For the love of single people…

…have a seating plan at your wedding!

Well, maybe not for all single people, but think about your guest list. Are there single people coming who might not know anyone there other than the bridal party? If so, have a seating plan so they have an assigned place to sit and assigned people with whom to make conversation with. Heck, maybe even use it as an opportunity to set them up with another single person on your guest list! [Just, for the love of your friends, choose carefully. I had a really bad set-up at a wedding once and it nearly put me off the friend…] In fact, I’ve already had conversations with brides getting married later in the year who were already – without my prompting – thinking of male guests they could pair me with. Those, dear readers, are excellent friends. I know some people think they’re a pain – but what isn’t fun about a colour-coded chart?!

Anyway, Saturday’s wedding – of one of my oldest friends – had no seating plan. Being a classic introvert, I resisted choosing a seat amongst total strangers (and almost exclusively happy couples/families) and waited until the last minute, at which point I discovered a fellow singleton who was willing to pair up with me for table security. Fortunately, we vaguely knew each other – just hadn’t seen each other in about a decade. This could have been a happy ending, were it not for the fact that the only tables with seats left were in an ante-room off the main hall, whose other tables were already occupied by the (estranged until a few years ago) extended family of the groom. We found an empty table and set off to avail ourselves of the buffet, assuming that others would join the table by the time we returned.

They did not. For the whole meal I was sat next to this guy with no one else to talk to. It was fine, we had some good banter (though I did spend a very long time trying to remember which of the girls in our group of friends he’d dated when we were at school) and he was at least something of a conversationalist. Of course, I should have predicted that a guy who had confessed to being an atheist when I mentioned I was a trainee priest (and who is something of an intellectual) would come out with some cracking questions – like asking me for my rationale for my belief in God.

It’s not that I minded the question or answering it, it’s just that getting into philosophical debate at a wedding isn’t necessarily my idea of a good time – especially after a couple of drinks. So I did what anyone else would do, I tweeted about it and got a surprising amount of tweets back – after which I felt a tad guilty, he was only asking a logical question after all! We then had the faith chat with a wider group of people, largely consisting of the children of clergy (including one atheist who could have been a 5th generation vicar). Oh, and later, just for good measure, the two of us discussed the pros and cons of the institution of marriage…deep.

Thing is, had there been a seating plan, we’d almost certainly have been sat together. (No exaggeration, aside from a bridesmaid and the brother of the bride, we were the only single adults there.) It just would have been a lot less awkward had there been other people sat at our table and may have diffused the philosophical banter. On the plus side though, we managed to acquire some extra booze. Every cloud…

Oh, and you know what you definitely should have at a wedding?
A bouncy castle that adults can use and an unlimited ice cream sundae bar. Awesome.

Friday Fun frolics in the sun

This week I did something I haven’t done in years – I bought a non-sporty, actually attractive (in terms of fabric) swimsuit. I think it was essentially part of my ‘buy stuff now before you’re a student again’ strategy, but it was also an impulse buy while watching Wimbledon. For years, I’ve sworn by Bravissimo in the bra department – now I can swear by them in the swimsuit department too. Lush. [In case you’re wondering, the genius is that they sell swimsuits by bra size rather than dress size which makes soooooo much more sense.] This might not sound like Friday Fun, but in honour of my purchase and the fact that it’s summer and we should all have the opportunity to wear attractive swimsuits, I give you Literary Greats in their Swimsuits

…sure, Sylvia Plath looks good on the beach; turns out Hunter S. Thompson was quite a hotty, as was Truman Capote; but Ernest Hemingway? Not so good. Not to mention the unfortunate swimwear Virginia Woolf’s era provided her with.

 Virginia Woolf in an all-in-one & F. Scott Fitzgerald (and his wife Zelda, yes, Zelda!) in theirs.

Tenuous link time: you know what female literary greats often are? Spinsters.

In case you’re a spinster and have been wondering for quite some time as to how you ought to behave, fear not – there’s a book that explains how. Published in 1901, Myrtle Reed’s The Spinster Book tells all the single ladies how they ought to behave, especially around menfolk. Fortunately, thanks to Google, 21st century spinsters can learn the lessons of over a century ago – and they’re gems. Just the list of chapters makes for delightful reading:
Notes on Men
The Lost Art of Courtship
The Natural History of Proposals
The Physiology of Vanity
The Consolations of Spinsterhood

If you read any of it, check out ‘Love Letters Old & New’ first – delicious! Or, just read part of the exchange shared in The Hairpin article that alerted me to this gem:

All this talk of Bravissimo and single ladies and you might think we were on a girls’ weekend away – except there’s been no mention of Mooncups. But wait! Ladies (and it is probably exclusively female readers who will find this fun) one of this week’s discoveries was the awesome Camp Cranky – a website for girls on the brink of puberty. There are videos of puppets telling the stories of girls’ first periods, random cartoons, an interesting international angle and a charity project – oh, and a lot of squirrels. I have no idea why the squirrels are there, but I highly recommend listening to ‘Girl Squirrel’ on the lower right-hand side of the bonfire homepage – I hadn’t realised that squirrels were Mexican…

Dispiriting similarities

In common with many ardent British TV watchers, I’ve found myself drawn to Miranda – a sitcom in the traditional British style (i.e. its more successful era of the 1970s/80s as opposed to simply being rubbish) that has been something of a hit in the last year. Series two is now five episodes in and it’s become a rare programme that I’ll watch repeated times on iPlayer (often late at night, on my phone while snuggled in bed).

It’s funny (important quality for a sitcom), both in terms of script and physical comedy. Miranda is tall and lacking in grace, falling over repeatedly and often losing important pieces of clothing at inopportune moments. At the same time it manages to be poignant – oh how I long for Miranda and Gary to finally get together (Gary being her Good Male Friend and perpetual partner in a ‘will they/won’t they’ situation), but that would be because I am a hopeless romantic.

Thing is, towards the end of the first series, a nagging suspicion began to form in the back of my mind. As the second series has progressed, this suspicion has grown stronger – until last night a friend made a comment on Facebook that confirmed it…

…I bear an uncanny similarity to Miranda.

Now, getting the obvious differences out of the way – I am clearly not 6ft (I’m a very respectable 5ft7½); nor am I in my mid-30’s (hallelujah); I wasn’t educated at boarding school; and I don’t have a posh, overbearing mother (hello Mum!). But, similarities do remain:

1. My friends generally consider me to be posh (I’m really not) owing to my vocabulary and (some would say) unique way of pronouncing certain words. Plus, we both use the word ‘receptacle’. In fact, it was the use of this word in this week’s episode that prompted my friend’s comment – I have been teased for using it (in a totally appropriate context) for about the last five years.

2. It is physically impossible for me to leave a room gracefully. Miranda often attempts to ‘sweep’ out of a room, but usually ends up knocking over chairs or landing flat on her face. I manage to trip up on my own clothing and just the other week attempted to leave a meal at church but got stuck when my handbag strap attached itself to a guy’s seat – it was a long strap and I didn’t realise until I was a good distance away, not graceful in the slightest.

3. I’m single. (I need to be careful how I word the next sentences – I’ve already been told I sound needy and desperate once today.) True, Miranda has Gary, but though he’s expressed an interest, the fates seem to be conspiring against them. As a hopeless romantic, I will be deeply disappointed if they don’t get it together by the end of the series – though I realise that this could have negative ramifications for any future instalments. But until they do get it on, Miranda and I could jointly hold the title of Queen of Unrequited Love. [I would however, like to point out that by no means am I as pathetic as she is when it comes to the object(s) of my affection – honest.]

4. We both like to sing at random moments and consider at home karaoke a perfectly reasonable evening’s entertainment. (Oh how I’m looking forward to trying out Glee for the Wii at Annabelle’s soon!)

Are any of these similarities necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps these are only dispiriting similarities because I don’t have the comedic aplomb that Miranda has and get embarrassed far too easily – thus meaning that I can’t pull off such characteristics as well as she does.

Oh, and one final thing – this is the aforementioned Gary. If only I had someone similar to him in my life…

Loner?

Although I love travelling solo, there’s one thing that never seems to have become socially acceptable – dining alone. I’m not a big fan of it, even though (as those I’ve eaten with can testify) I’m one of the world’s slowest eaters, which means having no one to compare my speed with is actually a good thing!

Usually I simply avoid the more traditional restaurants where tables for one stick out like sore thumbs, and instead opt for interesting tiny places where no one notices, or genius restaurants like Wagamamas where it’s canteen style, or, even better – eat take-out in the beautiful outdoors.

Last night, in cold, wet Edinburgh, this was not an option. In fact, being on my own wasn’t in the original plan either. It was meant to be a jaunt with my mother, she was flying in from Belfast as I flew in from London. Only problem was that by the time I landed, her flight had been cancelled meaning that she wouldn’t make it to the event we were attending together and thus making the entire trip pointless. Thus, at the end of the day I found myself ravenous and ended up all alone in a respectable Italian chain restaurant.

I was seated with a nice window view and my back to the rest of the place. My waiter was attentive (to the point of trying to remove my plate when I was only half-done – it’s that slow eating thing again…) and after he brought my drink he asked if he could get me a newspaper.

This surprised me, and then made me giggle. I think it was Carrie Bradshaw who once said that a lady could dine alone as long as she was equipped with one weapon – reading material. Did I look so pathetic sat there alone that my waiter felt bad? He needn’t have worried though, I was of course, in possession of a book – I’m never without one. His next trip to my table saw me engrossed in my current read (a delightful piece of travel-writing exploring George Orwell’s Burma) and thus protected from other people’s pity.

An hour or so later, while paying the bill, we chatted about the ridiculousness of having to get up at 5.30am on a Sunday (see yesterday’s post) and the wonders of London versus Edinburgh. I will say one thing for dining alone, it does give you the perfect opportunity to flirt with flirty waiters. Plus, the quality of waiters in the Scottish capital is excellent…

An Elphaba Complex

Tonight – completely unexpectedly – I’ve got a ticket to see Wicked for the third time. Oh how I love teacher friends whose students drop out of school trips! Friends and sporadic readers of this blog will know that my love of Wicked goes beyond my love of most musicals. I utterly adore it.

I saw it within a month of it opening (most expensive theatre tickets I’ve ever bought, but they were so worth it) and have probably spent hundreds (?!) of pounds fuelling my habit since then. Three trips to see the show, the CD, the score, the backing tracks, an Idina Menzel album, the book – I could go on.

Anyway, it’s been a hit with lots of my close friends, mainly the ones that are into singing and fabulous musicals. We all pretty much want to be Elphaba and not just because she gets the best songs, but because it’s a story we identify with…
The green girl, unattractive to all her contemporaries and overshadowed by a conventionally popular (and beautifully blonde) girl, eventually defies the odds and the lovely guy falls in love with her. 

A male friend, who I’ll call Idiot Boy, referred to this a couple of years ago as the “Elphaba Complex”.
After he’d heard about my last trip to see it, where I was accompanied by my sister,  he asked “so, does she want to Elphaba too?”. Good question. She’d probably love to sing Defying Gravity up in the air (who wouldn’t?) but of course she doesn’t want to be her in the same way – she’s married, she’s got her Fiyero. [For the record, my brother-in-law is not given to wearing breeches…] 

For other, terminally single female friends, it’s more to do with feeling like no one will ever fall in love with us. Elphaba’s big issue was that she was green (I’m not even going to begin explaining how this happened, read Wikipedia if you’re completely uninitiated to the world of Wicked), we have other issues – being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, not pretty enough – whatever. I think we all have crushes on unattainable men and wish that things would work out for us like they did for Elphaba. (Except that we don’t want to have to fake our own death or turn our lover into a scarecrow in order to succeed!)

I laughed when Idiot Boy originally teased me about this ‘complex’, but on reflection, he may have had a point…


Elphaba (the green one) and the beautiful, popular girl…