September is wedding season, and I went to one last night. A true bollywood-style extravaganza. The bride and groom were right out of bollywood. He's a kid I've known since he was pre-verbal. She's a stunning out-of-towner. Smart fellow, this one: sometimes you gotta go far afield for talent. It was a family deal: I suited up and went with my parents and hung out with the childhood peer group that never fails to make me feel small and weak, because they remember me when I was, and they see nothing but those parts of me I want to discard when they look at me now. I face this group three or four times a year, not more, most of them during wedding season. I have bad memories with both generations - my parents friends and their children who are my age. I'm now watching most of those children raise their own children, and I think that they're doing a little better than our parents did, although they've probably had a bit of an easier time of it.
There's an elaborate ritual where the bride enters the reception hall (resplendent as befitted) at the back of a little parade, at the front of which are drummers and in the middle of which are all the female members of the family. As I said, the bride looked like Kajol with a little extra meat on the bones (in all the right places). My heart was full of envy. I realized when I got home that it wasn't that I wanted the bride. I was watching her glide along with this beaming restrained smile but all I really saw was Music. The groom looked handsome and every bit her match, and was having great fun besides. But I didn't want to be him, I just wanted to be that happy in love.
Am I seeing what I want to see, seeing whatever will make me most envious? I think I might be. Some of these peers of mine envy me for my own successes. They hear about my jaunts or work adventures on the grapevine (my parents to their parents to them) and, probably, wish they had my freedom and my luck. I envy them their domestic lives. Not that I even necessarily think they're happy lives: and indeed these parties are occasions for such binge drinking by both generations that it's always made me a little uncomfortable. Not just social drinking, but drinking because something's missing. But happy or not they are lives, and I don't have one yet; they are where they're supposed to be, and I'm not; they have succeeded in a way that I've failed.
Nostalgia's a funny thing. A couple of years ago I went on a couple of dates with one of these girls, a sensitive one who I ran into by chance at one of my own haunts. We both felt a little spark I think, rediscovering each other as adults. I backed off before anything could happen, knowing I wasn't over Music and not wanting to take this jewel of a girl to bed when my own feelings were ambivalent (I ended up doing exactly that with Painter, and probably the Gymnast too, but they were tougher and had a better idea about what they were getting into. This girl doesn't know me and, worse, has a mistaken sense of how well she knows me because she's known me since we were children). She was at the wedding, and we spent the whole night together. Almost like our third date. She awkwardly raised the fact that she had a boyfriend, and I smiled. It was sincere, and there was an element of relief, certainly of happiness for her. But envy too, wondering what I missed out on. In these moments I think I need to trust the old versions of myself more.
The Verbal of two years back probably made the right decisions. Second-guessing him now isn't fair. Sure, old versions of me made a few unambiguous mistakes. Regrets about those can protect me from repeats: I think that's what regret is for (and no, I don't believe in having no regrets). But if the situation was ambiguous and my own feelings ambivalent, and they still are, then I was right then and wrong now.
Or was I? Or am I?
This is what a happy wedding can do to a single guy.