To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
(from Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
To be or not to be is the question I’ve wrestled with for the past several weeks–ever since my younger sister invited me to be a bridesmaid.
Standing up beside a couple at their wedding is an honor–and one that I’ve refused on another occasion.
There were extenuating circumstances then: long-distance air travel, accommodations and a brand new job; but I still feel guilty. 24 years later.
Now, the only circumstance that I can claim is my age. Aren’t I too old to be a bridesmaid?
Unfortunately, I checked on-line, and age is no longer relevant. Though I am almost old enough to be my sister’s mother, it appears as if even mothers can be asked to stand beside daughters as bridesmaids these days. This makes me shudder and gush.
The truth is that even when I was “of age” to wear a party dress and matching shoes, I wasn’t comfortable with it. And yet, each of my seven sisters stood in floral pastels at my own wedding 20 years ago.
After hearing of my reluctance, one sister replied that the dresses they were forced to wear in my wedding were “hideous” and thus, I must do the same for my sister now.
Maybe she’s right. Maybe it is my duty to suffer. But is that the attitude I want to bring to a wedding?
I know how important marriage is and how little it has to do with the wedding–and how much it has to do with it at the same time.
At a recent marriage retreat, I heard that couples would be wiser to invest a portion of their wedding expenses into a lifetime account for marital therapy if they want to insure longevity.
With that in mind, my husband and I purchased my sister and her fiance the book, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married. We hope it gives them a head start on what will be the most important relationship of their lifetime–if they prioritize it.
Once I was clear that I fully supported my sister, I could admit to her that I was conflicted about being a bridesmaid. She welcomed me to participate in another way: honoring our late mother during the ceremony. (Gulp.) I said yes.
Love can be that simple.
My teenage son is disappointed. He helped me search for bridesmaids dresses on-line and had chosen a red, off the shoulder gown, for me. I was touched.
I wish I could be that girl for him. But I never was.
I’m hoping that who I am is enough. It feels good to be able to bring the gifts that I have to offer to my sister’s wedding–rather than be something I’m not.
But I can’t help wonder if it would have been nobler to serve her as she originally asked–especially given how demanding planning a wedding can be.
Perhaps in an act of atonement, I’ll buy them a gift certificate for their first therapy session with the money I’ll save on the dress.