Recently, I retired from attending weddings. I had several reasons, of equal importance. For one, weddings are always at an inconvenient time – late at night when everyone is too sleepy to figure out that most rituals don’t make sense. For another, weddings are the perfect occasion for strangers to throw personal questions at each other – “What do you do for a living?” “Are you married?” “Are you going to have a love marriage or arranged marriage?” “Then, I hate shopping for gifts; you never know what price range to pick, you don’t know what someone will like, and chances are that it will get recycled anyway, when the couple unpacks an excess of crockery and wall-hangings. Wedding season kills your cricket-watching time. But, worst of all, once you involve yourself in a couple’s wedding, you’re involved in the rest of their lives – next thing you know, you’re attending birthday parties for each of their spawn.
Unfortunately, however misanthropic you are and however eccentric people peg you to be, there are some weddings that simply cannot be avoided. They may involve close friends; they may involve people who are crashing at your house because they’re distantly related to you and want to save on accommodation when they arrive en masse from their rural warrens; they may involve people you don’t want to offend because you know they will make all future meetings awkward.
This wedding season has been especially traumatic. It has gone on for four months thus far, and coincided both with my retirement from journalism and several cricket tours I’ve been waiting for.
Among the reasons for my quitting journalism was that I was tired of meeting people, and pretending to find them interesting. Sadly, these are the primary duties of a wedding guest. When the hosts don’t know what to do with you, they introduce you to other guests. Not only do I hate making conversation, but I have the added disadvantage of having no answers to most questions. I don’t work. I don’t “freelance”. I write a couple of columns and I write books. When I’m asked what my book is about, and I say, “Marriage”, it invites either a barrage of personal questions or a load of uninteresting information about random marriages. Often, it invites the question I dread most – “Does writing pay?” My instinctive response would be changed by my Autocorrect to, “Do I ducking ask you what your ducking salary is?” Without recourse to that, I resort to vague answers and monosyllables.
This tactic has a dangerous side-effect. The quiet ones in any group draw the non-stop-talkers like an open wound on a homeless drunk draws maggots, flies and stray dogs. I once thought my ability to attract the most boring person in a given group, and have them drone on about every aspect of their lives was a curse. Eventually, I realised trying to check the cricket score on my phone, tweeting one-liners about weddings and updating my Facebook during a reception would be quickly identified as symptoms of a listener-not-talker – the perfect victim for a talker-not-listener.
Once, a talker-not-listener held on to me, quite literally. She clutched my right hand, as my dinner plate weighed down my left, and spent a quarter of an hour filling me on a family history I had not asked for. Finally, the twentieth time I looked at my food longingly, she said, “Oh, oh, oh, sorry, please tell me if I’m keeping you from your dinner.”
Which brings me to the food, the main draw at weddings. That doesn’t work for me. I’m no foodie. I’m usually repelled by wedding food, because the sight of people queuing up to get mass-manufactured gloop dumped on their plates reminds me of soup kitchens. As you try to work your way through the mess of incongruent tastes on your plate, you must also make conversation – or fend it off. Your alternative is to join the smokers.
[quote]Only in the subcontinent will you find people in their thirties sneaking away to smoke in a corner[/quote]
It is only in the subcontinent that you will find people in their thirties sneaking away to smoke in a corner where the “adults” won’t find them. As a non-smoker, I have to choose between headaches induced by passive smoking, and headaches induced by passive conversation.
However, among all the Catch-22 situations weddings impose on you, this is the cruellest – nothing turns you against the idea of marriage like a hectic wedding; but, the longer you stay unmarried, the longer you’ll be treated as an errand boy/girl, while cousins ten years younger than you sit sedately, spouses in tow.