This weekend, I attended a good friend’s wedding. It was the first wedding I’d been to since my brother’s wedding about a year ago. The dynamics there set into motion a series of events which culminated two weeks later in estrangement.
The only person I really knew was the bride. I’ve been at a number of these things solo. Usually we know people in common and I sit and talk with them. For a few of them, I ended up sitting with people I didn’t know. But other than my brother’s wedding, I would end up finding something to talk about with the people and enjoyed meeting new people.
At my brother’s wedding, I was excluded from the family table and sat near a couple my mother & stepdad befriended on a cruise and the hairdresser who was a last minute invite. She didn’t show and the friend of my brother’s they were trying to set her up with was roaming around to the other non family table, even during dinner. My brother’s AA sponsor & a friend of his in AA were deeply into an AA conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt. The sponsor’s wife couldn’t hear me from across the table so we couldn’t talk.
That left me with the cruise couple. The wife went to take photos. And the husband grilled me about not being married. It was a very uncomfortable and unpleasant conversation as he kept going after I responded “when I meet the right guy” which normally ends that conversation diplomatically. I excused myself as soon as I could.
I didn’t realize all of the impact these type of situations had on my confidence until this wedding. Even though I had several good experiences as a solo person in an unknown group of people, I gave away my power to the bad experience. I was worried about something similiar happening at this wedding.
But it didn’t. I had a very nice time. The wife of the couple sitting next to me is starting a job in the city soon and asked for my contact info in case we’d like to meet for drinks sometime. The people on the other side were two of my friend’s friends who were very nice also. I even had some interests in common with one of her friends as he’s in a field closely related to mine. We also exchanged information.
I don’t know whether I’ll see these folks again, sometimes people just get busy and don’t have time to follow up on contacts. But it helped me to restore my power. I was thinking there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t able to socialize and have a pleasant time during the dinner part of my brother’s wedding reception. But here, I was able to socialize with 4 people (couldn’t hear the other 2 very well) and enjoy myself. As I have on the 2 other occasion when I didn’t know anyone but the folks in the wedding party.
My first reaction was a la Sally Field, “they like me, they really like me!” with that same tone of disbelief and doubt. Then it was Stuart Smiley, “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and dog gone it, people like you”.
Then, I finally took my power back, I realized that I’m a fairly decent conversationalist. I may not be a sparkling wit, but I make it a point to ask people about themselves and their interests and I can make a joke or two. It’s all those self doubt tapes playing in my head. We’ll I’ve kicked the recording artists out of the studio in my head, now it’s a matter of reprogramming the tapes.
While I made some progress, I’d like to make more. When I was in my 20s, we were at my cousin’s wedding. I was having fun on the dance floor with my relatives. I don’t dance very well and I’m extremely uncoordinated, which some friends have gently teased me about. But up until this wedding, I was still unselfconscious enough to have fun with it.
My mother looked unhappy so I foolishly thought inviting her to dance would cheer her up. Instead, she said something about no and when I continued to encourage her, she snapped at me and said, “oh and move like you’re doing (said in a very critical and sneering tune), look at you the Dancing Queen). Since then the only way I’ve been able to dance is to either be really drunk or if there’s a lot of people on the dance floor where I feel I’ll blend in. Otherwise, I hear that voice mocking me as the Dancing Queen and ridiculing the way I move.
I was driving home from this wedding, so getting drunk wasn’t an option. It was a small wedding and not a lot of people out there on the dance floor. So I didn’t dance because I didn’t want to hear that voice. I’m still working on reclaiming my power on that one. I’m not a good dancer, but when I’m not hearing that voice, I have fun with it. It’s also a way to bond with people socially.
In addition to the wedding, I also went to a Body Awareness class this weekend, lots of stretching, gentle movement, breathing & meditation. One thing I really like about it is the playful nature of the instructor. We made silly faces and noises at certain parts of the class. I think it can help me reconnect to that playful side of myself which enjoys dancing even if I’m not good at it. My goal at the next wedding I go to is to erase that !@#$ tape in my head and get out there and dance no matter what.
While I’m sad that the scapegoating and my mother’s attitude towards me has taken a toll, I can work on it and I do have the power to heal from it and move on. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.