For those who have never been exposed, "and guest" anxiety is a panic attack induced in single people who receive wedding invitations addressed to them "and guest."
Now on the one hand, it's great to be allowed to bring a date, especially when the only people you'll know could be the bride or groom. Besides, if you're over 35 and single, the one thing you do know is that it's likely that you'll be the only "uncoupled" person in attendance.
But this is where the anxiety kicks in -- whom to bring? Let's go over the options:
1. Invite the guy you just started dating.
While seemingly a no-brainer, unfortunately this is not always the best idea. Why? Because somehow, no matter how you phrase it, "Will you do me a favor and attend this wedding with me?" will always be heard as, "Will you walk down the aisle and let me bear your children?" And shortly thereafter, your new guy will disappear faster than a Red Sox lead going into the 9th inning.
2. Invite the guy you've been dating for three to six months.
This tends to backfire for almost the same reason cited in Option 1. However, the blame here is on all those annoying people who repeatedly ask throughout the blessed event if you two will be next.
Ready or not, your relationship just got stuck in fast forward; and you both spend the rest of the evening contemplating the possibility of spending the rest of your life with this person. By the car ride home your relationship is as over as Ben and Jen. In fact, it's doubtful that you'll even make it to the bouquet toss. (Note to readers - never ever, ever catch the bouquet. If it's coming your way, yell "Incoming!" duck, and watch the 20-somethings dive for it. Way more fun!)
3. Invite the guy you've been dating for more than six months.
Does this category even exist? My hairdresser claims he never wants to hear a guy's name unless I've been dating him for two appointments in a row. And I have to admit, it's been a long time since I've had to spill any details in the styling chair.
4. Invite your bachelor brother or gorgeous gay friend.
Tempt one with the potential for cute bridesmaids and the other with cute groomsmen. Only downside? They hook up and you end up going home alone to watch Celebrity Hookups on E! Television all by your single self.
5. Invite an ex-boyfriend.
While I haven't always had the best taste in men, most had decent enough table manners and would be unlikely to pick their nose or do something to embarrass me at dinner. But then this alternative would include all the potential downsides listed in Options 1, 2, and 4, plus a few others that we don't need to go into.
6. Invite your best girlfriend.
Consider it a ladies night out. Have a little champagne, flirt with the bartender, and do the Macarena. Of course you risk a future of hearing, "See, I told you she was a lesbian." (But as they say on Seinfeld reruns, "not that there's anything wrong with that;" and, hey, the ones on The "L" Word certainly put the "L" in lipstick.)
7. Go it alone.
While you risk the bride's wrath for wrecking her carefully crafted seating chart, there may just be the possibility of a bachelor cousin or even a singles table. (Warning to readers: I sat at a "singles table" once and thought it was a nice solution; until the bride's ex-boyfriend seated on my right kept asking me over and over "I made a mistake, didn't I?"; and the woman to my left, upon hearing of my divorce, wistfully noted "at least somebody wanted to marry you once." I couldn't bear the thought of what would happen when I mentioned I also had a son. So I fled as soon as the cake was cut.)
But there is one saving grace about being over 35 and single during wedding season. You tend to be mostly in the world of second weddings. And those that aren't elopements include only the closest of family and friends where no matter what your personal status, it's impossible to ever be the "odd woman out."
And I know that if I wanted a companion at one of these weddings, my friends would happily let me bring my favorite 4-year old date (despite the very high likelihood that he will pick his nose and do something to embarrass me at dinner).
Thought for the Week: Sometimes it's hard being alone in a world that caters mostly to "matched sets." So be a friend and take a singleton to dinner, a wedding, or whatever might be causing them "and guest" anxiety.Diane K. Danielson is the executive director of the Downtown Women's Clubs and the co-author of Table Talk: The Savvy Girl's Alternative to Networking (1stBooks, April 2003), available on Amazon or at www.TableTalkBooks.com.
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