A few years ago, I went to a wedding with my husband (then-boyfriend). It was beautiful and fun, but we didn’t know anyone other than the bride. I spent more time watching than participating—I was happy to be a spectator, quietly creating stories for myself about the people around me. I was especially entertained by a man on the dance floor. He’d abandoned his sports coat long ago, and his tie hung loosely around his neck. Shirt? Soaked with sweat and soon to be unbuttoned, tie repurposed as a head band moments later. His moves were… wild. Spastic. Everywhere. He spun, he jumped, he head-banged, he swiveled. He was demanding the center of the dance floor with flailing limbs and misting perspiration that sprayed off him with every leap and turn. It was amazing, but it was also kind of embarrassing.
We headed toward the bride and groom to say goodnight. Just as we reached her, so did dancing guy. Still moving to the beat, he managed to enthusiastically slur to the bride, “Come on, when are you dancing with me?!” The smell of whiskey almost made my eyes water. The bride assured him she’d meet him in a second and he leapt back to the beat of “Sweet Caroline” like it was his favorite rock anthem of all time. With a huge smile, the bride watched him go and said to us, “I love that guy. Everyone needs to have that guy at their wedding, you know? He is totally doing it. I’m so grateful. He’ll probably puke later; I love it.”
Oh. She wasn’t embarrassed for him, or annoyed that he’d had more than his share of whiskey punch. She didn’t mind that he was dominating the dance floor in a way that kept the rest of the guests dancing on the edges. He was that guy, and she was happy about it.
I wondered why I’d cared so much. He wasn’t embarrassed; the bride and groom weren’t embarrassed; no one was trying to drag him off the dance floor. What was my problem? Then remembered: because I was that guy once.
I had just moved back to California with my baby daughter. My life had fallen apart over the previous ten months, and I had just barely landed with two feet on the ground before the invitation arrived from my cousin. It was a lovely wedding, beside a lovely waterfall. The bride was gorgeous; her friends were gorgeous. With fifteen dollars in my bank account and a baby on my hip, I felt imperfect and very un-gorgeous. It didn’t help that my entire family was there to coo over the baby and ask with concern, “How are you?”
“Me? I am fine! I am totally fine!”
And to prove that I was totally fine, I did what people who are totally fine do: I drank a bottle of white wine with my uncle, glass after glass of champagne with whoever would have one, at least one kamikaze shot, and a margarita.
The next morning, I nursed the worse hangover in the world, and the night came back to me in flashes: I told some guy “I would totally do you” because he wrote his name for me in an Asian language. I made out with some other guy on a patio and said something like, “We can’t go back to my room because I’m sharing it with my brother, and his girlfriend, and my mom and my dad, and my daughter, heh heh” before stumbling over. I fell down… a few times. But, you know, that laughing falling. I vomited in the hotel parking lot while my brother sat next to me, befuddled and concerned that so much could come out of my petite frame. As the coffee cleared my head, embarrassment replaced the fog.
And then I remembered the dancing. OH my gosh, the dancing. I danced like I had nothing left to offer the world except my moves. Moves that were silly, moves that were sexy, moves that were raunchy… moves by myself in the middle of the dance floor and moves up against people that I didn’t even know.
I wanted to crawl into a cave and never see anyone again—not the people from the wedding or my family, all of them. How could I face anyone? I hadn’t seemed fine, I had seemed out of control. What a disaster; I couldn’t look anyone in the eye at brunch.
Years later, watching that guy with his necktie headband, it was all coming back to me. This bride wasn’t uncomfortable about this goofball, so maybe no one was uncomfortable about me that night? He certainly looked to be having a good time, I remember my night as a good time, especially after all the pressure I’d endured that year. Was it okay that I was that person at my cousin’s wedding? At my friends Mark and Valerie’s wedding, someone vomited on the roof. At Maggie’s wedding, someone passed out in the back of the wrong car (oops). Hangovers notwithstanding, no one was hurt. Without condoning alcohol abuse, maybe it’s time I appreciate that weddings are not a time that anyone needs to prove how mature or responsible she is. Weddings are not about being fine; weddings are about celebration, about joy.
Are there a lot of reasons why it is unwise to drink that much? Of course. But it helps no one to carry around the guilt for over a decade. More likely than not, everyone was focused on the bride and groom, not me. No one has ever said anything to make me feel judged about it, so why judge myself? It makes a fun story with mostly funny memories of a time when I was young and confused. It’s about time I forgave myself for the poor choices of one night so long ago. My husband’s friend expressed gratitude for the drunk guy at her wedding. Maybe my cousins should thank me. (Just kidding. Sort of. )