When she asked me to
take their engagement pictures, I couldn’t have been more flattered. I bought a new lens. I did all kinds of research on posing
couples. I bought a little
ampersand prop and an old barnwood frame from A.C. Moore, and I grabbed chalk
so we could write their wedding date on the fence just like I saw on
Pinterest. I was prepared for
At the wedding shower,
most of the tables had little dessert offerings on them. They were all color-coordinated and
interspersed tastefully with decorations.
On one table, however, there was a little rectangle of delicate wire mesh
attached to a frame. Beside it was
a basket of muslin strips for people to write nuggets of wisdom and advice for
married life, then weave them or tie them onto the wire. I was not prepared for that.
For most of the shindig
I just avoided it. But I’m a bridesmaid. I have responsibilities. So eventually I made my way over to the
cursed thing. By this point in the
evening, several people had come and gone, leaving their handwritten tips in
the mesh. Some were woven
meticulously, others looked like they crash-landed. Still others were knotted securely to one section of wire or
another, as if secured for stormy weather.
I stared at it for a
long time, thinking that perhaps if I read every single piece of fabric,
something in my head would ignite and I would write something clever but
thoughtful, something distinctly “me” but also a little surprising, then pass
on without a second thought as so many others had. But as the staredown dragged on, I found myself wishing
instead for laser vision so I could blow the thing to bits.
In lieu of producing
useful advice, my head supplied snarky responses to nearly all of the strips up
there. For example, one read: “There is no ‘I’ in team,” which is
true enough, but there is an “I” in
Others made me cringe
for different a different reason. “She
is always right!” claimed one.
Another advised, “Compromise… Her way is best.” Both paint the wife as an emotionally
unstable basket case that the husband must constantly tiptoe around if he hopes
to maintain his sanity. That’s a
little unfair. And while the
intended light-heartedness was not lost on me, the nonchalance with which we
throw sayings like this around makes it worse, in a way. A girlfriend sidled up next to me,
baffled that I was having so much trouble with something so simple. “This one’s mine,” she said, and
pointed to a neatly written strip near the top: “A happy wife is a happy life.”
I didn’t say anything.
Who was I to offer
marriage advice? I’m not
married. I don’t want to be
married. I’ve never even had a
real relationship. I retreated to
the comfort zone of attacking the whole construct of the “advice board,” mentally
enumerating its weaknesses and fallacies, because it meant I didn’t have to
accept that I was the only thing
preventing me from succeeding at this.
I walked away. Not for good, but for a moment, just to
collect myself. Or, perhaps more
accurately, to get over myself.
This wasn’t about me. I
wasn’t the one getting married; I had no right to this breakdown. When I returned to that table, it was
only for long enough to write my piece and tie it down. I tied it tight, as if securing it for
“You’ll do great.”
Because they will.