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Solo RSVPs and the Crypt Keeper of the Bride

My childhood friend is getting married! Hurrah! Sadly, I broke up with my seven-year boyfriend mere months ago, and her wedding is in May. She has kindly asked me if I would like to bring someone instead of previously invited boyfriend (there’s no hard feelings, she just didn’t know him well), or would I like to go alone?

I’m quite good at being alone — I often take myself for a cocktail or the cinema with just myself for company and enjoy it. The problem is that weddings require lots of standing-around chit chat, which I don’t really like, and can be avoided by being with someone else. I’ll know barely anyone at the wedding. In fact, worse, it’ll be full of people I vaguely knew in high school and more than likely who made fun of my glasses or tried to trip me up in the corridor.

I do have a few great friends who would be more than happy to come with me, but they won’t know the bride or anyone there, either. I have this strange leaning to do this solo — to turn up, look fabulous and spend the day not worrying about whether anyone else is having a good time. So here’s the question, Lady — exactly how much fun can a girl have on her own at a wedding, and do you have any tips to make sure I have a great, single, fabulous day?

Oh, LW1! First, I’m so sorry to hear about your breakup. But I love that you’re asking about how to have fun at your childhood friend’s wedding, as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of going to a wedding at all. You sound really mature about everything, it’s wonderful.


So, I think if you’re inclined to go solo, I definitely think you should go for it. Yes! First, be sure to tell your friend that you’re not bringing a guest (when you RSVP, of course, but friend-to-friend, too). If she’s making a seating plan for her wedding, maybe she can make an effort to place you among folks you’d be more inclined to get along with? Like, the ones who didn’t make fun of your glasses in high school. (I had gum thrown in my hair in high school! I know!) I remember spending forever planning tables so people really into music would be by other people really into music, outdoorsy people by the other outdoorsies, you know what I mean. Hopefully your friend will be similarly attentive, and you’ll be matched up with some interesting people. Although small talk can be tiresome, “how do you know the bride and groom?” is an easy conversation starter. Maybe they know the groom from senior year abroad in Rome, and you’ve always wanted to go to Italy. Or they know the bride from that crazy spelunking trip, and you never, ever want to go spelunking, but it sounds incredible. Right?

Really, there’ll be so much going on — the ceremony, hors d’oeuvres, toasts, first dances — that there’ll be lots of time for just sitting, listening, soaking up the joy. Sure, there might be a few awkward moments, and maybe you’ll go freshen up during a slow song, or grab some more wine and chocolate-covered strawberries. Or maybe you’ll dance with someone’s grandma or twirl with a toddler.

I genuinely hope you discover that the making-fun-of-glasses types (and maybe even the gum-throwers) aren’t so bad anymore, and maybe even blossomed into better, hotter, adult versions of my favorite characters on Freaks and Geeks. At the very least, everyone will see how incredibly great you’ve become. Go, dance, don’t get crazy drunk, try to catch the bouquet, why not. It’ll be great!

I need mom-grooming guidance. I’m getting married at the end of this year and the surrounding hoopla will be the first time that much of my fiancee’s family meets my mom. Here’s the problem: I love my mom dearly, but she doesn’t take care of her appearance. Like, at all. She’s 60 (I’m 30) and has basically given up making herself presentable. She’s like a senior Olsen twin. She wears rumpled clothes that are too big for her frame, she’s grown her hair out and stopped coloring it — which is fine — but she doesn’t condition or even brush it, and she ends up looking like the Crypt Keeper. She doesn’t moisturize, she carries an enormous broken tote bag in lieu of a purse, etc., etc. I’ve offered to take her to my salon, tried buying her luxury beauty products in hopes that she’ll feel pampered and want to use them, bought her a purse she doesn’t use, e-mailed her at least 2GB worth of pictures of Helen Mirren’s haircut, and she just won’t take to any of it.

It feels icky to say, but in her current state, I know I’m going to be embarrassed introducing my mom to my dude’s family. It might help to know that his mom is extremely well preserved and nattily dressed. Any tips on how I can get my mom to straighten herself up, both for the silly wedding stuff and in general? She’s a little touchy, and I truly don’t want her to feel as though I’m ashamed of her, so I’m hesitant to come right out and tell her that her she’s going to embarrass me if she shows up to the rehearsal dinner with insane-person hair and things spilling out of her filthy tote. I truly feel that if she took slightly better care of her appearance, she might actually feel happier and more confident — and I’ve told her this! Really, I just want her to tame the hair, wear a supportive bra and some fitting clothes, and maybe a little lipstick. Nothing crazy, right?! Should I just change my attitude? Are there any mom tricks I’m missing?

I just have to say it: a senior Olsen twin sounds awesome to me.

But okay, to your question. This is difficult, because issues of appearance ARE touchy. Not just to your mom! I mean, if my baby one day grows up to tell me I need new clothes and lipstick and a new hairdo … it’s too horrible, I’m cringing already. (Also, my hair looks awesome, thank you very much, baby that I raised.)

Normally I’d hesitate to support trying to change someone’s appearance *ever,* but weddings are often about getting gussied up and doing things differently. Glamorously. Rather than framing it like, “You look like the Crypt Keeper” (!!!) or emailing her a zillion Helen Mirren pics (really? One didn’t suffice? If she’s not into Helen Mirren-hair, she’s not into Helen Mirren-hair), tell her how much this day means to you, and how you genuinely want to share all the pre-wedding pampering with her. Offer — yes, again — to book a spa day — your treat. Hair, nails, the works. If she seems at all game, suggest going dress shopping together, and help her pick out a dress for the ceremony, and/or a dress for the rehearsal dinner, and/or a purse and flats that she likes. And, for the wedding day, offer to have her hair and makeup done by whoever’s doing yours. Maybe if you frame it as a mother-daughter adventure that you’ll cherish as opposed to an overwhelming need to “fix” her appearance, it’ll go over better for everyone?

Honestly, though, it sounds like you’re less concerned about your mother’s appearance and confidence than you are anxious about what her appearance will say about you. Remember that all families have their quirks and then some, and your dude’s nattily dressed mother isn’t perfect, either. So, if your mom says no thanks to all of your offers to get fancified together, you know what? She’s your MOM, the fabulously gray-haired lady who’s been there for you all these years, who’ll be there with you to celebrate your wedding day. Show her some respect.

When I was 16, I had this boyfriend. We were best friends, totally in love: perfect high school romance, except for the part where he was very occasionally a bit controlling and would sometimes tear down my clothing choices/makeup/feminist views. We dated two years, had some on-again-off-again drama, dated again — at which point he escalated the manipulation, ultimately dumped me in a horrific way, and then harassed me off and on during freshman year of college.

In the interest of total honesty, I was 18, confused, and didn’t handle this massive mindfuck of a relationship with consistency/maturity AT ALL. But when I finally did cut ties, it didn’t work: he’d just call my mom, and she’d tell me how sad and lost he was, and pressure me not to lose touch with him because “you have so much history.” (In her defense, he is very charming/smart/funny and she doesn’t seem to really grasp how scarred I was by the relationship.)

The upshot: between unresolved feelings and everyone telling me to forgive/forget — even my therapist was like, “Really?! But I met him and he seemed so nice!” — I ended up resuming contact with him a few years later. And now we’re “friends,” and it’s not terrible, but … I can’t.

I hate myself for it. I’m 30, great career, happily married to someone else … but every time I talk to my ex I feel insecure and defensive and about two inches tall. I don’t trust him, and I don’t know whether I’m reacting to something he’s actually doing or just the echo of old wounds, but clearly I can’t handle this. He’s poisonous to me.

So, A Lady, am I allowed to tell him I no longer want to be friends or be in contact at all? Do I have to tell him why? Do I have to tell my family? What if they think I’m pathetic for not being able to get over this (which I suspect I am)?

YES! Yes, you are allowed to tell him you no longer want to be friends or be in contact at all. You are *not* pathetic for wanting this! You are brave, resilient, and ready to MOVE THE HELL ON.

Bottom line: every relationship is different, and everyone copes with the prospect of friendship-after-relationship in a different way. While I personally think that cutting ties is often best — at least until *you* feel like you’ve fully moved on, whenever that may be (if ever!) — no one can tell you what’s right for you. Not him, not your friends, not your family, not the “everyone” who like him so much (not even — yikes! — your therapist?!). It’s very different to know somebody and know somebody, and none of these people have to negotiate through a platonic relationship that’s unreasonably full of emotion and intimacy and painful memories.

But it sounds like you know this already, and you know that you cannot have your life intertwined with his anymore. Really, it doesn’t matter if he’s still belittling you or if you’re haunted by awful memories of the times when he did. (What is it with all this hair / glasses / clothes criticism?!) Needing to cut ties is completely reasonable, and you owe it to yourself and your self-esteem to break up with him, good and proper. Tell him it’s time to let go. And, if you feel you must, tell your friends and family. It they care about you, they’ll understand.

I’m 23 years old and I’ve been in a wonderful, committed relationship for nearly three years with a great guy I love very much and who I know loves me. Our relationship is actually better now than it was in the beginning, in many ways. Despite technically living in separate apartments, we live together (in my apartment). I have a job and he’s in school, so we have our separate time but I rarely get real, unending alone time. I know that all I have to do is ask for it (despite that being incredibly difficult in practice, especially because often I decide I’d rather be hanging out with him).

What I’m more concerned about, however, is that I’m 23 and feel practically married, don’t want this relationship to end, yet also want to be … 23. Both of us definitely see this relationship going somewhere really good, and I can see myself being with him for a very long time, but the idea that I’ve found someone so great for me this early on is kind of stressful, in its own stupid way. I get that it might sound idiotic and that I’m lucky to be in a happy, loving relationship (the idea of being with or trying to be with anyone else is horrifying), but I barely even know who I am at this point. Sometimes I have dreams about other guys, but nothing ever “happens” because even dream-me never truly wants it to. My parents dated when they were our age, broke up, got back together, broke up, and then got married when my mom was 27 and my dad was 29. They each got to experience other relationships and grow up, until they finally came together again as more-mature people. I want that, but it’s not like you can plan life that way. I feel like I’ve somehow skipped some steps and will end up bitter and divorced, despite my genuine belief that this guy is the one for me. I know I should probably just calm down, but nobody ever talks about this. Thoughts?

Ahhh, LW#4, I don’t think that this sounds stupid at all. On the contrary, I think wanting to have time to become yourself, on your own terms, is awesome.

So, you have a few options here: keep things going as they are (i.e. not rushing into marriage, just letting time take its course, seeing where you’re at in a few years — a lot can happen in a few years!); break it off (abruptly, needlessly); take a “break” (and I do not mean this as a euphemism for or precursor to breaking up); or, finally, carve out some real space for yourself. Based on everything you said — you clearly adore this guy — I think the last option makes the most sense as a starting point.

How about you really do LIVE in your separate apartments, for a while? I know you said that this is difficult, because you want to be with each other all the time anyhow. And I’m not suggesting that it’ll be easy. But if you want some time for yourself, to be yourself, you’re going to have to work at it, in the same way that you have to work at a relationship. Maybe spend weekdays in your own place and weekends together, for a start? Spend more time with your friends, try out some new activities — that figure-drawing class you always wanted to take! Or take a trip on your own, go on that drive across the southwest with your girlfriends. Or hey! Go to Iceland! Or none of these things, but my point is that it sounds like you need time to explore and gain perspective, which is best done with a bit of space and a bit of distance.

Comparing yourself to your parents (or your single friends, or coupled friends, or friends who’ve dated / backpacked around Europe / experimented with whatever wild crazy thing so much more than you) isn’t quite fair. Alas, there are no “steps” on the path to creating a loving, committed partnership, and I think everyone bumbles along a bit before finding their own way. Your relationship won’t automatically end in divorce just because you’re 23, or be wonderful forever because you’re 29 (!). Above all, I think that if you’re having doubts, your instincts are telling you something. Trust them.

A Married Lady is a married lady who doesn’t claim to know everything about marriage. Do you have a question for her?

Photo by Marcin Balcerzak, via Shutterstock


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