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Dispatches from the singles table: How I had fun without a plus one

Bethany Sales

I was the only single bridesmaid, an odd number that threatened the equilibrium of the bridal table and the very happiness of their romantic futures. Something had to be done. The night before the wedding, the bride announced that she had moved me to another table, where, I was told, I’d sit with my best friend, a conciliatory prize that would make me feel no less the black sheep in purple taffeta.

It’s not that I couldn’t find a date. I had canceled three plus ones, changing course every time I played out the evening in my mind. Asking someone to be my date was essentially asking them to meet my closest friends and parents, who happened to be in attendance, and, oh, watch me walk down the aisle and then reflect on a homily about the unremitting power of love. Casual.

The day of the wedding, I joined the rest of the bridal party in the church foyer, excited for my friend in spite of my unceremonious relocation. It was common knowledge that one of the groomsmen had slept with a bridesmaid in college, and that there had been some overlap between this, shall we say, “relationship,” and his current girlfriend. To my amusement, we were one groomsman short and so said bridesmaid and I paraded down the aisle as his Side Piece One and Side Piece Two, while his girlfriend debated whether the hymnal or her stiletto would leave a bigger mark on impact.

Later, when the bridal party made their entrance into the reception room to T.I.’s “Bring Em Out,” everyone thought it would be funny to pretend like Side Piece One and I were fighting over our groomsman, who I had decided looked a lot like Pauly D sans blowout. We waited for our cue, “Still ballin’ money, stack taller than Shaq now.”

Later, when I joined my friend, Andrew, and other randoms at Table 5, he asked, “What did you say to that groomsman over there? He keeps looking over and — wait for it -— Miss New Jersey is, too.” Channeling my best Guy Fieri, I tore into my dinner roll, letting the crumbs fall at random — unfortunately in my décolletage and on my friend, who had long grown used to cleaning up after me.

Pauly would not be dissuaded by my wolfish appetite. I had an allure that seemed only to persist in women of the Deep South; I ate carbs. I briefly met his eyes and felt as if he was picturing me with a plateful of his mother’s spaghetti and meatballs, which, all things considered, wasn’t exactly outside the realm of possibility.

I looked away in time to catch the Irishman seated across from me mouthing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” in my direction. Shaking off the last of my crumbs, I let myself be led to the dance floor, where he began to break dance like those 5-year-olds seen only on daytime television or in viral YouTube videos. I looked around to see if anyone was laughing as hard as I was, and saw one of the bridesmaids prodding her boyfriend, who was drunk and nodding off at the bridal table. At least everyone at Table 5 had been conscious.

I found myself dancing with another groomsman, who was single and, of course, had been seated at the bridal table without a second thought.

He was looking at me closely and, only after deciding that my eyes were equidistant, finally asked, “Why is someone like you here by yourself?”

“I wanted to be,” I said, and left it at that. My mother had requested “Who Let the Dogs Out,” so I took this as my out and politely excused myself to rein her in with a glass of water.

After the reception, the bridal party and a few stragglers took to the hotel patio for cigars. I found myself face to face with a friend of the bride, or, in retrospect, someone who had likely happened upon our reception and saw an opportunity for a good time.

After a few minutes spent laughing at his drunken anecdotes, I realized my cigar was just about done. Someone announced that there was tequila and an after party on the second floor, where a big screen was tuned into Shark Week. I made my way inside, the ice from my drink playing against the glass and the smooth smell of cigar spinning out from the curls of my hair. Taking off my heels, I realized I hadn’t done much sitting that night.

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