the plus one: one woman's search to find a wedding date
Disclaimer: First things first. I am speaking from my own experiences, so I can only speak to heteronormative relationships, a straight/cis man and woman in a romantic partnership, and I use heteronormative terms like man, woman, boy. And I talk about weddings in a very traditional heteronormative way. However, I recognize and support the many people do not identify with these terms or heteronormative relationships. The terms I am using are for writing clarity and do not reflect what I think all men and women should subscribe to by any means.
I have a complicated relationship with weddings. On one hand, I love them. I follow multiple wedding Instagram accounts (photographers, planners, blogs, etc.) and I love, love, love when the individual people I follow (my friends or Instafamous people) post their wedding photos. I have gone deep into someone’s Instagram or blog just to soak up every one of their wedding photos. I love to see the beauty of the dresses and hair. I love the venues, they’re always so pretty. I don’t usually care about the table décor or the small details but I love to see the overall aesthetic. Very rarely, do I see a wedding that I don’t like. It doesn’t have to be my style for me to just admire the beauty.
On the other hand, I am not a fan of the wedding industrial complex. I don’t like how our society pressures people to spend tens of thousands of dollars on their special day. I know that it’s the best day of their lives, but isn’t that precisely why you shouldn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on the day?
I also don’t like how the wedding industry posits women as self-absorbed, frivolous, and frankly, bitchy about their weddings. I HATE the term Bridezilla. Why is it that we give women so few opportunities for power AND we love to criticize those few opportunities?
I’m not a fan of dad’s walking their daughters down the aisle to give them away (although this can be a very beautiful sight to see), it is deeply seeded in the sexist tradition of giving women away as property, from father to husband. I don’t like veils covering women’s faces. And there’s a whole lot more I could say about weddings, especially hetero weddings, and how they have a whole lot of gender/equality/inclusivity issues. And there’s probably something to be said about capitalism here but I don’t know enough to make the case.
So, I love weddings but I’m also not crazy about them. But I mostly love them. I have a lot of fun at weddings. I love an open bar, and a dance floor, and getting dressed up and feeling fancy. And I love, love, love chain smoking on the patio of a fancy venue with my friends, which I have done at every wedding I’ve been to as an adult.
Most of the weddings I am receive an invitation to, I am granted a plus-one. Another thing I have a complicated relationship with. Of course, I want a date at a wedding. Especially if I don’t know a lot of people at the wedding. It just makes it nice. When I see that “Stephanie DeLacy and Guest” on my invitation, I am so thankful, but that gratitude is quickly replaced with dread. Fuck. I have to go find myself a freaking date.
Stephanie, didn’t you just say you love having dates at weddings? Yes, yes I did. But I never have one on deck. And it is always drama for me leading up to the wedding date.
I went to an all-girls high school, so for every dance I had to invite a date. But I did not know many guys at all. Every dance, I had to ask/beg friends to ask their guy friends to go with me. More than once I went to homecoming with a guy I did not know.
Just like my high school dances, I have to scramble to find a wedding date. And I’m in this situation for a wedding I have in just a few weeks. I definitely need a date for this wedding. It is out of town and I will not know one other person at the wedding. It’s a friend from grad school and I feel extremely honored that she has even invited me. I know these seats aren’t cheap and wedding invites can be an exclusive ticket sometimes. I am so happy to go to her wedding and grateful for the plus-one.
When I first got my invite, I was confident I could find a date. So confident that I sent my RSVP back the same day, for two. I chose the steak option for my date. By the way, ordering food for a hypothetical date is a weird experience. But upon closer examination of the men in my life, I lost that confidence.
A year ago, I matched with a guy on Bumble and since then we’ve been on and off. Mostly off. Over the past year, we go through the same routine. After not having heard from him in a couple of months, I will get a late-night text, which I try to fend off but ultimately give into because I am bored and lonely and why the hell not? We hang out and we have a great time. I get home the next morning and think, “Why did we stop talking? He’s great. This could be something.” But then he can't/doesn't want to hang out for a few weeks. When we meet for a drink, it’s different. It’s not 1:00am and I’m sober. He is annoying. He is a hipster who hates hipsters. He doesn’t know he is sexist, and hates Lena Dunham more than any internet troll. He is a Bernie Bro, who cannot accept being challenged. He very rarely asks me a question, and he listens to me even less. I can tell he is not listening and just thinking about what he is going to say as soon as I stop talking based on his responses, which are just more of his same point. I can never seem to impress him. And it feels wrong. Even after a year, he's never suggested anything more than sporadically hanging out. Once I figure this out, I tell him, I think we should stop hanging out/talking. I explain why but he never listens. I forget about him and then it starts back up in a few months.
The pathetic thing is, he’s like every other guy in my life. They’re all the same. They want to keep in touch. But don’t want to talk about anything real. They want to hang out. But on their terms and it’s a never a date, often spaced out in intervals of a month or two. Their text messages are polite when they disappoint me, declining to meet for a drink. But they are thrilled to run into me at the bar or when I reply “sure” to their late-night request to come over. They’re not mean to me. But they show me that they do not adore me.
Their actions tell me that they are not interested in me for anything more than a fun time every once in a while. But I can’t help it. They’re not manipulating me or even necessarily taking advantage of me. While this wasn’t always the case, at 29, I’m well aware of what I get and don’t get out these situations.
I like having them on my line, being able to text them, so I don’t get too lonely. I have a fun time with them when we do hang out. That's why I keep them going even after I've figured it out. But I honestly don’t know if or when I will hang out with any of those guys. If I texted them tonight, they will respond and we will chat. But they will never set a date to go out. They also will not tell me outright they don’t want to be my boyfriend or wedding date. They don’t want to ruin the potential of having me at their beck and call.
But I do not want to be on-call. I do want to grab drinks bi-monthly. I do not want a relationship based solely in text messaging. I'm not a Kelly Kapoor type; I don't run around thirsty for men's attention and begging for a boyfriend. But I do want more than what I am currently being offered. I want someone who wants to date me and I want to date. Someone who adores me and asks me questions. Someone who wants to hang out with me two or three times a week. Someone who will go to a wedding with me. Or could I be so bold to wish for someone that would go on a vacation or quick trip with me? Because I’m getting really tired of traveling alone.
Every time I figure out that it’s not going anywhere, I'm confused, more than heartbroken. I am confused because they are into me. Not were. Not past tense. They still have interest in me. I know this because I’m adorable and fun and adventurous, and independent, and confident. And every-fucking-thing Cosmo told me to be, except skinny. I know they are into me because they want me, but for whatever reason they don’t want me all of the time. They are not into me enough to be my boyfriend. Or they have stuff going on in their own life and it’s not the right time. Or they are not looking for a relationship. Or its not meant to be. Or I intimidate them. Or they are put off by the fact that I don’t need them.
I have a prescription to controlled substance, which in Ohio means that I need to see my psychiatrist each and every month to check-in and receive my prescription. It’s annoying but I like the doctor. She loves hearing about my travel. She always asks where I just traveled to and where I am going next. At an appointment earlier this year, I told her I just got back from three weeks in Lisbon and Brussels, and in a few months, I was going back to Europe – Ireland, Budapest, Prague, and Berlin. She chuckled when she said “Wow! That’s great! But no wonder you’re single. You don’t make men feel needed.”
In addition to travel, we do sometimes talk about my romantic life, lack thereof. I thought this was such a keen observation. Men like to feel needed. I do a lot of cool stuff without men. The more they learn about me the quicker they find out they don’t need me and they don’t want to get to close.
Some men love and want women who need a male partner; women who need the presence of a male to make herself whole. Others, are attracted to a woman who is completely whole on her own; she is not afraid to be alone, overcomes her fear of doing hard things, and loves herself unconditionally. This type of man’s ego is so in-check that he does not crave a woman who needs him to feel whole.
But I don’t need men. I’ve traveled to ten countries alone. I moved to Cleveland alone without knowing a soul. I put myself through grad school while working full-time. I built an IKEA wardrobe alone, even when the instructions told me to have two people. I am okay being alone. And it sucks being alone sometimes. But I do not need a man. I want a man. It would be so so, so great to have a man, for companionship, laughs, so I don’t have to run all of my errands alone, and I can have someone to talk to and touch at the end of a hard, lonely day. And of course, so, I can have a wedding date without stressing the eff out. But I don’t need any of that. There was a time when I needed a partner to feel whole. You know what I attracted? A drug addict with mommy issues who emotionally abused me for three years.
But today, I do not need a partner, which doesn’t mean that I do not want a partner at the same time, and it doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely or that I don’t hurt when I see gorgeous wedding photos. It just means that I don’t need a man to survive – or thrive.
I am fine with men not being into me, but no thank you to boys being turned off by the fact that I am whole without them. That I am perfect without them. That I am not sitting idly by, waiting for some dude to put a ring on my finger for my life to begin.
I am done with meeting guys online and telling them what I do for a living and how I just got my Masters and they stop responding. I’m not hanging out with anymore dudes who tell me to calm down when I am expressing my opinion. I’m done with guys who don’t ask me questions. I am blocking the guy from Bumble because I don’t trust myself to say no next time and I really deserve someone who adores me.
My future partner is not just okay with my independence. No. Because I am more than independent, I am whole. I create the life I want, right now, without my future partner. And that impresses him. It elates him. It turns him on. It is what he loves about me.
I’m going to this wedding in a few weeks. Date or no date. Because I want to see my friend get married. I am happy for her and her soon-to-be husband. I also can’t wait to see the dress and venue. If I can’t find anyone to go with, I’ll go alone. Yes, it will be awkward at points because I will not know anyone else there but I think I think it will be worth it. Because I don’t need a date. I need to be there when my friend gets married.
Stephanie DeLacy unapologetically shares what it’s like to navigate the world as 20-something white girl, with humor, profanity, and raw vulnerability. Stephanie recounts stories of her travel, mental health, and the journey to loving her body. Her descriptions of dating are bawdy but incredibly relatable. She courageously describes her dysfunctional childhood, healing from trauma, and how she’s evolved as a survivor of sexual assault. At times, heart wrenching, her stories will evoke raw emotion and connect to you on the most guttural level. She hopes to inspire authentic living and human connection. Stephanie lives in Cleveland with her dog and two cats.