The Wedding that Wasn't

The Wedding that Wasn't

Fictional story about the pressure of getting married as a single woman in NYC


Romance / Women's fiction


Skylar Beth (United States)

I sat at our tiny table, in our reasonably sized Manhattan apartment, pouring over a floor plan of our upcoming reception space. Armed with the appropriate his and her guest post-its – a suggestion from well-meaning friends, because “you will make lots and lots of changes” – I just sat staring. But this was normal. As expected. And yet, when my fiancé absently walked over and said “it’s just the table setting. It’s ok if it doesn’t all fit perfectly” he couldn’t have realized he articulated my worst fear. It doesn’t all fit perfectly.

At 35, I should have already been married in most areas of the country. In NYC, you seemed to have until 37. But then you needed to be immediately baby-making, or self-proclaiming that you only wanted one child, or maybe did not want kids at all. My fiancé, also 35, was somehow considered young. He seemed to have until age 41 - and didn’t have to make any proclamations at all.

We had done everything as you’d expect. Met online but quickly worked to find multiple friends in common. Dated casually, then exclusively after 4 months. Averaged four sleepovers a week, then when his lease ended, moved in together after a respectable 10 months. Anything sooner is, well too soon, but signing another NYC lease just didn’t make sense.

There were few adjustments to be made. We co-habited well. He indulged my reality tv. I indulged his penchant for weekly pizza. He quickly learned (and often teased), I am scared of everything – rollercoasters, heights, bugs. I slowly learned (and privately teased), he’s a cat person. And I’d done all I was supposed to do. Fall madly, deeply in love in your twenties. Done. Have your heartbroken. Done. Get a good job. Done. Get promoted at good job. Done. Be a bridesmaid. Done. This relationship was the last piece. One that I insisted I was not in a rush to find. But if those claims are to be believed, online dating wouldn’t be widespread.

The proposal was as expected. Sentimental, yet discrete. Walking home from a dinner at one of our regular spots. And we did have regular spots- proof that we were a real couple. The ring wasn’t as I imagined, but with it on my finger I wasn’t sure I had imagined anything. It was a quick, but sweet story to tell. And the happiness was real. The excitement bubbling up all over again every time I re-told “how it happened”. Because next I got to plan a wedding. I got to be the bride. Not the first of my friends, but not the last. Something I wish I didn’t think of, but I did.

And 9 months later, with 6 months to go, I sat looking at these tables, and looking at my life, and it just didn’t quite fit.

There was not one single thing to point to. Not one sharp edge, or one square peg I was jamming into a round hole. There were no fights and no fuss. He’d make a good partner. He already made one.

And yet, the expression “settle down” took on new meaning. Was it supposed to feel like settling? Alternatively, was I that self-absorbed to suggest this life, this man, wasn’t enough?

The guilt of that feeling was almost overwhelming. Coupled with the guilt of calling something off already set in motion. We had a date! Our families awkwardly met and celebrated together. But the worst guilt was what I felt towards my future self. Could I really walk away from the closest thing I had to a happily-ever-after?

After weeks of ignoring those table settings, sitting idly on our tiny table, I did just that. With 5 months to go, I got the confidence to end it. Or chickened out of getting married. To this day those words still haunt me.

I can still feel the animosity from his friends when they quickly unfollowed, untagged and deleted me from their lives. Almost funny how instantaneous it all was, if it hadn’t crushed me. I can still feel the suspected relief from both our mothers, as if they were holding their breaths. Their mother intuition somehow sensing it didn’t quite fit either. Or just sensing my hesitation. Or not sensing anything at all, and I simply clung to the idea others saw what I felt - that something was missing. I can still feel – and still receive – the cocked head sympathy from everyone else.

At 36, he’s now in another relationship. One that makes me fear I made a big mistake. And simultaneously brings me hope that I made the right decision. This woman might be captivated by him in ways I wasn’t. Either way there’s the underlying relief that I did not actually ruin his life, either by marrying him or by not.

For me, the plan for now is there is no plan. For the first time, I am genuinely in no rush. Starting with a ring in mind, only led me to see a good friendship, a certain level of compatibility, as enough. Just because someone would be a good partner does not mean he's the partner for you. I can only hope that when I settle down, there’s no doubt that I am not, in fact settling. And for now, I will resist the urge to sign back on and swipe right.

Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1



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