IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Went To My Ex-Boyfriend’s Wedding And Kept My Dignity Intact (Sort Of)

It’s not that I wanted him. I just didn’t want him getting married before me.
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Publish date:
November 13, 2014
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books, writing, exes, weddings

He was my first real boyfriend -- the first boy I ever loved. The first boy I ever kissed. And he was getting married.

When he called me to tell me that he had gotten engaged, I was a little shell-shocked, but we were good friends, and so I tried to be happy for him.

It’s not that I wanted him. I didn’t. I just didn’t want him getting married before me. Having an ex get married before you seems like you’ve lost some sort of contest. He’s a winner, you’re a loser. He’s destined for a lifetime of love and happiness, while you’re destined for a life of desperation and loneliness.

I was nearly 30 years old, and I was no closer to getting married than I was when I had first met my ex when we were 11. I had no real prospects, I hated my job as an attorney, and I was scared about approaching my big birthday completely and utterly alone.

I couldn’t RSVP no to the wedding. I just couldn’t. We were friends, but more important than that, I had to show that I was okay. I had to show that none of this bothered me. I had to show that I was fabulous and happy with where I was in life. Even if I wasn’t.

Anyway, I was seeing someone, and by the time the invitation arrived, we were a full fledged couple. I RSVP’d to the wedding knowing that I’d have a date who adored me. I could attend and hold my head up high. Right?

Wrong. Two weeks before the wedding, the guy I was seeing made it clear that “full fledged couple” was overstating things a bit. Actually, he didn’t want to see me anymore. At all.

As heartbroken and shocked as I was by the break-up, one thought stood out: What about my ex-boyfriend’s wedding?! There was no way in hell that I would be going alone.

The solution was clear: I needed a gorgeous stand-in for my ex to go to my other ex’s wedding. Cue the handsome Scottish guy, J., who worked down the hall from me. (God, I was always such a sucker for an accent!) I asked, he said yes, and it was all set. Piece of cake, right?

Wrong again. One week before the wedding, J. sent me a flirty email to tell me that he was excited about the wedding. So excited, in fact, that he’d sent his kilt to the dry cleaners. Yes, you read that correctly. His kilt. As in: He wasn’t planning to wear pants to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding.

I spent the next week attempting to make peace with the fact that my date was planning on wearing a kilt to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding. (Read: freaking out about the fact that my date was planning to wear a skirt to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding.) Now, don't get me wrong, kilts are great. Just not at your ex-boyfriend's wedding.

I even called my ex to tell him and he laughed out loud, saying that he couldn’t wait to meet J. Everything seemed to be finally working out. I’d be able to attend my ex-boyfriend’s wedding with my head held high, right?

Wrong! (Geez, aren’t you sensing the pattern here?!) Just as the dust on Kiltgate had settled and I’d gotten used to the idea, I got hit with the next bombshell -- he was sleeping with one of the other women in our office, and she was furious that I was taking him to the wedding. Clearly, J. would not be making it that Saturday.

I did what any girl in my position would do: frantically called every single man in Manhattan I knew. I decided that the best course of action would be to bring the best-looking man I could find. One sure way to bring my currency back up would be to have the hottest date.

And my date was hot. Striking in his Armani tuxedo, he was just a friend who, when I invited him to the wedding, later admitted that he’d had a crush on me. Things were looking up.

The night of the wedding, I put on my Manhattan-girl armor: hair and make-up professionally done, the most expensive dress I owned, coupled with the most fabulous bag and shoes in my closet. I figured if I looked good enough on the outside, the inside part of me wouldn’t matter. The outside said: pretty Manhattan attorney with a fabulous wardrobe and sexy date. The inside said: miserable and insecure.

The wedding was beautiful. Or at least I think it was. Truth is, my date and I got so drunk that I don’t remember much of it. (Party girl with a glass of champagne on the outside, unhappy girl drinking too much to escape her reality on the inside.) The only thing I really remember is a lot of making out with my date. A lot. (Did I mention how hot he was?) But the rest is sort of a blur.

I survived the wedding, but the next day still found myself single and alone. I was like Cinderella after the ball -- back where I started, but without any idea of what to do about it. My 30th birthday hung over my head, a painful reminder of all the things I thought I’d have accomplished by age 30, but hadn't. I’d been so focused on trying to find “the one” that I didn’t leave any time for myself, time to do the things I wanted to do.

When my 30th arrived, my best friend, Shawn, decided it was time for me to stop wallowing and start pursuing my dream. She, along with a few other close friends, were sending me to a writing class. No more talking about being a writer, now I would actually be one. Every Tuesday night was dedicated solely to the act of writing.

I loved the class. It made me feel like a “real” writer. Which, I now see in hindsight, is silly. A writer is someone who writes. But I didn’t know that at the time. At the time, I needed the class. I needed something to give me permission to write. To force me to do the thing I wanted to do most. To tell me that it was okay to set aside the time to do something I wanted to do, even if it didn’t go anywhere. What was important was doing something for myself.

When it was time to move on from writing short stories to writing a novel, I had the perfect idea, the perfect inspiration: It would be the story of a girl who goes to her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. And when they got to the part where she invites a friend to go with her instead of the sexy Scot, she would force said friend to dress up as a Scotsman, sport a fake Scottish accent, and then go with him to the wedding, her dignity ever-so-slightly intact.

Writing was my therapy. As I fictionalized all of the players and took the story further and further away from reality, I started to have fun with it. I enjoyed the process of writing -- my way of figuring the world out, and finding my place in it.

I stopped spending my days obsessing about the fact that I wasn’t married. That my ex-boyfriend had found love when I hadn’t. I felt less like a loser whose ex-boyfriend had gotten married before her. Instead, I felt like a real writer, something I’d always wanted to be. And I was happy with myself and content with where I was in life.

I survived my ex-boyfriend’s wedding and got my first novel published. Now, when people tell me about ex drama surrounding a wedding, I tell them that I know all about it. In fact, I wrote the book on it.

Brenda Janowitz is the author of SCOT ON THE ROCKS and JACK WITH A TWIST, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE and THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB.