I went swimming today and, because I can't swim so much as I can deftly lollop through the water like a cramping barrell, I was using the slow lane. The slow lane in my local pool contains three different types of people:
1. Elderly women who are less interested in swimming and more interested in standing in the shallow end having a nice chat. One can only assume it's nice for them to know they are wet for a reason and not just because they can no longer handle the witty repartee without Tena assistance.
2. Hairy yet very attractive men who are pretending not to look at the other hairy attractive men.
3. Uncomfortable people of middling age, middling weight, middling swimming ability who desperately want to be in the medium pace lane but are worried they'll upset someone. These people haven't really swum since the days of school swimming where the one chunky girl in the class inexplicably got a week off every month, and everyone got over excited at the thought of a free play swim time instead of endless lengths.
As I turned around at one end of the pool, someone smiled at me and asked me how I was getting on. I said:
"Oh, it's ok. I hate swimming actually. I just hate swimming slightly less than I hate running so I'm here."
She laughed, which was great and I've subsequently added it to my comedy CV for sending out to presenters. I continued...
"I'm getting married next year and I just wanted to work on my figure a bit before the dress fittings."
She swam off and I continued my lengths with ever decreasing levels of finesse.
Had I had something else to do I would have not thought about the exchange again. But I didn't have anything else to do... all I could do was continue swimming behind this nice lady and wish I could in some way catch up with her and say "By the way, I care intermittently about the health and appearance of my body at other times in the year too - not just when I have a wedding coming up. I'm not that kind of woman."
But maybe I am that kind of woman. I am the kind of woman who grins from ear to ear at the end of the make-me-skinny-pool because someone else has congratulated me on getting married soon. Because, I deserve congratulations, don't I? I've won haven't I? I've got one?
Marriage and weddings still have that hold over us that it's an accomplishment - it's something you've achieved. It's a life goal that you've conquered. I somehow think we view marriage as different to love. Falling in love is easy - marriage, so I'm told, is not.
Is a woman congratulating me on getting married sinister? Is it some hark back to the dark ages if I grin and widely accept the congratulations? Am I revelling in the delight that someone has got me and is going to make my life easier? Or, is the congratulations better than that? Is it "congratulations on deciding your fluttery new love is worth stapling down so that when it inevitably gets difficult, you can look back and know that at some point you felt so seriously about this being forever that you made the biggest noise possible to shout about it so it's much harder to let it slip away quietly"?
I wasn't too worried about my comment on trying to look good for the wedding. The truth is I have a tempestuous relationship with food that's quite hard to casually describe to an unsuspecting woman making small talk at the side of a pool. Much easier to say "I want to be a size 8 bride" than "sometimes I cry because I've only eaten a cube of cheese in 24 hours and my brain's melted because it thought even that was too many calories". I think the poor thing would probably have fled for the medium paced lane and sod the rest of them had I opened that can of worms-lite.*
So there I was swimming up and down the pool under the beady eye of the life guard (who I just knew was judging my stroke and my life choices) suddenly wondering if I should be getting married at all. Because someone had congratulated me. A sort of misguided feminist cold feet I suppose. Cold feet that were kicking up a shit storm behind me in the face of the grey ladies of Kemp Town.
I think I'm getting married for the right reasons... I'm getting married because I love my relationship, have done for a few years, and hope to keep it similar to this for the rest of my life. I could live without getting married, but I also really want to do it. I don't think marriage will change anything immediately and I'm certainly not expecting an expensive party to miraculously fix anything.
I think I know that the people at my wedding, the people I love the most, will be congratulating me for the right reasons. They won't be praising me for slipping off the shelf and into the arms of someone eligible. They'll be congratulating us for having made each other's lives better and having made it really easy to have great dinner parties because we are now a team.
I'm sad that I felt bad about getting married, but I'm grateful to that woman for congratulating me because it made me have quite a long hard think about it all. But I shan't be going swimming again just in case.
*The only reason I mention this element, which is very personal obviously, is because I think the more people talking about horrible, awkward, ridiculous issues like these the better. I do not want any sympathy but if it helps someone else to know they're not alone I say shout about stuff like this from the roof tops when you're feeling strong enough.