Marriage feels like betrayal. We know it isn't. We're happy for them. We still love them, but we feel betrayed nonetheless. As the years tick by, we become fewer, the tribe of the single diminishes. That's as it should be.
Remember that game 'Farmer in the dell?' One by one children get chosen as the farmer takes a wife and the wife takes a cow (don't get me started on how sexist and demeaning that one is!) until one child is left alone with no one else to choose. She is the cheese and she stands alone. Even in Kindergarten that struck me as sad and significant. (Cormier's book with the same title is lovely and I highly recommend it.)
The farmer takes a wife and the cheese stands alone. It's been a year for marriages round these parts. One of my midnight chat buddies up and married a girl in Texas. The other chat buddy is engaged. My little sister is engaged. One of my best friends got married in the fall. He is my oldest friend. We grew up together in our crazy ward in southern Florida. His engagement really hit me hard.
The first summer after going to college, I remember being back in Miami in my mother's house. He came over to watch the fireworks with us for the 4th of July. We climbed up and sat on the roof to see them better. It was muggy and noisy with toads and crickets. We joked that any Mormon still single over the age of 25 had to have severe problems. (We, being the tender age of 19 knew everything.) But neither of us wanted to get married too early. We made a wager. Whoever got married first loses. The prize? The loser has to name their first child after the winner, even if the sex doesn't match. To make it even better my friend designated my middle name as the offending price of his failure. His first name was bad enough already.
A decade has passed and we've only seen each other 3 times since then. I went to see him at BYU and he came to see me in New York. But we have kept in touch over the phone. Usually our calls came in the middle of the night and had to do with some romantic crisis. We consoled each other through countless relationship disasters. One of my roommates said she always knew when I was talking to him because I got so loud and laughed so much.
He showed me what it means to have a man love you, truly and unconditionally. The one man in my life whom I have trusted the most. Everyone thought we would get married. We might have if we didn't live on opposite sides of the country. I have a few stories about the two of us, but not for tonight. Tonight is about the cheese.
Last August he called to tell me he bought a ring for his girlfriend. After hearing this I had to shut myself away and cry, because it meant he was leaving. I would lose him. Our friendship would change if it even survived. And there was something else too. As long as he was still single with me then maybe I wasn't such a loser. I knew what a great guy he was and if he was still single... He once suggested we be each other's back-ups, that we should get married if we couldn't find anyone else. I scoffed him away but the words were said. I would lose that too.
And it is so terribly selfish. I am happy for him. But was sad for me. Singletons know how selfish such sentiments are. We grow expert at hiding the infantile reactions. We smile at the ceremonies and buy the best presents we can afford. And congratulate them with real jubilation. But that doesn't make it feel any better when a loved one leaves us for matrimony. It's very confusing to be so happy for them and so sad at the same time. Maybe this is what a parent feels when a child leaves home or marries?
The other side of this trauma looks like pettiness but really isn't, it's the pathos of love. Because the one they leave us for is never good enough. Who is this girl he married? He hasn't known her long enough! What has she done to deserve him? Then there is my sister who also got engaged last year. Her fiancee is definitely not good enough. He made her cry! A lot. He hasn't finished any education that he started and the ring he bought her was too small. But my sister doesn't mind, so who am I to say?
I am the cheese. I think she deserves at least a half carat. But I stand alone.
Our family dynamics will change drastically after she marries. She's younger but will be given authority over me because of her married status. It's silly and Victorian but only married people are real grown-ups. That will be obnoxious but not as bad as the other changes. Christmas will never be the same. We'll probably never sleep in the bunkbeds whispering in mom's guest room, fighting over the cats and complaining about our mother. My sister won't call anymore for advice on men and dating. And she better not ever call me again because he made her cry!
It makes me sad. I lose my little sister. She goes to join a club I don't belong to. My partner in commiseration graduates to better pastures. Of course I'm not really losing her. I haven't lost my friend either. But something is lost because everything changes after marriage.
Please don't forget your lonely cheese, and forgive our selfish sadness. We are truly happy for you. But let us cry for ourselves a little, unlike you, we don't have anyone to 'comfort' us at night.