Tuesday 30 August 2011

A true confession: weddings make me ill

I have a shameful confession to make: I have always hated weddings. For the further good of my soul, I suppose I may as well admit that I have never much cared for christenings, either.

Indeed, the only one of life’s conventional ceremonies that I can just about bear is a decent funeral, not least because no one has yet suggested that it might be a good idea for the congregation to mill around for a couple of hours while a professional photographer takes pictures of the deceased.

I cannot remember when I developed this aversion, but I must have worn it like a badge because most of my close friends, when they began to get married 30-odd years ago, did not include me on their invitation lists. Why would they? Socially inept, disastrously lacking in small talk and liable to say something shockingly inappropriate to a delicate maiden aunt, I must be every wedding planner’s worst nightmare.

Then I finally got married myself at the age of 55, and must reluctantly admit that I quite enjoyed the day. Mainly, I suppose, because it afforded me the opportunity to make a 15 minute speech to an audience who were drunk enough to laugh at some of my jokes.

One wedding I did quite enjoy

I know no better feeling in the world than this, and if I ever win the Lottery I shall hire the refurbished Theatre Royal to perform a night of stand-up comedy, offering a free half bottle of spirits with every ticket given away.

But one of the few downsides of marrying a much younger and more sociable woman is that wedding invitations start flooding in. We have been invited to more of them in the last couple of years than in the whole of my previous life.

I haven’t attended that many, it is true, excusing myself from a number on the grounds of illness. And not a diplomatic sniffle, either. On several occasions, I have genuinely been laid up in bed when I should have been making polite conversation outside a church in morning dress or waiting, with one eye on my watch, for the usually pretty gruesome spectacle of “the first dance”.

For a supposedly intelligent man, it has taken me a surprisingly long time to twig this simple fact: weddings actually make me ill.

We spent last weekend at one: a handsome couple, clearly much in love, getting hitched in a reassuringly small and simple ceremony. Being a civil event, it was also amazingly short. Even so, I managed to behave with such curmudgeonly ill grace in the course of the day that my wife has forbidden me to accompany her to the next wedding we were scheduled to attend on Saturday.

I have been doing my best to look suitably contrite, rather than punching the air and shouting “Result!”

But the plain fact is that I have always been an abominably selfish, party-loathing social pariah, and it is too late to try and change that now.

The secret, a happy old lady told me, is just to go on getting older. “Once you are over 80 you can get away with anything. If you want to go somewhere, people say ‘Ooh, isn’t she wonderful, doing that at her age!’ And if you don’t fancy something, you can excuse yourself on the grounds of infirmity and no one thinks twice about it.”

I always knew it. When I was 14, and other boys’ role models were football players and rock stars, I always wanted to be the prematurely aged John Betjeman, pottering about with a walking stick and a Panama hat.

Henceforth I shall declare myself an honorary 80-something, a Betjeman without the talent. Thinking of sending me an invitation to a wedding, or indeed any other sort of party? Please save yourself the price of a stamp.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Just about guaranteeing the new baby will be a girl and that you will live long enough to walk her down the aisle AND have to pay for all of it!!

I certainly hope so. Its the most just and suitable desert! :~)