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Solo, but not alone, at the wedding

January 17, 2008|Mandy Kahn | Special to The Times

I like weddings. I like the awkwardness of being seated at a table full of strangers, a table big enough to make hearing the person across from me nearly impossible, forcing sideways conversations that tend to leave one person out. I like sneaking to the coffee bar when it becomes clear there's nothing more to say to somebody's brother who's in finance. I like watching people's wives reapply makeup in unnecessarily fancy bathrooms. I like seeing the flower girl run in circles after one-too-many virgin mint juleps.

I like people in almost any situation -- including the awkward ones. What I don't like is worrying whether someone else is having a good time. For this reason, I attend weddings and anniversary parties and bar mitzvahs and couple's showers alone.

There is always that moment the week before when I stare at whomever I'm dating -- sometimes a serious boyfriend -- and try to imagine him there, dancing to "Shout!" with the groom's great-aunt. And it's tempting. But then there's the flip side: If you show up with a date, you'll run into people you see only infrequently, and they'll meet your date, and they'll like your date, and when you see them again, say, a year later, they'll ask how your date is doing. And a year after that, they'll ask about him again. And, if you're lucky, and I usually am, the year after that they'll ask about him too. And this date, this person who was to you only a momentary event, will become, in the annals of those who know you casually, a significant figure. So you'd better be sure you like this person, because you'll have countless conversations about him in the years to come.

So I go to these parties alone. It works out, since what I really enjoy is talking to people's grandparents, and to their uncles from Leadville who are "in shipping." I'm there to meet the cousin that doesn't fit in -- the teenager with blue hair -- and play dice with him in the alley, if he brought some.

But, from the outside, I'm a woman alone at a wedding. Which means, to many people present, that I am totally and completely available. And even worse, what this means to older aunts sitting next to their nephews is: Go ask her to dance. She's all alone. It will make her night.

So I spend these evenings avoiding eye contact with any males in my general age category (which, unfortunately, spans from college junior to young divorce) so furiously that you might assume I have a vision problem. I can't help it. Any accidental interaction -- even if I was just looking to see if my vegetarian meal was on the way -- might inspire a person, egged-on by family members, to ask me to dance to Kool & the Gang's "Celebration." I just can't let that happen.

Luckily, evolution has given me lightning-quick reflexes, along with eagle-like peripheral vision, so if I notice a potential suitor rise from his chair and head toward my table, I make a beeline for the ladies room so fast you'd think I was passing a gallstone. On my way out, I grab someone over the age of 70 and preemptively drag them to the dance floor. It's not that I don't like Kool & the Gang -- I mean, I am an American -- it's just that I don't want to dance to their music with a virtual stranger while a gaggle of yentas look on whispering that we're next. And then conspire with the bride to throw the bouquet right at me.

There are lots of women present who want the bouquet. Seek them out. I'll be in the corner, monopolizing your grandfather. Forgive me. I like him.


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