How Low Can I Go?
Coral Kelly McCree
A Girl in Limbo and Her Shenanigans While Waiting (Anxiously) to Tie the Knot
I´m a girlfriend in limbo. Not a fiancée, not a bride and not a wife. After many years of "soon," "just wait," and "before you know it," the characterization of “girlfriend” was chiseled down in my mind, leaving a lackluster pallor I no longer cared to possess.
Eager to escape the banality of dating, I wanted to take the next step. I craved the excitement and emotion that every twenty-something in town seemed to be experiencing as she planned her walk down the aisle.
Somewhere between years two and four with my boyfriend, perhaps amidst wedding invitations that clogged our mailbox like medical collections, I started to believe that “wife” should be a title granted out of tenure. How can these couples realistically plan to spend their entire lives together when they cannot function without the other attached to their hip? I viewed it as weakness, foolishness. Love at first sight was laughable and deemed naive in my book, because it didn´t make sense for other couples to move forward as I stood still.
"Do they even know each other´s middle names?" I quipped scornfully. I became anxious and jaded as I discovered the repeated news of honeymooner couples commencing their road to the altar just months after meeting each other. Really? Really? I thought, in the spirit of Saturday Night Live.
I couldn´t help but laugh when I read Wikipedia’s origin of the word limbo: "Latin limbus, edge or boundary, referring to the ´edge´ of hell." Not that I felt like my relationship was hellish, nor was I unaware of the religious usage of the word, I just thought it was borderline appropriate and maybe not so coincidental. Limbo used to have such a positive connotation back in the days of roller skating rinks and luaus from my childhood. What happened? How could such a great game of flexibility, coordination and upbeat tunes morph into a game of waiting, anxiety and keeping your mouth shut about David Tutera´s most recent wedding re-do? Sometimes I soared over the limbo bar like a high jumper, wedding dreams within my grasp, while other times I slithered beneath it, embarrassed and ashamed. Every once in a while it just fell off and cracked me in the head. Nevertheless, I continued my solo game of limbo even though the music had stopped and everyone stood by watching me, pathetically, play by myself.
In spite of gossip that I might flee without a diamond, I never had one foot out of the door, but rather one in the present and one in the future. I was insulted that some of our friends thought that I would present my boyfriend with an ultimatum if I didn’t get my way. I’m not that girl and just because I was excited for a future with him didn’t mean I would demand it or walk away. I went through phases—often between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. in fear of being called “crazy”—when the television was locked on WE and the toolbar on my computer was full of minimized wedding websites. I kept hidden notebooks with my dream dress, venue and color scheme and snatched photographer and DJ business cards at weddings as if I were weeks away from my own nuptials. I received numerous “Congratulations on your recent engagement” emails and letters from vendors I had contacted and slid them surreptitiously into the box beneath my bed, energized and flattered by their kind words. I gave unsolicited wedding advice to newly engaged friends because, God knows, I had done more research than all of them combined. I’m sure it was also a coping mechanism, so I could feign excitement about their premature—in my opinion—engagement by boasting about my endless knowledge of vendor negotiation and gown necklines.
"Those flowers are beautiful, but they won´t be in season in March. You might want to consider peonies or gerbera daisies to stay within your budget." I bathed in my self-proclaimed expertise, an endless pool of butter cream frosting, Swarovski crystals and, undoubtedly, envy.
I will never forget the moment my foot was wedged into my mouth as I bantered on about the prospects of receiving a family diamond to be set in my unborn engagement ring. To my surprise, I was in the presence of a friend who had become engaged two weeks prior, and I had not been let in on the news.
"Oh, you two can plan your weddings together," Kelsey interrupted as she looked over at our freshly frosted friend.
"Are you two thinking about getting married, too?" I blurted obliviously. Amanda held her out left hand and my stomach lurched toward my throat as I recognized my selfish and untimely comments. It wasn´t exactly a shining moment as I tried to mask my humiliation and careen the conversation back onto a smooth road with question after question for the new bride-to-be.
I was annoyed as girlfriends babbled on about their out-of-the-blue engagements and flawless new marriages, insistent that “When he knows, he knows.” Are you implying that my boyfriend isn’t sure if I’m the one? I wanted to speak up, but I never did. I kept a smile pasted on my face and acquiesced; perhaps they knew something that I did not. Nevertheless, I attended their showers, begged for planning updates and danced the night away in celebration of their meant-to-be matrimony. The truth was, in spite of the envy and doubt I harbored, I loved a good wedding and soaked in every drop of organza, fondant and champagne when I had the opportunity. A time or two, the pinot grigio seeped in more steadily and quickly than I had planned, leaving me crying outside of the reception hall with a friend, slurring the words “But why not me?”
I often blamed my occasional lapses in sanity on the booming industry and countless wedding programs that inundated my television. How could one not think about weddings? However, I felt that being in a long-term relationship in my mid-to-late twenties was not only the culprit, but the Rachel Ray recipe for craziness: thirty issues on the table in under thirty minutes. I wanted to consider myself a grounded and patient person, but I was the star of far too many episodes of pre-Bridezilla to pretend that I wasn’t a few pages short of a bridal magazine.
Just about anything served as the catalyst to set me into a tie-the-knot tailspin: a song, a show, a movie, a color or a photo. Whether or not the trigger had any correlation to a wedding, my mind forged a synaptic connection from Point A to Point Wedding. I didn’t feel a need to hide it from those close to me simply because I could not manage to keep my lips zipped. I needed to get it out. My sister admitted to giving up on calling me “crazy,” because each time I agreed, smiled and skipped along to my next endeavor. Her efforts to calm me were fruitless, as were the efforts of my family, friends and, of course, my boyfriend.
Holidays, vacations and, well, any activity that was out of the ordinary seemed to offer promise and the perfect setting to pop the question, I convinced myself. I played coy and left the room as my boyfriend packed his bags so he could sneak the ring in without my noticing, but I became increasingly disappointed as each opportunity passed and a little box was not presented. Our trips to California, Las Vegas, New York City and the Bahamas all ended without a ring. Even so, I prided myself on being a pretty good girlfriend for all those years—I paid my dues—and wanted to move forward. But how was I supposed to do that?
I should take action, right? Right! Or so I thought. It worked in every other facet of my life. If someone´s not getting the job done, just do it yourself. Be proactive! I started planning and dress shopping and naming attendants and calling venues and went crazy, because it still wasn´t up to me. I´m a "need to know" girl and this was one dimension of my life that I wasn´t allowed to study up on until my boyfriend gave me the platinum go-ahead. I felt the need to cram anyway, in the wee hours of the night, scrolling through wedding blogs, Google searches and Dear Abby etiquette posts. Enamored by and proud of my dutiful research, I could only keep my secrets for a matter of hours before regurgitating every last detail as I snuggled up next to him while he paused, played and paused ESPN. Although I was temporarily satiated by my premature “I do” indulgences, it only created more impatience on my part and unnecessary pressure on my boyfriend. How did I become so pathetic? I needed to get a grip and refocus my attention inward and on the present.
Through some soul-searching and honest conversations, I discovered my blessings far outweighed what I had yet to attain. Having been a guest at a dozen weddings, I had a better idea of what worked, what did not and what might be necessary to create my ideal day. Secondly, my boyfriend and I enjoyed four-plus years of a healthy, fun and loving relationship and I learned an immense amount about myself, through him and through our shared experiences. I also realized we needed that time to create a steady foundation that was prepared to bear the weight of our lofty dreams and goals. Although we planned on settling down at some point, we agreed that we never wanted to settle in life, and that we’d push ourselves and each other to reach higher and further.
In spite of my need for instant gratification, I still had an engagement and wedding day, and everything they entail, to anticipate, dream about and plan for, while for others those moments were now just memories. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my boyfriend tolerates me, every bit of my irrational, loquacious personality, supports me and still loves me. Although I’m sure he would sometimes prefer to put me on “mute.” After all that, I rationalized that I was doing just fine right where I was. But were my thoughts rational?
I’m still a girlfriend in limbo, approaching yet another anniversary with a bare finger, but I’m beginning to see the light. I am embarrassed to think of how wrapped I was in others’ lives and what I may have missed out on in my own relationship because of the distractions. Through all of this, I have begun to realize that what my boyfriend and I have is truly unique and that this is the exact thing I was searching for all along. Although I don´t feel compelled to be this close to him at all times, I cannot imagine my life without him. He is the love of my life and I don’t need a ring to prove that to myself or anyone else. I am secure not only with my relationship but, more importantly, with myself. I never took the time to look at myself honestly in the mirror without imagining a Monique Lhuillier gown with a cathedral train. I look just fine in a pair of jeans and flip-flops with him by my side, no veil required.
And here I am now, comforted by our past, savoring the present and looking forward to our future together, whether or not the church bells ring next spring. I just need to sit back, relax and figure out what to do with the wedding dress in the trunk of my car.