Of Marriageable Age: The Long, Dark Wedding Season of the Soul



The death certificate of my childhood arrived in a crimson red envelope.

I slipped the contents out onto my desk and unsealed them, unfolded them, unclasped them. I had never received a missive so delicate or so complex, and it took several moments for my baboon digits to free the contents to browse. What appeared from within shook my heart with horror. I trembled suddenly for reasons I could not then articulate. The sky outside seemed to darken, the clouds grew heavy with ash and smoke. Everything tasted like salt and copper and purple.

Tina is getting married in August. This was the first wedding invitation of my adult years.

I have, of course, gone to weddings before, as part of the generally understood “and family” or as the “plus one” of someone else’s invitation. I have been an assumed seat-filler, a person who is mentally included as a matter of calculating how much salmon to cook. As a child and teen I was included in wedding ceremonies and receptions mostly because babysitters are expensive, and when it’s a family wedding all of the good babysitters are probably related to you and thus also going to the wedding.

Never before in the history of my life had I, Michael the human being, been invited to a wedding. I like to think this is not a factor of my offensive presence, a factor of the surety with which I would desecrate and completely ruin the happy ceremony to take place, but rather of age. That I was not too foul to attend a wedding, but that I simply didn’t know anybody old enough to ever fathom having one.

Up until now I had been living in the glorious, carefree meadow of my early twenties. In this part of my lived decade personal responsibility was delightfully minimal, and all of my whims were just as justifiable as the next. Expensive trips around the world? A monthly beer budget that surpassed the GDP of several small island nations? Considerable amounts of summer lodged into the bowels of Mass Effect? All of these were completely reasonable expressions of my youth and vigour.

Reminders of my age and mortality were thin on the ground, as most of the people I associate with are just as interested in beer and video games as I. Our discussions center around board games and concerts and how important Tyrion’s survival is to our ongoing emotional well-being. Being in your early twenties is being in the kindergarten of life, and with everyone else also knee-deep in finger paint, there’s no reason to think about grade school.

I had been labouring under the illusion that such a childhood would last forever. That my early twenties would blissfully glide into my mid-twenties, which would be like my early twenties except with more disposable income and less reason to write essays in concordance with the MLA style guide. These would then become my late twenties, which would be just as good, only better, but with possibly a refined taste for wine or whiskey. Then would be my late late twenties, then my superlate twenties, and then my ultralate twenties, when I would be roughly 48 but still having a pretty great time.

With this invitation I feel a changing in the winds. A distinct, clear knowing that something has changed in the shape of my life, or at least in the shape of my summers. My age is not just the age of carefree gallivanting, but also that when people wake up and find that they still generally like the human sleeping next to them. The time when people begin thinking of producing smaller replicas of themselves, named Rowan or Aidan or Justice or whatever.

Now comes the long dark. The time when people start using the words “biological clock” with razorblade sincerity, when they start thinking about floral arrangements and retirement funds and if their neighbourhood has good schools. Now is the time of infant carriers and couples-only dinner parties where I am the 11th wheel and the entrée is deep-fried pity. Now is the era of the engagement party, the gender-segregated bachelor/bachelorette/hen/stag nights, conjoined pre-wedding parties, and whatever other events are invented to sap money from me and celebrate people who I dearly love and can kind of tolerate the happiness of.

Singledom in this dark new world is not a symbol of freedom, but rather a personal failure speaking to my lack of quality and possibly hygiene. My lack of a spouse and any particular desire to acquire one marks me as childish and not understanding the shape of life. My wanton, carefree enjoyment of solitude goes from being normal to being the thing that weirdoes do. My lack of my own children is a cone of shame, rather than a badge of honour or bullet dodged.

This is but a herald, a hearkening. In this invitation I see other invitations on the horizon, dark, elegant shapes blotting out the sky and riding on the wind with dark, expensive card stock wings.

Here we are in the era of dread. This wedding is but the first of many, where all of my same-aged peers begin to leap off the cliff of life and forge through the next phase of adulthood. The next phase which necessarily includes registering for a lemon zester, which I will fight to buy first, because I might as well just fucking buy them in bulk, there are 374 weddings this summer. My June and July will be gobbled in the maw of matrimony, my summers slain by the ticking of a generational clock. The abyss is about to stare back, when I had been so careful about not staring at it in the first place.

14 thoughts on “Of Marriageable Age: The Long, Dark Wedding Season of the Soul

  1. I hope Tina finds this laboured treatise on the despair of growing up to be charming and funny, rather than offensive. As it turns out, Tina is really cool and I’m actually very happy for her.

    If she hangs out with me, she’s pretty well aware that neurotic, self-absorbed meandering is basically my bag. Congrats, Tina!

    • I like to pretend that my age actually corresponds to the amount of time I spend back in Canada, and that the rest of the year is frozen time. I look forward to “You’re next!” comments being thrown at me roughly when I am 57 years old.

      • You should absolutely stick with that. Especially since, by the time people have got through their thirties, they’re starting to shed the aspirational picket-fence nonsense.

        I’ve noticed my older friends (they love it when I call them that) have shed any self-consciousness about what they may or may not have marked off The Big Checklist and have entered a rather unapologetic phase when it comes to their deviations from the status quo.

        • Can I skip ahead to the shamelessness? I’d like to be there already. I feel like I still need to pretend I care about getting married and having kids for a few years until everyone leaves me alone.

          • You know how there are however many stages of grief but you don’t have to do them all, or in order? I think you should go with that philosophy.

            I mean sure, if you meet someone amazing and she wants to have kids and/or you suddenly change your mind that’s one thing. Otherwise I would go ahead and cultivate that shamelessness (actually, either way, really, shamelessness in this regard isn’t a barrier to either outcome, although you should feel free to retain normal amounts of shame about certain things, like body odour or listening to Justin Bieber).

  2. Dreading adulthood, been there…

    It will just get worse. More and more friends will get married, have kids. Some of them will be divorced. Wait til your single in your 30s, sheesh.

    Lately I’ve traveled back home for weddings about once per year. The way I look at it, it’s a better reason to travel back home than for funerals.

  3. I feel your pain, Michael. My biological clock sounds like a gong. My stockpile of ovum is dwindling. My younger sister had a son almost two years ago. At least she got my parents of my case. Then my husband’s daughter had a baby boy, technically making me a grandmother at the age of thirty-seven.

    I don’t feel mature enough to have kids. I don’t want to give up smoking, drinking, and traveling, but as I watch the last of the elders of my family slowly decay mentally and physically, I wonder who will tolerate my company when I’m an obsolete bore. Who will remember my birthday? Who will help me to the bathroom?

    Tick, tick, tick…

    Anyway, lots of people hook up at weddings. Maybe you’ll meet someone!

  4. Thanks for putting down in words all the terrible but hilarious thoughts that most of us have when we get a wedding invitation lol.
    First the “when are you getting married” question, then there’s the baby/soccer mom van/suv owner club. And that +1 next to your name ends up being there eternally. Ah…life, I’m never feeling ready for it.

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