Oh ’tis the season to be terrified. You can read the edited version online here.
Or the unedited version, with a slightly more Larkinesque final line below:
I feel about weddings the way cats feel about log flumes; the way babies feel about bathwater; the way cows feel about white wellies and sloping floors. It’s not horror, or dislike, political discomfort or cynical detachment; it’s fear. Pure, unbridled, bride-addled fear.
And I’m far from alone. To quote Richard Pryor – a man who enjoyed weddings so much he got married seven times to five different women, “Marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings … and lawyers.” That’s precisely it; weddings bring together the heinously unlikely bedfellows of sex and state; of vows and discos; of poetry and that boy from your primary school who once set fire to your hair and now appears to be the best man.
Weddings are a compilation of all the things most likely to bring a 29-year-old woman out in a fit of hives; commitment, contracts, estranged family and emotions. God knows how brides don’t simply slide down the aisle on a collective stream of sweat and rescue remedy.
And weddings are everywhere, of course. Particularly in August. According to the Office for National Statistics, the greatest number of marriages take place between men and women aged 25 to 29 (welcome to my admin box), while there was a 5.3% increase in marriages in 2012, to a cool 262,240. That is a lot of bouquet missiles and broken shoe straps.
This fear of weddings has a very particular tang; of champagne and sugared almonds, of fruit cake and forgotten speeches, of toasts and dry-mouthed small talk. It is the fear of formality, the phobia of emotional vulnerability and, inevitably for the single guest, the anxiety of social exclusion. According to an article Roy F Baumeister and Dianne M Tice in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, “Anything that defines the self as useless, incompetent, or inadequate may bring anxiety, for it raises the possibility that the group might reject one as incompetent.”