The wedding invites are piling up on the mantel piece. “Save the Date!” they shout out every day as I walk past them. It seems everyone and their mother is on the road to wedded bliss. I mean in one sense its normal. I’ve just turned 27, so it’s hardly surprising that friends around my age are tying the knot. But I’m sometimes alarmed by the absolute necessity which marriage seems to be in Lebanon.
I’m a guy, so it’s actually quite bearable for me. I get a few questions here and there about the existence or not of an unlucky lady in my life. But being a woman must be an absolute horror. Girls get molded into aspiring wives when they’re still potty-training. Two thirds of the female population grow into aggressive husband-hunters, whilst the rest actively reject this social imperative and try and delay things by a couple of years.
God forbid a woman would want something as unattractive as a career! She instantly becomes the conversational fodder of bored Aunties Who Lunch during their rendezvous’ at Paul Gemmayze in between hair and nail appointments. As the smell of hairspray hangs in the air and the 5th layer of foundation on their formerly wrinkled face (thank you Botox) begins to melt, they bring up the subject of poor Maya! “Yvette, you know I don’t laike to talk yaane. I’m very discreet, bta3rfineh. Bass cette Maya, she’ll never find a husband like zis. She wants to be a banker 2al. Haram her parents, 3an jad. Bass ca reste between us!”
The worst environment for a woman in her 20s to show up unaccompanied is undoubtedly someone else’s wedding. There she is showered with compliments and fake smiles, and asked when her “happy day” is due. People asking this tend to neglect that a wedding does not a marriage make, and that the “happy day” isn’t really what one should be planning for. The people egging this young girl on towards marriage are often themselves standing a few meters away from an alcoholic husband they’ve come to despise. Maybe they want to drag the young and the beautiful down with them into the realm of the Desperate Housewife.
Weddings themselves have become ridiculously lavish. I was invited to one last summer, and when I asked how many people would be there I got the most ludicrous response I’ve ever heard: “it’s a small wedding. 650 people.” Really? That’s a small wedding? That’s entire population of some island states in the South Pacific. The bride and groom probably get repetitive strain injury just thinking of all the hands they have to shake and the sweaty cheeks they have to kiss.
Then there are the less intimate weddings. The one’s with 1500 guests. The ones with a succession of Z-list Arab pop stars belting out their latest lip-synched tune. The ones with pyrotechnics worthy of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The ones with vast untouched buffets and rapidly depleted bars. Weddings so gargantuan that they go beyond the realm of the fairytale and get lodged somewhere between the grotesque and the decadent.
I feel sorry for people from my generation who don’t realize that a marriage isn’t about the wedding. That after the sparklers have faded, the champagne has been drunk and the cake has been digested, there’s a real life full of ups and downs to envisage. When you look at someone you’re about to marry, don’t think of the good times you’ve had, think of the worst thing you’ve ever been through together. And think of that moment happening 50 times over the next 50 years.
I’m lucky I have a healthy example to look towards at home; my parents have been together for 39 years. When I look at pictures of their wedding it never fails to make me smile. Twenty impeccably dressed and impossibly glamorous people in small village church. My dad in a dapper suit brought back from New York where he was covering a story for his paper, my mum in a short white dress and big white hat like Audrey Hepburn on the poster for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. No pop stars. No papier mache center pieces. No ice sculptures. Just two people willing to face the future together. I hope I find that someday, and that you will too.
(PS: Please don’t dis-invite me from any weddings. I’m really looking forward to drinking your booze and hitting on your bridesmaids)