There’s an age, around twenty-five or twenty-six, when your friends start getting married. It’s easier when they have their boyfriends or even fiancés, but the moment you are either sitting in a church pew or walking in front of them in an unflattering dress that you’ve assured them that you like you lose the person that your friend was. Nothing’s changed fundamentally; you still hang out with them, you still laugh with them, watch movies, eat, socialize. Everything’s the same, except it’s different. And it’s not the stupid things. It’s not the fact that you can’t engage in girl talk like you once did, and it’s not that a new person has to be factored into all the plans that are made. It’s that you know you’re no longer important. Oh, you know you are. You know that the affection that was held for you hasn’t waned, but you also know that if they had to choose it wouldn’t be you. And you know that it shouldn’t be. And as you watch all your friends pair off, and hear about old friends pairing off, you start to wonder what it is that’s wrong with you. Are you too picky? Yes, you know you are, but you’ve never particularly seen that as a bad thing. Should you settle? No, you don’t think you should. But as time goes by and they pair off more and more and you feel essentially left behind, so you can’t help but start weighing the prospects. You know that you’re shy. You know you have a hard time talking to people you don’t know. You know that you come off as standoffish, but you don’t mean to. You know that you wont go talk to that sort of interesting person at the bar, even though you wish you could, and you know you aren’t attractive enough for someone to pursue. You know that you’re interesting, and have a lot of thoughts you’re bursting to share with virtually anyone, but you also know that no one will ever know that. You try to muster up the courage to make people laugh, you try and they do, and you’re sure that next time they’ll remember you. They’ll remember that you’re the one that shared that funny story about the time you pushed that car for three miles with three guys you barely knew while your delicate roommate steered the wheel. But they don’t. The next time they smile and nod. Sometimes they even introduce themselves again. You wonder why you’re invisible.
Sometimes you try and make it a joke. You make fun of yourself scathingly because it’s better than how you imagine other people do. You joke about how you’re the third wheel, and how people don’t remember you, and how you have no problem being friends with members of the opposite sex because they never want to sleep with you. You joke about it because if you hear it out loud, from yourself, then it doesn’t hurt so much. And you hope people will laugh. Sometimes they do, but mostly they probably just feel sorry for you; the silly girl in the uninteresting clothes who makes fun of herself because she has nothing else to do.
And all around you your friends are getting married. You can’t explain that this is not something you want for yourself to other people because they give you that eye and say “Just wait. You say that now and then you’ll meet someone you’d marry.” They expect you to fall in love. You can’t ever tell them that you think its bullshit because you know that they will never agree. There’s no such thing as love. You know because you’ve been in it before. You’ve felt your heart expand until it fills your body with helium all the way to your fingertips. You’ve smiled a little bit more because you know that there is someone out there who is thinking of you the same amount that you’re thinking of them. And then you’ve realized that they weren’t. You understand that it’s waning and you will your own heart to comply. You want to feel the same way as the other person because you don’t have any other choice. You need to stop caring, you have to stop being in love with someone who’s turned indifferent to you. You try and you can’t, and then your heart breaks. And it feels like it will never repair again. And it won’t. It won’t ever be the same as it was before. You can’t turn certain things off just because you want to. You realize you’re alone, and you realize it hurts. But you also realize that it won’t always be like this because it can’t. You will get over it because you have to. And you understand that if you felt the way you know you felt and that it can get better then it was never really real in the first place. And that, then, it probably can’t be real. You know that this will happen again, that someday you’ll forget what you learned and you’ll let someone else in, but you know that it will be a long time from the last, and you hope that you’ll remember, just a little, that no matter how happy you are, and how often your heart is filling your fingertips, that it wont last. It won’t always be like that. But you already know that you’ll forget.
You know all of this but you can’t tell. You can’t look at your friends and tell them that you think they are making it all up. You can’t hurt their feelings by saying that what they are genuinely feeling is a trick they’ve used to ward away loneliness. You can’t because it’s cruel and because they wouldn’t agree with you anyway.
And you know that it doesn’t preclude anyone from being happy. You know that if they believe in it then they can live it and be happy for the rest of their lives. But you also know that you never will. You know you can’t ever get married because that one time that one person broke your heart it could have been worse. You don’t think a piece of paper could make it so, but you know that time would. You know that had you known someone long enough, and that your minds were tricked long enough, and that in that time you got that ridiculous piece of paper because it was what you thought you should do, then it would be worse. But you also wonder why you can’t make it stick. You wonder what you’re always doing wrong. But you already know. You regret things.
You remember that time when someone handed you something inconsequential and might have loved you. You remember the time they complimented your hair. You remember when someone drunkenly said they thought you were lovely, and you remember a tiny light going on somewhere in your chest. And then later you want it extinguished. You want it gone so that you’re free of it forever. But it doesn’t do your bidding. It doesn’t go out. And your friends still get married around you.