Christmas was a study in contrasts. The day itself was quite lovely, restful, and calm. Spending the day at home with my parents, we opened presents. We relaxed. I cooked a beef tenderloin and made a chocolate cheesecake that actually turned out beautifully.
The next day, I had plans to go to Arthur’s family in the morning (they live about an hour away from us) so the girls could play with their cousins, then Arthur would join us in the evening after work for gift exchange and time with family. I arrived at the house, got the girls ushered in, and started talking with the adults.
Arthur’s middle sister MC recently got engaged with a wedding scheduled for the summer. I knew MC was – naturally – excited about the wedding. To make conversation, I asked her how things were going and about plans, etc.
I did not expect to be asked to be a bridesmaid. MC and I have had some conflicts on and off over the last year or two, and I figured that she’d have friends and Arthur’s two other sisters to round out the bridal party. MC asked if I would sing and if E would be a flower girl. I told her yes, of course, and then asked if she had picked bridesmaids’ dresses and such.
Socially awkward introverts’ worst nightmare ensued: a smooth sailing, seemingly shallow conversation suddenly pitched into unexpectedly deep waters. “Well,” MC told me, “SC [Arthur’s oldest sister] is my maid of honor, LC [Arthur’s youngest sister] is going to be a bridesmaid, my friend V, and, well, F.”
F, for the record, is married to Arthur’s brother D, so an in-law like me. I sucked in a deep breath and tried not to react. While I hadn’t been expecting to be asked to be a bridesmaid, I also hadn’t expected to be the only female in my generation to be left out of the wedding party. I smiled, tried to be polite, and left the room a few minutes later with the baby to calm down.
MC followed me. “Look,” she said, “I hope you’re not too upset about the bridesmaid thing. I didn’t ask F just because she’s a sister-in-law.”
I’ve been with Arthur for around 20 years at this point, engaged or married for 15 of those years. I’ve attended MC’s band concerts, events, graduations, and sent things to her at college. It’s true that we’ve had a few moments in the last couple years – which I fully acknowledge to be partly on me – but to be told, essentially, “well, F is a friend and you…are just my sister in law” felt absolutely devastating.
It’s not even so much not being a bridesmaid. It’s being close enough to hear all the inside jokes and far enough away to be left out of them. It’s being the only female of my generation in the family photos that will be dressed differently and obviously not part of the group. It’s that in Arthur’s family culture, this is a huge, huge slap in the face.
I spent the day trying not to cry. When Arthur arrived, however, I lost it. Seven hours of sitting on strong feelings was too much. Instead of doing what I had planned, which was keeping things quiet and working it out later, I just felt the sobs pouring out of me and I could not bear to cry in front of everyone. I ran out of the house and drove home, leaving Arthur and the girls to do the gift exchange and come home later.
It came out that at least three people had known about MC’s plans and had advised her that she would hurt me by making those choices. Everyone is still insisting that MC didn’t mean to hurt me, that she’s stubborn and not as emotionally aware, but I’m having a hard time believing it. I mean, MC is absolutely entitled to have whoever she wants in her wedding party, but she needs to own her decisions and not hide behind “oh, I asked you to sing and I never thought you’d be hurt”.
At this point, I’m just trying to take a step back and calm down a little. There’s a lot of pressure on me to forgive, reconcile, and sing. Truthfully, while that might be possible eventually, it’s hard to do when it’s all so fresh.
We closed on the house yesterday. And it is glorious. I am so, so excited about starting to paint and moving in. A little overwhelmed, too, honestly. To add to all of this, a driver rear-ended us yesterday as well, so creating another task.
So that’s how 2017 ended and 2018 is starting. Lots of good, but plenty of delicate, difficult circumstances thrown in.