I Love You But Sorry, I Just Can't Afford To Celebrate Your Happiness
Let me try to get this down on paper without offending everyone who loves me. I'm 31, which means I'm sublimely situated smack in between friends getting married, and friends having babies. These events bring me massive amounts of joy. I cry at their weddings, I freak the eff out when they get pregnant, and I will Skype the shit out of a baby. You see that, Baby? That's your Aunt Shani. She lives in Mommy's laptop.
Personal joy aside, what I'm discovering (more and more frequently dammit), is that I literally cannot afford to celebrate the joy that has befallen my friends, sometimes even my closest friends. And this doesn't seem fair. As I child, I remember sitting on the couch watching Nick at Night (holler) while my grandmother put on fancy clothes and perfumes and drove off to attend a wedding. Drove. In my grandparents car. Then came home at the end of the night like it ain't no thang. Here's what happens to me:
I'm really talking about weddings here. Sure, baby gifts come out of pocket too, but I factor in the entertainment value I personally receive from shopping for them (seriously, when is the last time you were in the children's book section--amazing). Also the parents send you pictures of them wearing/reading what you gave them and unless you are a soulless bastard you will melt into your socks. We can apply my rant to baby showers and births, both of which I would die to attend but for the reasons you'll soon read, I can't.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that I'm not in the wedding. Let's pretend I'm just a normal wedding guest attending the union of two people she cares for very much. Let's also pretend I've flaked out on both the bridal shower and bachelorette party for similar reasons. A little math:
Flight: $400 (I'm being kind)
Car: $200 (let's hope the brakes work)
Hotel: $400 (fingers crossed for no bedbugs)
This is also assuming that I don't eat (except at the wedding and rehearsal dinner), it also assumes I'm wearing a dress to the wedding that I've worn before, and that I haven't hired anyone to come and look after my cat. Who are we kidding, I'm totally hiring someone to do that. When is the last time you had a grand to drop on a trip that is for someone else, not for you?! When is the last time you had a grand to spend on anything, really, that wasn't rent, car payments, taxes, student loans (fuck you), or bills?
I work very hard and I earn a good living, but supporting myself doesn't come with a wedding budget. For other people, anyway.
Here's what'll really turn your hair white: This is just one wedding. Not to toot my own horn or anything here, but I have more than one friend. In 2013 alone, I've attended one wedding and missed three. I've got three on deck for 2014 as of 7:40am on August 28. But I haven't checked my mail yet.
How do I say I'm sorry? How do explain myself? I'm really wrestling with this. I'm not looking for my friends to say "it's okay". This is in me. I want to be there. I want to hug you in your white dress and dance with your relatives and potentially make out with a groomsman. Really, I do.
Here's where it gets interesting. How do I choose? If I've got four weddings to attend and the cash to make it to one of them, how in the hell do I pick one? Sorry, I love her more, can't make it. Sorry, the flight to her wedding was cheaper, she wins. What IS that? It took 20 minutes to write this one paragraph, by the way, because I started crying.
In Southern California alone, there are five babies that have come out of very close friends of mine that I've never met. Two of them (twins) just celebrated their first birthday. In a year I couldn't get it together enough to fly to L.A. and meet them. Let's not get started on the Texan babies, I don't have the tears for that. Oh right, this was the year I moved to two different states, started two new jobs, and began saving for my first real vacation in years. Silly me.
And yes, this is all my own fault. I've moved across the country four times. I went to sleep-away summer camp and law school and college. My friends are a little spread out. I've made this bed and now I'm having trouble sleeping in it. And while my friends are celebrating their love, I have a broken heart. Don't feel bad for me, I did this.
Now let's just wait a damn minute here. Don't I matter, too? Doesn't my joy matter? Even if it's like, dinner out with friends on a Friday night, and not an actual wedding, my fun and happiness are just as deserving of my cash, in my opinion. Also, it's just a wedding. Everyone (once the other 37 states pull their heads out of their asses) can get married. Statistically, most people do get married. It's just a wedding. Everybody calm down.
I could write a whole post on the contrived importance of dream weddings (and, now that I think about it, I might), and when it really comes down to it, if we're good friends, we should have a lifetime of trips, visits, and memories together--after her big day, right? Right? I like to remind myself that it's just one day, and this one day shouldn't determine whether or not my friends still love me. At least that's what I'm repeating to myself as I RSVP "regrets."
I hope the weddings, babies, promotions, art shows, concerts, birthdays, and new beginnings never end. I wish my friends a lifetime of joy and celebration. The reality is, I might be doing my well-wishing from my couch, and I'm (slowly) learning to be okay with that. The question that still haunts me: Is it really okay?