here I was, jealous of her. I felt like a failure. I’m thirty-five. I don’t own a home. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a kid. None of that has been a problem, until suddenly, it was. Why couldn't it be my turn for my humble fairy-tale story to be told? Was I asking for too much?
I closed the computer and tried to forget about it. That tactic worked really well, and I've let it go and made peace with it. Oh sorry, that was what happened in Opposite Land. What really happened is that I fought with my boyfriend over something unrelated, stormed out of the apartment, went for a VERY long walk on a VERY cold beach, and then came home to sob on his shoulder for about two hours.
The good news is that, between the sniffly, snot-filled sobs, I was finally able to talk to my boyfriend about my feelings regarding marriage — something I had been hesitant to do before for fear of making him feel pressured. We had our first really honest conversation about marriage in our three-year relationship. That night, we came to a place of understanding without any hurt feelings or pressure.
Yes, we both want to get married at some point in the future. No, we’re not in a rush, we’ll know when the time is right. No, I don’t want a diamond, but I would like a pearl. You wanted to make me a wooden ring? Maybe we can do that for our wedding rings so we both get what we want. A pearl engagement ring and a wooden wedding ring will look beautiful together, just like our path: slow, filled with twists and turns, challenges and obstacles, and simply beautiful.