The wedding took place in a 150-year-old historical pine church in the middle of the woods. The other bridesmaid and I, both fat people, wore hoop-skirted Civil War style dresses. We carried lit candles (in the old pine church). The reception was a haul of a drive in the other direction, and I really kind of wanted to get pulled over just for the hilarity of being two fat girls in hoop skirts crammed into a Toyota Tercel.
When we got to the reception, there were candles lining the pathways -- it was beautiful but our skirts were wider than the pathways.
I honestly don't know how we didn't set ourselves or someone else on fire.
That was back in the day (which means I don't remember what year it was), and it was the first time I was a member of a wedding party. It was awesome.
My friend, a decent human being, never once brought up that I was a great big fat person. She just told me what dress I was going to wear and I did not argue!
I did not think this was remarkable behavior, perhaps because I have the low-bar expectation that my friends treat me like I am also a human being (hopefully one about whom they care). But this letter that Sara Benincasa got over at her new Jez advice column disabused me of that notion real quick.
As the letter-witer says, not being in a wedding party is not really a thing. I know some people would be insulted by being left out but I tend to take a pretty low-key approach to these things -- weddings are hot beds of drama and I'd rather not contribute to that.
But when someone writes to say you aren't in their wedding because you are too fat -- when someone slams you with the idea that you do not take pride in your appearance because you are not thin and tan -- that person is not your friend.
Just as Sara did, I'm sure I'm going to hear the defense that people get to make sure their weddings look exactly the way they want them to -- and I don't actually disagree with that! But you know what you don't get to do? Try to make people feel like shit in the process.
And, seriously, there is zero reason to tell someone that OTHER PEOPLE take pride in their appearance and you'd rather have them in your wedding. That's just rude.
Remember when I said that you should never have sex with someone who says mean things about your body? The same general rule applies here. Don't be friends with people who treat you like shit. In fact, don't be friends with people who treat others like shit, either.
The person who wrote in to Sara has it together -- their question is really more about how to handle the fall out of their "friend's" terribleness. I can't really fault Sara's response, either!
But I also want this to be a broadly applicable reminder to all of us -- friends care about each other and don't intentionally hurt each other. A lot of folks with self-esteem issues for whatever reason (and the reasons can be endless) make a lot of allowances for people who don't treat them well because they don't want to be alone; this is understandable but also not particularly good for you.
And, in fact, this is where the hard work of being a grown up really comes into play because you have to make the choice to take care of yourself. So-and-such may really be an awesome fun person, but if they are making fun of you and won't stop if it really bothers you, then they aren't your friend. They are hurting you. And you deserve better friends than that.
I know, I really do, that it is hard to make friends. And shitty friends can seem like better than having no friends at all. I'm not going to judge you for holding on to old friendships that might not, strictly speaking, be good for you. After all, chances are good that you really love your friend no matter what.
But if you want to maybe branch out a little bit and introduce some more positive friends into your life, too, I totally support that. In fact, I have some tips.
1. Recognize that, as an adult, friendships are something that require effort.
In grade school, you just had to sit next to a kid to know if you were going to be best friends or mortal enemies. As an adult, alas, it's hardly so straightforward. People often put on a different, warier mask at work, which can also complicate things. There's just no way around it that you are going to have to put in some effort to get to know folks.
This can be super hard if you are shy or introverted or if you have social anxiety. It's OK -- none of that means you are destined for loneliness. But you are going to have to find environments where you can still meet people. That might be the Internet -- here in these very xoJane comments. It might be in an interest-based group of some kind (local knitting guild, anyone?) where you can quietly participate until you learn more about people and you've got an automatic topic of conversation.
The point is that people respond to interest. It's not fair that you can't just sit back and wait for people to realize how awesome you are, but I'm not sure most of us want to wait that long.
2. You are probably going to have to go out and do things.
"Out" in this case CAN be metaphorical -- what I really mean is that you are going to have to put yourself within a group of people. That group might be online (Ravelry forums, Tumblr, whatevs) or in person (a free movie in the park, a flower arranging class, also whatevs) but you can't make friends with people if you never interact with people.
It's harsh but true. And highlights how our social scene in general really is that much harder for people who aren't comfortable going out and talking to a crowd. Like, socializing is a skill, and it is a tough one. That's why I include online stuff -- it's often a lot easier to talk to folks when you have a computer between you.
Whatever the environment, check out the people around you. If they say something smart and funny, you might want to say hi to them. If there isn't anyone who strikes your fancy, try again another time.
3. Finding friends is like dating -- they can't all be winners.
Chances are good you are going to realize halfway through a conversation with some new potential friend that you cannot even stand their viewpoint on "Game of Thrones." This is a natural part of the process. This does not mean there is anything wrong with you -- or with them for that matter. It just means you aren't compatible.
In that way, being friends with someone really is like dating. There's that whole getting to know you period, where you're on your best behavior. And there's reaching the point where you realize, yeah, this isn't going to last.
I don't know why we don't really recognize that when we start friendships (and friend breakups really are breakups, too).
4. It's just fine to set boundaries and expectations with new friends.
No one wants to be seen as clingy or high-maintenance; we've turned those descriptors into social death sentences. But it's a good idea to go into a new relationship of any kind knowing where your boundaries are. If you need to have the kind of friend who is going to call you every other day, be honest with at least yourself about that.
Don't assume everyone has the same friendship style as you. As with any other relationship, if you hold people to standards they don't know about, it's going to end in disaster and hurt feelings.
This is also where you can say, "Hey, I don't appreciate the *fill in the blank* jokes when I'm around." Set your boundaries for how you want to be treated. Establish that, yeah, you actually don't think rape/racist/sexist/etc jokes are funny.
If folks are really your friends, they'll respect that -- just as you will respect their boundaries, too.
I think we kind of expect friendships -- both finding and maintaining them -- to be easy. But, like any other relationship, friendships take kind of a lot of work! And if you're going to put all that work in, you deserve friends who treat you well. Friends who wouldn't ban you from their wedding party because of your body.
Because that kind of friend is no kind of friend at all.