It seems like everyone I know is getting married. People I went to high school with are updating their relationship status on Facebook to “engaged.” They change their last name and so the first few times they pop up on my news feed, it takes me a while to remember who they are and why I’m friends with them in the first place. I’m getting to be that age, so it’s not exactly a surprise, but I can’t necessarily say I was ready for my baby cousin to get engaged — nor for her to ask me to be a bridesmaid.
I said yes, of course, without hesitation. I’ve never been a bridesmaid before, and I could not be more excited to celebrate this next era in my cousin’s life. But as happy as I am for her, it’s still a little strange. I’ve never been under the illusion that I would get married before her, or that I would get married, period. But I still feel a bit like I’m neglecting my postmodern, millennial duty of falling in love, having kids, buying a house, moving out of state, and being, well … normal.
But that’s just it. I’m not normal. For years I’ve been preparing for this inevitable staggering of graduation parties and weddings and baby showers. I knew it would happen, that one day my cousin would get married and that eventually, I would be the only single woman in my family. But it still hurts. When I look at my cousin, it feels like I’m looking at an alternate version of myself — a Brianna with a body that works the way it’s supposed to. A normal Brianna.
When I first found out, I panic-texted my best friends, feeling like I had suddenly aged 10 years. Is it normal to have an existential crisis over being a bridesmaid?
Everyone replied, “Yes, of course, existential crises are to be expected at our age.”
I barely feel old enough to have graduated college. If someone were to show anything akin to romantic interest in me, I would feel sorely tempted to dig myself a grave. I’m an adult, sure, and a semi-functioning one at that, but there are so many aspects of living, working, and creating and, yes, loving, that feel foreign to me. Part of that experience is, I think, familiar to millennials, yet part of it is unique to people with disabilities who did not expect to live past a certain age, and have been watching their peers go about their normal, run-of-the-mill lives from a distance.
One of Netflix’s romcoms, “Set It Up,” came out this summer. I watched it by myself at 10 o’clock at night. I couldn’t help but laugh when the main character, Harper, exhibited the same kind of dissociative disbelief I feel whenever I see people my age getting married. At one point in the movie, her best friend gets engaged. Harper — wide-eyed, hair in a bun, wearing sweatpants — responds with, “We’re not old enough to get married, though.”
My cousin showed off her ring at a family gathering last fall, and my first thought was, We’re not old enough to get married, though. I’m only 23. I’m not the only 23-year-old who’s had an existential crisis over being a bridesmaid, I know, but it feels different for people like me; people who can’t tie their own shoes without help, who have relied on others since the day they were born. I don’t even know how to file my taxes. How can my cousin be getting married? And what does that mean for my life, which looks nothing like the lives around me, the lives I was taught to want since I was 9 months old?
I don’t have answers for you, but I might someday. Maybe this whole bridesmaid business will teach me a thing or two.
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