There are no events on earth that can make a person feel more socially inadequate than attending a sibling's wedding.
Especially a younger sibling.
When my brother and his longtime girlfriend announced a date, I was at once both happy for him and looking for that scary dude from The Village to come butcher me and get it over with. Kill me now. Please. Decapitate me. Take my limbs, beat me with them. Stick hot pokers in my bodily orifaces. Just don't make me go through this.
But rather than succumb to death by murder, I accepted the fate and the chore of being a good soldier. I faked a smile as I forked over hard-earned cash for gifts, bachelor party items, and other pleasantries.
I continued to strain the muscles in my face as I fulfilled the obligation of going to parties, a rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, etc. And so in addition to standing (to the side) before God, family and every person I had ever met as the older-brother-who-can't-snag-a-girlfriend at the ceremony, I was being outed as the older-brother-who-can't-snag-a-girlfriend at numerous other "pre" functions all damn summer.
Things would have been bearable if I could have at least hung out with the joyous couple's single friends. If they existed. I quickly determined that at the University of Northern Iowa, in addition to a diploma, you get a complimentary spouse. Are all state schools like this? If so I really missed the boat by going the private route at Creighton.
Don't get me wrong, they're all really nice ladies & dudes -- but I felt a distinct "there must be something wrong with this guy" vibe. I could tell they were trying to figure out, is he gay? Suffer from mental disorders? Have the personality of an empty beer keg?
As the reception after the wedding wore on, I started feeling better. Thank you, Bud Light! One of the couples got into a fight. "At least I don't have to deal with THAT," I thought. Another couple griped about how miserable they were. "At least I only have myself to please," I mused.
And then some black-hearted doctor of evilness dropped The Question.
"So, older-brother-of-the-groom, where's your girlfriend at this weekend?"
A giant hush fell over the entire table, as if I were about to expose the secret whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant.
"Well, see, the thing is, um, yeah, see, yeah. She doesn't exist. OK? There is no girlfriend! For the last time, I'm single, dammit!"
You would have thought I was a leper in biblical Jerusalem. Jeez.
So I continued, hoping to ease the shock. "I have a couple of things I'm working on, but nothing too serious," and then left to go find the keg. Where you at, Bud Light?
And as I leave, everyone just nods their heads. They have confirmation, Houston: There's nothing wrong with me. I might even be slightly normal. I just happen to be...single.
And there's nothing wrong with that.
(Tom's Note: I wrote this article one year ago for another website after my brother's wedding. The site no longer exists or I would just link to it. Anyway, this week is their one year anniversary, so I thought I would re-run it. For the record, I still happen to be single. And there's still nothing wrong with that.)