Somewhere back there, I was left behind. It happened at my book club. When the group started, we were seven women who craved cheap wine more than Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.
The text was just an excuse to air our grievances: My mom and I are fighting; my boss hates me and I hate her; the new dog is too big for the old apartment; I ran into my ex; you'll never believe what happened last night.
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We drained our glasses and edited each other's problems. Everything seemed more manageable with corrections. When it came time for Allison* to vent, the responses were different. She was married, her life doubled.
She might as well have been sending a postcard from a foreign land. The journey was difficult but I've finally arrived. Determined to conquer the language barrier. Kisses! We had to squint to decipher her handwriting.
So when, within six months, four members of my book club got engaged, I was confused. I mean, I knew what to say. Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!
But all I could think was: I thought we had a deal. It wasn't that I objected to the journey, but I hadn't packed yet. I am 25. I travel light. Were we really doing this?
We were. Gift bags. Registry. Hospitality suite. Groom's cake. Morning jacket. Just like that, Book Club became Marriage Club. I didn't think it bothered me. I'd been in love with love since my sister and I designed Barbie and Ken's perfect date. (A picnic on the Dream House lawn.)
I had opinions about save the dates and whether or not it's rude to give dating guests a plus one and single guests a plus-you-get-to-be-drunk-alone. I worked at a magazine about relationships. I talked about couples for a living. So I was fine. Obviously. Naturally. Of course.
But everyone has a limit. The third time Allison told us that her rabbi missed her rehearsal dinner, I swallowed a yawn and indulged in some daydreaming. I was about to begin that perennial favorite, "Would those shoes match that bag?" when I looked around. Watch: Love Advice From A Rabbi
My friends were riveted and I was, well, bored. I was missing the bridal gene. Lily was on the edge of her loveseat. I stared at her. As the only other single girl in the club, we'd become partners in subversion. We placed bets on who would get engaged first. We tried on their rings.
"It looks better on you," I mouthed. She winked. But underneath it all, Lily was sensitive. She was Southern and 27, which, with the drawl, sounds a lot like "past her prime." (South of the Mason-Dixon Line, old maids are alive and well: they read Us Weekly by the pool and smear suntan lotion around their bellybutton rings.)
When it was Lily's turn to host, she took one look at her tiny apartment and borrowed Allison's for the evening. Opening Cooking Light, and the majority of Allison's wedding gifts, she whipped up a storm. Arugula salad. Hot crab dip. Salmon pasta.
It should have been delicious, but the kitchen gods were against her. The salad wilted. The dip was cold. And by the time the pasta arrived looking rather Pink, Lily had had it. She spooned out each portion and, in the immaculate Park Avenue apartment of her perfectly married friend, just lost it.
Tears dripped onto a coordinating charger and dinner plate as she sobbed, "This is awful. It's all just awful," and scurried to the bathroom. The entire table looked at me. It's not about the pasta.
With regard to most aspects of our lives, my friends and I ran parallel races. We excelled in our careers at roughly the same pace. We shopped the same sample sales. But when it came to relationships, my friends had graduated college, and Lily and I were back at the middle-school dance. "Stairway to Heaven" was playing, couples were swaying, and for eight minutes and two seconds we would be alone. And. Everyone. Would. Know. It.
I opened the bathroom door and hugged the last single girl in the universe. "Maybe," she said tearfully, "It's time to quit book club."
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