Thursday, 8 November 2012

The happiest day of YOUR life.

I’ve been to four weddings this year. That’s right, FOUR. The last time that I had to do that many hours in uncomfortable shoes, I was in my twenties. That was the first rash of weddings. All those young things convinced they wouldn’t fall foul of the 1:3 divorce rate. Their nuptials were expensive affairs where the boat was really pushed out; especially at those weddings where the parents had cashed in their British Gas shares or blown their redundancy money to make sure that there little darlings had the very best start to married life.
Those were weddings full of hope, optimism and they usually had a free bar. They were preceded by increasingly extravagant hen nights to exotic locations like Dublin, Tenerife or Birmingham. T-shirts were printed; nicknames assigned and embarrassing drinking games were played.

However, the night always ended the same way; with the same conversation. There’d be a discussion about how everyone knew that the bride would be first down the aisle. Followed by predictions about who would be next. Of course, that would be pretty easy to predict. The prime candidates for early marriage would be, in quick succession…
      1.       The girl whose parents had had the most acrimonious divorce.

2.       The girl with the most lax attitude to contraception.

3.       The girl who had got a disappointing 2:2 in English Literature because she’d been too busy shagging whichever posh boy had bought her a cider and black in the student bar during in Fresher’s week.

I’m not sure whether similar discussions took place on the stag nights. Do let me know.

Fast forward fifteen years later and the tone of the weddings have changed. Three of this year’s weddings were second marriages. This meant two things. Firstly, no free bar – second marriages are usually budget affairs. Secondly, most of the conversations away from the top table were about the first wedding and how everyone just KNEW that marriage wasn’t going to last. There was still the ooh-ing and ahh-ing as the bride and groom said their vows, had the first kiss and took to the floor for their first dance to the inevitable Bruno Mars track, but the mood wasn’t optimistic – it was one of grim determination. For God’s sake, someone ‘s got to make this marriage thing bloody work.
As someone who has avoided marriage (or perhaps more accurately has been avoided by marriage) this second wave of marriages has done little to convince me to shovel myself in an unflattering white dress and pay over the odds for a chicken dinner and a mobile disco for a hundred of my closest friends. It’s not just the statistical improbability of it working. It’s the mess that it leaves behind when it doesn’t work. I just can’t understand how that wide-eyed, hope against hope can turn into utter contempt and hatred. How you can go from standing in front of all your friends and declaring your undying love to ringing all your friends and telling them how your beloved is lower than worm sperm and twice as repulsive. Perhaps the scariest thing is that your spouse is the person you entrust all your darkest secrets and habits to only for them make them public knowledge once it all goes tits up.

Obviously, that part of the divorce is awfully entertaining for those not directly involved, but still…
But you can take all this misery and times it by a million if there are children involved. I never thought that as a single, childless woman I would become so au fait with the ins and outs of child custody law. However, this seems to be the main dinner table conversation for my generation. Indeed it goes like this…

The Dinner Party Conversation/Age Matrix

18 – 23:            University, travelling to exotic countries, crap jobs.

24 – 28:            House prices, city breaks, slightly less crappy jobs.

29 – 32:             Cracked nipples, sleepless nights, epidurals etc (this is the age when everybody has their fucking tedious offspring)

33 – 36:             School places, Nostalgia for a ruined sex life/career/house, Jamie Oliver recipes.

37 – 40:            CAFCAS reports, Family Court Appearances, Access Visits, CSA payments. Jamie Oliver Recipes.

In those final years, the only conversational contribution that is required from the singleton is as follows…
“He/She is such a bastard/bitch. Can’t he/she see what he/she is doing to the children? If you ask me the law is totally biased against mothers/fathers.”

However, deep down inside, I am thanking my lucky stars that I never had the bad fortune to procreate with someone who would later come to hate me. Because it strikes me that marriage weaponises children until they can be used to rip your soul out through eyes. And yet, with all this bubbling in my mind, I still attended those four weddings. I booked hotel rooms, took time off work, bought M&S gift cards and I raised a glass and toasted the bride and groom. I’m a fucking hypocrite.
And do I wish those couple’s well? Hmm, I would have done were it not for two little words: plus one. These were people who wanted me to share in their illusion of happiness. And still, they wounded me by adding those two words to sugar pink invites. Now, they know me. They know that I am terminally single and yet they still placed that pressure on me. The pressure to find a member of the opposite sex who was prepared to also take time off work, pull on uncomfortable formal clothing and  eat lukewarm food in a soulless function room.

If I could do that, I’d be the one inviting you to a wedding, you thoughtless bastards.
And so, I RSVPed to each invite with the following request: I won’t be using the plus one, sit me next to someone sexy. And did they? Well, this year I’ve made polite wedding table conversation with a very lovely gay couple, a nice Muslim lady in a niquab, the bride’s alcoholic sister and a four year old child. A plague on all their houses.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Safe Place

Everyone has their breaking point. The moment when your back breaks under the weight of that very last straw and your nerves shred into tiny little ribbons. And I have reached that moment in time.

 And so this is a clarion call to all others like me. You other singletons. The single community, if you will. Or perhaps the matrimonially-challenged community? Because that, my M&S meal for one microwaving friends, is how the rest of the world seems to view us.

Oh yes, they claim to envy our complication-free lifestyles and Sunday morning lie-ins uninterrupted by squalling brats. But behind closed doors, they huddle together with their partners, spouses and significant others and thank their lucky stars that they are not still ‘out there’.

And yet, they all suffer from a collective amnesia about what it actually means to be single. Because if they had the slightest recollection they wouldn’t do and say the things that they do. Would they? No-one would knowingly be so thoughtless and insensitive, surely? And yet…

So, the next time some loved-up ninny mouth another inanity about ‘kissing a lot of frogs’ or uses the phrase ‘unless you have children, you can’t possibly understand’ please visit this blog. I promise that you’ll find refuge here.