Three years ago, I went to a friend’s wedding in California. My boyfriend at the time (eventually my ex-fiance) got so drunk that he passed out on the side of the road as we made the trek from the reception to the after-party. I had to take M. back to our hotel and ended up missing all of the late-night festivities. When we broke up a year later, one of the more strangely profound resentments I felt was that he’d ruined that evening for me; I should have been celebrating, not taking care of him.
This weekend, I went to the wedding of another very close friend. The wedding was in the Catskills in upstate New York, which just so happens to be where I got engaged a few years ago. As we were driving up to the gorgeous hill top where the ceremony was to be held, I recognized landmark after landmark from the last time I had been in the area, the days before and after my ex slid a ring on my finger: the cute little brunch joint where we had eggs the day before; the restaurant where I got tipsy from champagne on New Year’s Eve, having no clue that he was going to ask me to be his wife when the ball dropped at midnight; the sort of creepy cabin where he eventually did the asking. I felt a weird sadness passing all of these places, not because I wish we had ended up getting married, but because in the two-and-a-half years since he proposed, so much had changed. We celebrated our engagement then; now, we don’t even talk.
I tried to take the edge off how I was feeling by cracking jokes to the friends I was going to the wedding with. Joking about things that are painful for me has always been a comfort. “Now, D,” I said to my date, a good guy friend within my circle of pals, “You’d better not get so drunk at this wedding that you pass out on the side of the road. I have no obligation to take care of you the way I took care of M. at Teri and Casey’s wedding.” Though I’ve released most of the anger I feel towards my ex, cracking jokes about his behavior at the wedding in California is one of the remaining ways in which I still lash out at him (though he’s not around to hear it).
It turns out, however, that this weekend, I unexpectedly ended up walking in my ex’s drunken, stumbling shoes. Though I don’t recall drinking all that much, I must have been slinging back the wine with gusto during dinner. After spotting me teetering back from the bathroom after the sun had gone down, the bride’s sister, attune to the fact that I clearly had too much to drink, helped me to a lounge chair where I catnapped for a short while.
When I woke up, I have a vague memory of standing, assessing my surroundings, and attempting to make my way back to the dance floor where friends and family were whooping it up. I didn’t make it far, however, before I found myself toppling into the lake at the base of the reception area.
D. took me home and consoled me as I bawled off all of my perfectly applied eye makeup. I was overwhelmed by a feeling that I had completely embarrassed myself. I had gotten so inebriated that I was missing the rest of the evening’s celebration and this time it was all my doing. Just hours after jokingly warning D. not to get so drunk that he needed taking care of, I was being taken care of by him. I suppose that’s probably why I kissed him — I felt blessed that he wasn’t judging me the way I had judged my ex. He was tending to me despite us not having any “obligation” towards each other. Luckily, he knew better than to let my smooch get out of hand — or maybe the smell of musty lake water is a turn-off.
A few days have passed and most of the embarrassment has washed off, but I’m still trying to understand what happened. I know I didn’t intend to get so drunk — and I never have gotten this wasted before in my life — but what compelled me to throw such caution to the wind, to not monitor my intake? I think it was a desire to let go of the stress I had been feeling in recent weeks, to battle the fatigue that’s come from working without a vacation in a year, and, yes, ultimately to dodge the disjointed feeling that had been weighing on me for the days, weeks, and months since my life changed so drastically.
There’s nothing like a wedding to bring up crazy mixed emotions in a person. I am overwhelmed with happiness for my friend and her new husband — and their newborn baby! — and was so moved to see how beautiful she looked in her dress, choking up as she said her vows. I’m still very unsure about how I feel about someday getting married myself. But watching two people pronounce their love to each other just a few miles from where I was asked to take that leap as well … it hit me a lot harder than I expected.
So much so, I guess I needed to take a dip in a lake.