I have a distinct group of friends from my hometown that I’ve known anywhere from 10 to 25 years, a small but tight group that are nothing less than family. We’re all still relatively close distance-wise: two in MA, one in PA, one in CT, two in NY and one in DC; we’re home for the same holidays and inevitably we gather at my parent’s place once per summer, enjoying the pool and the chance to spend time as a group again. We’ve grown up together, slept through church together (…just kidding mama B), went to prom together, learned to drive together, and hell, learned to drink together. We’ve shared milestones for our entire friendship, getting into college, finding a job, finding that first apartment, and yet as I surfed the registry for the one of us getting married in July, I realized we’re finally at a point, after 20+ years, where the milestone timing is off: I am the only one of the group not engaged or in a serious relationship.
At first, that probably seems like a WOE IS ME statement, something to draw attention to myself or elicit pity. But honestly, it’s not. Yes it’s weird that all my friends are getting married or a few months away from an engagement, while my most recent accomplishment was finding a spot for $1 oysters/half-price wine/trivia for Wednesday dates with my fashionista C. Yet I wouldn’t trade places with anyone right now, even if it meant I wouldn’t be facing the possibility of attending all these weddings alone over the next few years.
I was so terrified at the thought of single life at first, in the time where it was something new I had to adjust to. As I looked at the weeks, months, year ahead, all of these plans I made as an “us” were suddenly back to “me”; it felt like a slap in the face every time I started thinking about how “awful” it would be to stand around these happy couples alone. Time passed, and as I adjusted to this new life I started realizing all of the positive things that come with being the last single one standing, like the fact that I can tear it up on the dance floor without embarrassing anyone (except my friends, but they’re used to me), or that I have a great excuse to get the less-expensive things on the registry (I mean what? I would never do that…). The absolute best part, though, goes a bit deeper.
Watching the people who I’ve grown up with fall in love and choose their Person is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve seen the person I once killed a bottle of rum with at 11 in the morning agonize over what to get his girlfriend for her birthday, the girl I stayed up with till 3 a.m. in middle school to talk about boys propose to her beautiful girlfriend, and the girl who helped me prove that the bassoon is, in fact, a cool instrument (IT IS) start a fur-family with her fiance, who I can’t wait to meet. I’ve seen the commitment it really takes to choose to take that next step, that big leap, and all that happens in between, both good and bad; it’s like the perfect opportunity to sit back and learn what needs to be important to me in my next relationship.
Next weekend is a bachelorette extravaganza for the first of us walking down the aisle, a weekend excursion to PA that I’ve been looking forward to for months. It may still be a little weird, talking to these childhood friends about favors and place settings instead of trading dating stories and idiot decisions made possible by vodka. I’m fine with spending a little more on gifts and sitting out the slow songs for now though. After all, I know that if the time ever comes, they’ll be waiting to welcome me into this stage of life with open arms, trailing milestones together once again.