As I boarded the plane to Las Vegas, I vowed to keep the judgment to a minimum and the laughter to a maximum. I can endure anything for one weekend, I reasoned, taking comfort in the thought that there was no way my cousin’s bachelorette weekend could be as bad as the one in the film “Bridesmaids,” as long as I refrained from mixing pills and booze. I reminded myself why I was there: to celebrate the love in my cousin’s life.
I took an aisle seat next to one of the other bridesmaids, who looked remarkably like Heidi Montag, minus the size H breasts.
“So, are you dating anyone?” she asked, first thing after hello.
“Not at the moment,” I replied.
End of conversation.
As we arrived at the hotel—I swear I’ve never seen so many lightbulbs in my life—my exchanges with the other girls, who ranged in age from 25 to 30, went exactly the same way. All seven of them were married or engaged. When they found out I wasn’t even close to walking down the aisle, they lost interest in me, as if my singlehood was a disease they might catch.
Months ago, when my 26-year-old cousin asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, my immediate response was, “I’d be honored.” But the truth was I didn’t entirely feel that way. We’re not close, I wouldn’t even call us friends, but she’s my cousin and I remember the day when she was born. We’ve spent every Thanksgiving together for the last 25 years. I am thrilled that she has met the man she wants to marry. We’re family and I am invested, as one of the less crazy members of our large clan, in keeping conflict and drama to a minimum. This includes agreeing to wear a fluffy burgundy bridesmaid dress and attending a practically unaffordable bachelorette weekend in Vegas.
At 34 years old, I like the woman that I’ve become. Without being defined by a husband or kids, I’ve worked hard to develop my identity as a person. I’ve found career success. I’m not rich by any means, but I support myself doing something I love, which is satisfying. I have an active social life. I volunteer regularly. My life is full even though I haven’t found the right person to share it with yet. That doesn’t make me feel like any less of a success as a woman. I don’t know if I even intend to get married as I’ve come to I question the institution and all the hoopla that surrounds it. I’m still undecided about having kids. But I definitely believe in love.
Throughout the weekend, I tried to remain positive for the sake of my cousin. But I felt like a sham during the whole parade. Polishing off six bottles of champagne with the other ladies, playing the ridiculous sex toy game that Heidi Montag had orchestrated, wearing the bathing suit and designer dress I had purchased just for the occasion, eating the $150 kobe beef burger, footing the pricey hotel bill, and shelling out big bucks for table service at a club that played awful music—none of these were things I’d ever do of my own volition. All of it felt so foreign.
I reached my breaking point as Heidi Montag insisted on a processional through the hotel lobby with penis maracas. I just can’t do it, I thought. I felt embarrassed to be seen with this group of women and wanted to scream. Logically, I knew I should be happy for my cousin and should be having a good time, but I felt trapped in a moral conundrum where I was doing something to celebrate someone else, but betraying myself—betraying all womanhood perhaps—in the process.
Why is that a woman must be married to be celebrated in this way? And why must the celebration be so circus-like? Getting married is not an achievement. It’s a joyous occasion—but it’s not a statement of a woman’s worth. And what do sex toys and penis maracas have to do with joining your life with another’s, anyway? Wasn’t that what this was all supposed to be about?
A few months ago, I was accepted into a prestigious MBA program. This was a huge accomplishment, worth celebrating for me. I got a couple of cards (one of them was from my cousin), a couple of phone calls, a friend or two bought me a drink, and my parents sent me flowers. But there was no party. Nobody bought me the new briefcase or laptop I would need. There was no lavish dinner or weekend getaway planned, not that I would ever even expect there to be. But as a women, I wish we celebrated milestones of all kinds—not just weddings and pregnancies. I want us to acknowledge each other for the progress we make as people, whatever the arena. Why don’t we celebrate the decision to go back to business school or to ask for the raise we deserve or to mentor a child in need or buy property on our own?
Watching the other bridesmaids in their penis maraca conga line, they looked ecstatic. But I felt sick to my stomach. For the first time in a while, I felt ashamed of myself.
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