Like many families, mine is pretty crazy. The night before my cousin Sabrina's wedding, I stayed with her in her mother's house. We drank chamomile tea when her mother, Zia Vanina, put together elaborate biscuit plates that were handed out the next day after the ceremony. Vanina, my 90-year-old Nonna, and a friend of the family made the mountains of Pizzelle, Amaretti (Italian macaroons), candied almonds, shortbread filled with raspberries, Kugelach, and six other types of goodies.
There were far too many cookies, so my aunt, who didn't let me help so that I didn't screw anything up, fed her so that I didn't interfere. I agreed to that. One of my greatest talents is eating cookies.
After eating about 13 cookies, I checked my watch: 11:09 pm. A slight panic set in because I know that if I continued this sugar surge, I would not sleep. I tried to be a responsible bridesmaid, so I didn't tell my aunt any more cookies. She wiped her forehead, shoved a pink amaretti in my face and said: "Carla, eat the biscuit or go to hell!" I ate the biscuit.
Tensions were high before the wedding started the next day, but with the exception of five family members who almost missed the ceremony (thanks, Joe), it was very nice. My aunt led her daughter down the aisle and when they reached the altar there was no dry eye on our family side. It's a great thing to watch people you love in spite of and because of their craziness at such a moment. None of us could handle it.
After the reception, my cousins and I occupied the biscuit table, which was conveniently positioned behind the reception line. We recommend Nonna's pizza to guests while sipping on the liqueurs that go with the biscuits.
Next came a delicious selection of cheese, meat, calamari, and other delicious appetizers that I couldn't afford to take because I wanted to take pictures with the rest of the bridal shower. Some of these pictures were taken outside. November in Toronto is not exactly warm and I refused to put on pantyhose. My knees turned purple when the photographer yelled, "Lean on! Smile big!" Can I just say that people take way too many pictures at weddings? TOO MANY PICTURES, PEOPLE.
After the outside of the photo shoot was over, I was on my way to the bridal suite where we got ready before we popped a clonopin for giving a speech. A sweet-looking older Italian woman with a round figure and a low voice stopped me. She was a friend of the bride's mother or something.
"You are Sabrina's cousin, aren't you?" she asked.
"Yes." I said.
"You all look so beautiful up there," she enthused.
"Thank you. It was a wonderful ceremony, ”I said.
"When do you get married?" she asked.
I was confused. I wasn't wearing an engagement ring. I hadn't brought a date with me. I had just made amaretto pictures of the cookies with my cousins. Nothing about me said: BRIDE TO BE!
"I won't marry," I told her.
"Oh, don't worry," she said. "You are the next one." She winked at me as she shuffled into the reception area.
Damn it. In terms of age, I am the next in line in this large family of cousins who marry late, and not only do I not have nearly my own wedding, I don't know if I want one at all. It doesn't usually bother me that much, but when I looked around at the happy people laughing and celebrating my cousin and husband, my stomach twisted and I started to tear.
Thank God for the fast-acting anxiety medicine.
As soon as the salad was served, I was ready for my speech. I murdered this speech like Tony Montana on a charred killing spree. Killed it. I give myself 17% of the loan and the rest goes to Klonopin.
I sat down after my toast and in a hazy series of "Is this a nightmare-romantic comedy of my own creation?" Vignettes, at least a dozen distant relatives, paesans, aunts, uncles, godparents and grandparents came up to me and all delivered a version of the line "You're next, right?" Was this a trick of dislike therapy for one person?
In response, I laughed a little too hard and said, "Oh, we'll see." Part of me wanted to yell at these people, but who wants to be the only crazy, grown-up woman yelling at old, well-meaning guests at their cousin's wedding? Not this girl.
I did the only thing I could do about the venue: I spent the rest of the night drinking and either messing around in front of the photo booth or dancing. I danced all night. I danced in heels that weren't made to dance, I got my cousins to shake their boots with me, and when our 90-year-old Nonna got up to show the grandchildren their cute movements, where they crouch and raise our arms, we were all sweaty, exhausted and happy.
The next morning, I still woke up alone, still planning to move, still unsettled, and thinking about my cousin in her bridal suite, who ate Eggs Benedict and sipped champagne in bed with her new husband. I felt both jealous and disgusted. I am okay with my life most of the time, but in those moments when others remind me how far I am from the norm and things that I might want one day but have no idea how I come , my stomach sinks and a nagging fear subsides. It has not yet disappeared.
I declined invitations to eat delicious meals with relatives while I'm in town to avoid a certain set of marriage issues that I just don't want to deal with. I don't know why I'm single. I'm open to relationships, but I'm not going to jump into one just because of that. I have men in the long term and I have dated them in the short term. I almost got married once, but thanks Oprah I didn't get married.
I know they mean well, but when I speak to family members and friends of my parents who are curious about my lifestyle and my marriage prospects, I get a little defensive and bored.
Yes, Nonna, I know you had a husband and two children my age. The times have changed. Maybe one day.
Thank you, friend of the family, but I don't want to meet your friend's son. I am sure that he is great and I fully understand that sometimes an adult man lives at home with his mother because she cooks and irons his underwear like no other, but still no.
Oh yes, distant cousin on my father's side, I like children. Sure, I want her one day. Children are great. Children are much better than you are right now.
Part of the reason these questions are stinging is that I don't need other people to ask them. I regularly ask myself the same questions. I am 31. Many of my friends are married or almost married and have babies. I am a steadfast loner. I made the most of it and my career as a portable writer in the past four years by city hopping. I've met great people and had wonderful experiences, but I'm still alone.
One of the reasons I have lived so much in Rome and New York is that you are never alone when you leave the house. Constantly being surrounded by many other people offers a kind of strange, invisible embrace of humanity that a single person and maybe all people sometimes have to feel.
Right now I'm taking these hugs from humanity where I can get them. I feel pretty good when I'm single most of the time. Sure, I'd like to go out with someone seriously, but for the right reasons, not because I'm panicked about being alone forever. And definitely not because Uncle Marty's second cousin's son has to move out of the basement.
Written by Carla C.