Single guys have emotions—other than anger. We just wish we did not. In fact, I believe that guys rarely emote, not because we are unable to, but because we are afraid of what happens when we take the lid off. We don’t like the unpredictable. And emotions are unpredictable. Like inviting a vegan female empowerment advocate to a dinner with Donald Trump—you don’t know things will fall apart but you suspect tha…okay you know. Guys can deal with emotions. But only in very small amounts. Emoting is a messy and unfortunate reality of existence. And nothing is as emotionally messy as expecting an unmarried, single guy to sit through a wedding.
Single men hate weddings—for obvious reasons. The warbly solos, the Pride and Prejudice themed processionals, the endless stream of flower girls, flower boys, ring bearers, organists, soloists, bridesmaids, bridesmen, groomsmen, ushers, wedding coordinators and various other marginally attractive young people in pastel-colored dresses and ties that will be hideously out of date in a month.
We hate the goofy formality: “Who gives this woman to be married?” Say, I don’t know, the police? The opening music lasts at least thirty minutes before the wedding starts, and is, I am told, a required part of the event. Every song is selected for maximum sappiness. But more on that later. The stage is elaborately set with trellises, draped in bridal veils (as if the trellis too is about to get hitched). The candles are glowing all around the building… a thousand shining stars…dripping wax into their little plastic containers.
Oh, and while we are here, can we talk about the unity candle for a minute? You used to be from two separate families, yes? That is why you had two seperate flames. Now you light one candle together. It symbolizes the unity of two families. It’s sweet. It’s picturesque. It’s…been done forty gazillion times. But then, in one fluid motion, both the bride and groom turn around and BLOW OUT THEIR FAMILIES?! What’s that supposed to mean?
But perhaps the dumbest part of all: “What token do you bring as a sign of your love?” Here is the grand opportunity. To spice it up. To show that yours, at least, is not a wedding of the masses. Imagine with me, for a minute.
“What token do you bring as a sign of your love?”
“What sign do you bring to pledge your love?
“A yellow sombrero.”
“What token do you bring as a sign of your enduring love and affection?”
“Just me and my abs, brother.”
The options are endless. But no. “A ring.” Every. Stinkin’. Time. How do women enjoy watching this charade over and over again? I have been to a fair few weddings in my day, and I can confidently tell you that every single one was identical.
And that is where the real subtlety comes in. Because the wedding is not just a study in bad stagecraft. It is a calculated emotion factory, calibrated to rip the tears from as many people as possible. To that end, there is something for everyone. Intimate romantic music? Check. Candlelight? Check. Cute little blond haired kids? Check. Big impossible noisy throne room entrance for the bride? Check. It hits everyone at least a little. In this swirling sea of emotional froth, single young men stand alone. We are the sailors that have clambered to the highest mast of a sinking ship. Yes, we avoid the emotional swell longer than everyone else. But it will reach us eventually. And when it does…
So that’s what we’re really here to talk about. It is cruel, almost inhuman, to expect a middle-aged, single man to attend a wedding. Not really because of the cliched music—he probably listens to Taylor Swift in secret (no, he probably does). Not because of the bad production quality—he’s seen Star Wars. It is because middle-aged, single men don’t know how to handle emotion.
In fairness we’re not supposed to. It was written into our contracts: “Subject will not be required to feel anything unless he wants to.” And basically our entire lives have followed that contract. Sure we feel. But only because we choose to feel. Weddings seek to take that out of our hands. No, scratch that, to pry our fingers apart, wrenching our raw emotions from our greedy, desperate grasp.
I don’t like to cry. I like it less when I cannot stop. When I am crying because of things I cannot entirely explain or because the general aura is just so…romantic, I hate myself. Perhaps women think, “Uh huh, welcome to my world.” But that’s just the point. It is, in fact, YOUR world. Women LIKE to become human leak faucets. They think it is fun to cry. I have it on good authority (so, like, an actual girl—yes I talk to them sometimes) that girls sometimes break down just because, and I quote, “It’s been a while since I had a good cry.”
Women cannot possibly understand the sense of dread in a man’s soul. First his eyes mist up. He brushes them away, feigning a headache. The eyes continue to betray him. Then he feels a kind of quiver in his lips. This is followed by an odd sensation, like a kind of mournful storm going on inside, that wants for all the world to come bursting out of his eyes or mouth. He turns, and makes a bad joke to a friend, who laughs far more than is called for. This is a stalling technique and camouflages the tears (“Maybe he’s laughing really hard.”).
But these are only the beginnings of sorrow. Soon the questions flood in. What will my wedding be like? Will I have a wedding? It does seem like everyone else has one. Where’s the girl of my dreams? And then, that most dreaded realization of all, “You know, it wouldn’t really be so bad. I could handle having one of these…if it meant I could have a wife.” And that is where all self control begins to break down.
Understand, of course, that, to the outside observer, this is almost imperceptible. A tear, maybe two, a slight intake of breath. We are men, after all. But to those who are finely attuned to the art of man-watching, this is like a surrender. “Okay,” it tacitly says. “It’s true. I want this. I was wrong.”
And that is something no true man will ever willingly admit.