I’m drafting much of this post old style, with pen and paper, on Sunday 3 December in the yichud room of the vast and labyrinthine shul were my sister got married a few hours ago. The yichud room is the room an Orthodox couple go to briefly after the wedding ceremony to be alone; we have arranged with the shul to use it all evening (the party is here too) as a storage room and a ‘chill out’ room for myself and a cousin who also has mental health issues to retreat to if it all gets too much for us. It is probably the closest I’ll ever be to being in a yichud room properly (I am literally alone here). It is the middle of the wedding party and meal.
The day actually went reasonably well for me in the end. I was nervous in the chatan’s tisch (refreshments for the groom and some male friends and relatives) and didn’t really talk to anyone, even the people I knew. I was emotional in the ceremony, where I got to stand by the chuppah (marriage canopy; my brother-in-law (as he now is) has a family custom to position men at each corner pole of the chuppah) but I’m not sure why because I couldn’t separate out my feelings. I think I felt happy for my sister, lonely for myself (thinking I will never get married), anxious from standing in front of 250 people and even upset by the thought of the many tragedies of Jewish history when the groom broke the glass to symbolise our mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. All these feelings and maybe more bled into each other.
While my sister and brother-in-law were in the yichud room, I got to meet my sister’s new nephew and nieces. They took a bit of a shine to me, particularly one of the two year old twins who smiled whenever she saw me. Eventually my sister and b-i-l came out and we had various family photos taken. I avoided shaking as I feared I would. In fact, I think the only time I really shook badly was when one of my b-i-l’s friends pinned a buttonhole flower on me where the anxiety was probably from a total stranger invading my personal space.
I took some photos here and throughout the evening. Most didn’t come out that well as people were moving and the lighting was very dim. I was worried, perhaps unnecessarily, about shaking when asking people to pose, so I tried to surreptitiously take ‘action shots’, but most came out blurred, perhaps due to the long shutter time on that light level or simply due to the very dim lighting. I got a few nice photos of four of my cousins, although the youngest was camera shy and kept pulling faces. Got a lovely photo of cousin 1 (the trainee rabbi) looking very rabbinical as if he is pondering a complex Talmudic problem, although he was actually opening the wine. I also got a quite nice shot of my sister’s twin nieces facing each other which looks initially like a trick shot of one girl and her reflection until you realise they are standing at different angles.
After we had our photos taken, I was supposed to go into the reception, but ran into friends of mine who are also friends with my sister, along with their baby daughter. I chatted with them for a while and let their daughter try out her emerging teeth on my finger. She was also very cute and smiled at me a lot. It makes me wonder again that if I can’t have my own children, I should try to find a way of volunteering with children because I can let my guard down with them in a way that I can’t with adults despite my fears of not knowing what to do if there is a problem. Most of the bits of the wedding I enjoyed most were playing with the children, to be honest.
There was Israeli dancing/simcha dancing before dinner. I stood and watched for a long time before eventually forcing myself and tentatively joining in. I mainly did it for my Dad and my sister and I didn’t really enjoy it. It was OK if a bit anxiety-triggering to dance arm in arm with my Dad and cousin 1 (I felt a bit stupid), but doing circle dancing with people is hard as I don’t like holding hands with strangers or putting my arms around them and having them put their arms around me. I guess the world didn’t end, but I do wish I could be the type of person who found this type of thing easier or more fun.
The dinner/dancing hall was very noise with music and guests and I felt a bit overwhelmed especially during the dancing when the music was very loud. It’s hard when my parents’ friends and family keep coming up to wish me mazal tov and I feel funny, I’m not sure why. I suppose I feel I don’t deserve that or something. Only one person wished me “Please God by your wedding” (note to non-Jewish readers: “please God by you” is an awful insensitive phrase that people say to unmarried people at weddings or childless couples at brits (circumcisions) and baby-welcoming parties. It’s well-meant, but really insensitive to a lot of single or infertile people). At any rate, I think she’ll have a long wait for my wedding, and I wouldn’t want a big party like this anyway (not that I’ll get much say if it ever happens).
I made motzei (the blessing on bread) for everyone OK, except that there was some confusion about where I was supposed to wash my hands (ritually) beforehand, which meant everyone had to wait while I went out, washed and come back in again, which looked unprofessional on my part, even though I was told the wrong thing.
I spent much of the second half of the party in the yichud room, drafting this post and reading the latest Jewish Review of Books. I was pleased to get texts from three friends during the evening checking that I was OK, so I guess a few people care about me. I did go back for the cake-cutting and speeches, so I heard b-i-l compliment me on my “sharp, insightful humour.”
Overall, the wedding went better than I expected. I enjoyed bits of it, particularly playing with children and eating (the vegetarian option was very good) and I was glad that my sister, b-i-l, their parents and b-i-l’s siblings all seemed to have a good time. I managed to keep going when I had to and put on a brave face for a few people, but when I stopped I sometimes felt depressed and lonely again, beating myself up over silly things and feeling tired.