With such a wide variety of frogs, it's safe to assume that out there, somewhere, is a frog with just about any pattern you could imagine.
It's not that I'm a killjoy. I'm really not. Or that I can't be happy for other people. I can. In fact, I am. I'm nice. Warm. And I truly understand that if you're one of the other people, not me, but if you are another person, the one everyone is supposed to be happy for because you're celebrating that thing; if you are that person, then you want to make sure that everyone you want to invite to celebrate that thing with you knows about it way, way in advance, so everyone is available to come and be happy and help celebrate your thing.
I understand this. What's more, if I had a thing to celebrate, I would want this, too. But I don't. I don't ever have any of those things, so when I open my mail and the faces of a smiling couple slip out of the envelope on the front side of a magnet I'm to stick on my fridge, so every time I reach for the milk I remember to Save The Date for their thing, I have to admit that I don't feel happy. I don't feel excited. I don't think, wow, I can't wait to go this thing. What a blast it'll be. I'll dance the night away in a brand-new spaghetti-strapped Betsey Johnson.No.I just feel worried.Very, very worried that I have now been given a whole year to Save The Date, and when it finally arrives I don't know if I will even have one to take me to the thing.
I wish I could say that did not happen. That last summer when the envelope arrived, and the picture of my friend Brooke and her then fiancé Mitch came tumbling out of the lavender lace-lined envelope, all I felt was sheer joy for their love. Sheer anticipation to celebrate their union. Complete happiness for my friends, without giving a second thought to myself. But I'm not one to lie.
Instead, I ran to the phone and called Brooke, because even though I don't have anything to celebrate with my friends, they are my friends and I can tell them anything.
"It's gorgeous!" I said, fingering the gauzy white lace that outlined the perimeter of the envelope. "This is probably the most beautiful and classiest Save-The-Date card I ever got."
"Thanks," said Brooke."I think that's what they're showing now." Brooke has really good taste, but she always undercuts it by saying that she's only following a trend. As this is America and when I last looked we still had freedom of choice, at least in stationery, I think she should take more credit for her tasteful selection. Let's face it, a group e-mail might also be a trend but Brooke chose not to go that way.
"So..." I began. "Of course," she answered, reading my mind.
"And what if I don't?"
"Oh, Karrie. You'll be fine, even if you don't have a date. You know my family, we have people in common. I invited Jane and William. Fred, too, if he can fly in from L.A."
How many more years will I have to go through this? "Okay. That's good. Hey — are you sure Mitch doesn't have any friends?"
"No," she said apologetically. "I'm sorry. Wait." She paused."Well, there is one, maybe, but we don't really think he's actually —"
"Thanks, Brooke. Never mind. I'm sorry. I don't want to rain on your parade or anything. It's just —"
"Just forget it. It's a gorgeous day. Get outside. The wedding's a year away. An entire year. You can call me the day before and bring someone. But I'm sure you'll be with somebody next year at this time. Someone really great. A prince! God, Kar, you could be engaged by then."
Theoretically, I could have been. Theoretically, some day I still could. Theoretically, anything is possible. It's just that I am out of theories how I have reached this point in my life without it ever happening. People my age are going around for the second time, while I have yet to sign off on the first.
It was all I could think about when I woke up the day of Brooke and Mitch's wedding. The thought pressed up hard against my temples. The invitation had arrived two months ago addressed to Ms. Karrie Kline and Guest. Guest. A nice word. Inviting. It conjured up images of hospitality, good food and good cheer. Karrie Kline and Guest was only meant to be kind.Optimistic and inclusive.It was not meant to throw me into a tailspin where I had to spend the months before the wedding reexamining my already dissected dating life.
But that's what I did while I marked the days off the calendar and it came closer and closer to the wedding, and I still had no date. I still had no Guest. It doesn't matter, said everyone to whom it really didn't. Bring anyone.Bring a gay friend. For God's sake, bring a girl! Don't laugh. I once did.
Last spring I was invited to a Bat Mitzvah. In Connecticut. With Guest. Sounds lovely, but that was a particularly tricky situation. For this occasion I didn't just need a Guest. A simple escort would not do. I needed someone who was willing to travel to Connecticut, spend two hours attending the service at the synagogue and an hour eating at the kiddush after.Someone who would then travel on to the restaurant and spend four hours at the party seated at a table of strangers with whom they'd be able to socialize, and willing to converse. I needed someone who would make a ten-hour commitment, and someone who had a car.
I wound up taking my friend Anne because a) she wanted to go,and b) she could borrow her sort-of-ex's car.Her sort-of-ex was Jewish and Anne was not, which had never been a problem between them, until one morning Carl woke up and decided to become religious. That decision was unlucky for Anne because it created a wedge in their relationship, but lucky for me because as a Sabbath observer, Chaim, as he now preferred to be called, no longer drove on the Sabbath making both Anne, and his car, available to me.
To be quite honest, Anne turned out to be a pretty fun date. Chaim had interested her in the culture and she knew how to dance the Hora, and since she is a social worker, Anne knew how to bring out the best in people. After the stilted "How do you know the Goldmans?" chat over the French onion soup and the arugula salad, the men cliqued off and talked sports. The four other women, originally suspicious of Anne and me, the unmarried, un-mom singles from the city, suddenly found themselves swept up in what turned into a woman's study group at Table Ten. Anne spurred the women into raising their glass and their consciousness. By the end of the day, we were all fast friends, the other women only wishing they could lead cosmopolitan and cultured lives like Anne and me.
Okay.I confess. There is something to that.I did not envy their suburban carpools and soccer games.But wait until the first day one of them comes home to a mailbox filled with an invitation to traipse off alone to a Bat Mitzvah in Connecticut via the subway, Metro-North train, and local taxi cabs, knowing the travel time would be spent praying you wouldn't feel awkward standing alone with no one to talk to during all the awkward moments you'd be standing alone with no one to talk to because that's what happened when you went to one of those things dateless and alone.
Well, I bet in that moment they'd happily trade their MetroCard for Metro-North knowing all they had to do was look across the dining room table and say,"Honey, we have a thing on the twentieth, so don't make any plans." At any rate, despite the success of the Connecticut Bat Mitzvah, Anne was unavailable to come with me to the wedding. Believe me, I asked.
So here it is. Already June. An entire year has passed since the arrival of the Save-The-Date card. Today's the day. Brooke and Mitch's wedding. Sadly, this gray, drizzly Sunday matches my mood. I lay in bed looking out the window and hoped everything would clear up. Soon.
Having locked myself in the bathroom stall just ten minutes into my arrival at the wedding, it became evident that while my location had changed my mood most definitely had not. I peered down the toilet as if I were Alice examining the rabbit hole before taking the plunge. That would not have been so bad, I thought, watching it automatically flush and wishing it could have taken me along.
The ceremony would not begin for at least twenty-five more minutes. Then cocktails, dinner, dancing and dessert. I didn't know a soul. The bride, groom, and their families never socialize when they're the guests of honor; they're too busy running around.
Fred couldn't fly in from L.A., and my cell phone rang on the M23 bus with terrible news from Jane telling me that she and William had to cancel last minute because little Eve had come down with croup. I knew the terrible part of the news was that this sweet little two-year-old girl was coughing her head off, achy and miserable, but I, too, was achy and miserable from my subway ride downtown and my fifteen-minute wait in the drizzly rain for the crosstown bus that would take me to the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.
Perhaps as a young girl I was overly influenced by reruns of Doris Day movies, but I could not imagine any circumstance in which Doris would don a strapless dress,dab a drop of perfume at her neck and exit her boudoir to be greeted only by her dog before she dashed out on the town with just the MTA to whisk her away.
I made my way down the steps of the bus, closing my phone,opening my umbrella,and buttoning my pink trench coat as the rain uncooperatively came down harder. It had taken my entire wherewithal not to beg Jane to make William stay home alone with Eve, so she could come in from New Jersey and be for me at this thing what Anne had been at that other one.
I did not feel good about me in those moments. I did not feel gracious and kind and caring. But then again, so what. Had I wailed into the phone,"Jane! No! You have to come. I don't care if Eve is sick, I don't care about William. Who's going to sit with me at the table when everyone else gets up to dance?"
Well, that might have been slightly inappropriate and maybe rendered me slightly insane. But, instead, I showed my concern, which in fact was genuine, and promised to go out to Ridgewood the following day. As an official grownup I only get to act that stuff out onstage or in my imagination, which thankfully remained highly overactive.
I crossed the parking lot and watched the valets usher couples out of their cars and into the Lighthouse.Mitch was my age, but Brooke was younger. Brooke had felt she was marrying late and Mitch was surprised he was marrying at all. To me, Brooke at thirty-nine, got in just under the wire. She'd turn forty next year and would not have to deal with the syndrome of being Forty and Still Single.
The people emerging from cars ranged in ages, but my eyes gravitated to a handful of couples in their late thirties to midforties that must have been cousins and college friends of both Brooke and Mitch.Well dressed and well-groomed, they stepped out of taxis, SUV's and BMW's. The women tucked their right hands into their men's while their left hands casually swung, showing off diamond rings that sparkled as they caught the light of the day.
I observed the couples walking and noticed they did not speak, assuming it to be a silent ease between them. I assumed they were each privately replaying the happy memories of their happy day. But as my mother Millie always says,"You don't know what goes on behind closed doors." In my all-consuming fear of entering solo, I found myself slightly comforted by the possibility that my happily-ever-after fantasy of them may really be more hoppily-ever-after.
That miniscule moment of comfort was instantly dispelled the second the front doors flung open. Before me stood more than a hundred people divided into clusters. Animated clusters. Tanned, well-dressed clusters dotted the entire front hall; laughing and kibbutzing, sipping champagne and smiling. The lights shone bright like the mood, violinists fiddled out cheerful, stringy tunes, and every variation on the white flower perched inside tall crystal vases that lined the small tables in and about the clusters.
"Can I take your coat?"
Excerpted from LOOKING FOR MR. GOODFROG © Copyright 2011 by Laurie Graff. Reprinted with permission by Red Dress Ink, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.