My mother’s wedding dress looks perfect on me. We share not only the same eye color and face shape, but also, apparently, the dimensions of our thirty-year-old bodies. It’s a pretty off-white color, fitted tightly to the hips, then burgeons out just slightly, falling to the ankles. There’s an enormous bow I really love at the back, and fairly horrible poofy eighties sleeves, which I would like to have tailored entirely off.
So. I have the dress, but not the groom.
I have imagined the ceremony, the reception, the take-home favors—first with R, and then again with J, but somehow I’m alone again, and I find myself losing my grip on the world in a fairly terrifying way. I’m watching way too much TV. I ate danishes for dinner last night. I’m not certain if I have enough work lined up for the fall to sustain myself. I’ve amassed more credit card debt than I’m comfortable with and it’s been hard trying to pay it off. I keep putting more Chinese noodles on my credit card.
I know that I have work to do. I know I need to learn to take care of myself, to get back to cooking the nourishing dinners I have put so much effort into learning how to create. To go to yoga class, to put on my adult boots and find more work and make things happen. To check in with my therapist, to put together the writing blog that’s been at the back of my mind for years.
I know I have to do these things, and each day I watch myself not move toward them. I can’t explain this place that I’m in. It hasn’t all been a loss—I’ve put together a beautiful home to live in, connected with work I love, and have been writing a fantasy novel that’s super important to me. I see my friends, but I keep these feelings of worthlessness I’m drowning in quiet.
I just want to be married.
I know that a wedding is not a marriage, that one day of luscious clothing and dinners and having it all professionally photographed does not make a life together. That it will not inestimably alter the inner work I need to do. I know this, but I’m also so ludicrously wrapped up in the fantasy of it that it’s hard to disentangle the white dress from the imaginary constancy of love.
I want that partner person in my life so desperately. It’s been three years since my first thought-we-were-going-to-be-together-forever relationship ended, and it’s been a long process of digestion and moving forward and giving things up since then. But all along I thought, “If I work hard enough on my career, if I’m more deeply embodied, if my meditation practice is really strong, if I can learn to be really artistically expressive, if I’m comfortable being alone, then…”
Then someone will love me. Then I will find The One, and we will be able to actually create the beautiful wedding of my dreams, and this gnawing sense inside me of being incomplete will finally be dispelled.
But it’s been three years since R. It’s been five more breakups, one disastrously bad date, one cross-country-and-back move, hundreds of hours of therapy, two meditation retreats, and I still don’t have a ring on my finger. I still have a broken heart.
I want to think that being single shouldn’t matter so much to me, that I’m a kickass person and having a partner is not what lends me self-worth, but I can’t. I know that it’s ridiculous, that my life is filled with so many other kinds of love and support, that there are all kinds of rich experiences I’m having and figuring out in my on-my-own life. I know that it’s better to be on my own than in a relationship where I’m not treated as well as I want to be. I know these things, and I’m figuring them out.
But I still want to be married. I want to wear my mother’s dress, throw a big party, and commit to loving whoever it may be through all the life things. I don’t know where or how they’ll come into the picture, but I really hope they do. And I hope I can work on learning and growing and doing all the work I need to until then.