When my local temple asked me to speak on the subject of love, my body chuckled as I enjoyed a glorious inside joke with myself. A speech on love? Hilarious. Predictable, even. Of course I would be asked to speak on the subject of love. I am the expert on love.
Having attended 26 weddings in 24 months, (eleven of which I was and/or will be a bridesmaid), one Ketubah signing, five dress fittings, six bridal showers, eight ill-fitted bridesmaid dresses, nine engagement parties, thirteen speeches, fourteen bachelorettes, eighteen rehearsal dinners, and well, who’s counting the bites of cake... how could I not be the expert on love?
I know what you’re going to say. “You should see the movie 27 Dresses.” Yes. I’m aware, and yes, I have seen it. And yes, I’m very upset that Katherine Heigl stole what was clearly a role meant for me.
Almost two years ago I found myself headed down a similar aisle: serious boyfriend, engagement flurries, ring in sight. But instead of a diamond, I was stunned by a different kind of proposal – an overnight breakup moments before Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ house. And by moments I mean I literally dropped him off to gorge on turkey and continued on my way. I parked at a Whole Foods – I guess subconsciously believing that an over-priced juice might heal the soul, only to find that it was closed. Because yeah, it was 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and I was alone. I got on the 405, where I pulled to the side of the road. I had no idea where I was going. This was my love story? Really?
Don’t worry, I didn’t sit on the side of that freeway for too long: I come from Jewish parents. Within 90 minutes, my dad had used the remainder of his American Airlines miles to schlep me on a flight to Skokie where my family was celebrating Thanksgiving that year, and less than 24 hours later I found myself in my brother’s beautiful suburban home surrounded by my five nieces and nephews, brother and sister, parents, and siblings in law. Surrounded by my loved ones and feeling empty and distraught. Confused and shocked. Stunned.
Unfortunately, I had to be back in LA by noon the next day as one of my closest Camp Ramah friends was getting – wait for it – married, so I begrudgingly bid goodbye to my mishpacha as they stood outside and watched their tear-stained baby child enter a cab to O’Hare, offering wisdom and hugs but unable to mend a broken heart.
“Love. I hated it. But the more I hated love, the more love started following me everywhere.”
I barely remember that wedding — sorry girl — but I do remember thinking “I survived.” Phew. Dodged that bullet.
Little did I know what was coming next: That same week, two of my best friends from college got engaged, which ironically led to a string of proposals from what seemed like men everywhere. College, high school, camp, and any childhood friend I ever had was calling me with news of engagement. I felt like a magnet for love. All of these men were suddenly stepping up. My friends’ happily ever-afters were beginning, as mine had just screeched to a halt. My Facebook newsfeed was raining rings, and there I was, left to dry. Lost in a maze of wedding fever. Unbitten by the bug.
Love. I hated it.
But the more I hated love, the more love started following me everywhere. I guess love loves hard to get. My friends weren’t just getting married – they were asking me to stand by their side as they did it! And to give toasts. And to attend weekend bachelorette extravaganzas. And fancy bridal showers. And to fly all over the country.
I was traveling to Big Sur, Houston, Dallas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Nyack, Long Island, Orange County, Vegas, San Diego, Malibu, a beautiful ranch outside Orlando, Maryland. For that one, I flew to Scarsdale, spent the night at my parents’ house, trained to the city, bussed to DC, got picked up by a friend, and drove four hours to St. Michaels, Maryland – which if you don’t know is a solid two hours away from civilization. Four of us shared a hotel room and one of us got bed bugs. I probably won’t be going back to St. Michaels.
One wedding landed on my 30th birthday. The bride got me a cake, but still, it was her day, not mine.
I was watching from the front lines every time. Sitting in the front row when I wasn’t by the Chuppah. Observing as my friends bit the bullet and said yes to a lifelong partner and a promise of commitment.
It was a struggle and emotional on all levels. Often painful. Sad. Heartbreaking. Mesmerizing. Name a feeling. I felt it all.
The weddings were a blast, of course, and I love a good party more than the best of them. Met amazing people, bonded with old friends, danced the night away.
My friends were grateful, as they noticed the amount of wedding events I had going on aside from their own. We had a running joke that my life equals auditions and weddings, not in that order. My family said in jest that I shouldn’t have kept in touch with so many friends. It probably wasn’t in jest, though it was certainly comical. For the most part.
Love. Not my favorite.
And then I was asked to publicly speak about it. Well hey, I write toasts like it’s my thirteenth job at this point, so after my nice chuckle I easily said yes and didn’t think much of it before heading into my 26th wedding last weekend in the Palisades.
Bridesmaid-dressed and fully made-up with glamorous hair, I stood by the bride just mere minutes before the ceremony was about to begin. Here I was signing the Ketubah as well, a new honor for me, and the Rabbi was about to introduce the witnesses to the families as I watched in slow motion as a fountain pen was passed over the bride and handed to the groom. Boom. A gasp. There was no mistaking it. Front and center of the bride’s gorgeous white dress: a huge black ink stain.
She bolted to the bathroom, where the wedding planner and I immediately met her. As the planner frantically blotted the stain with club soda and Tide To-go pens and every other unimaginable ointment, I could see the bride’s eyes. I could see we were about to lose her. And yes, her makeup, too, but mostly her heart. She was staring at the stain like the wedding was ruined.
And there I found myself, with my 21-month who’s counting post-breakup wedding experience suddenly washing over me and taking over. Breathe. I told her. Look at me. Your parents are here. They are healthy. They are present at your wedding. You’re about to marry the love of your life. You worked so hard to get here. He’s ready to sign the Ketubah and give himself to you. Everybody is here. For you. For him. And for your love. These words flew out of my mouth like a monologue I was born with, and I could feel my heart spilling them directly into hers. Besides, I joked, you already took the pictures, and isn’t that the reason for this dress? Her eyes teared up the perfect amount as she looked at me and said, “This is why I chose you.”
And that’s when I found my love. In a different and unexpected form. That was the point of my journey, to be there for my friends, and I realized that I love being a good friend. I love it. That was my purpose of being there. I may have saved her day, but really, I saved myself.
Love isn’t perfect. Love has stains. But love can only sustain the stain with friendship and support, and that’s what I have been able to offer my friends. This has been a gift, and for the present moment – it would be more than enough.
As we quickly sewed the bride’s dress to hide the relentless ink, I could feel my heart ready to be mended, the loose ends threading together.