I’ve been engaged before… twice.
The first time was bad enough. That first time instilled doubt in the hearts of my loved ones, doubt in my ability to pick the right person, doubt in my ability to know it was going to last, doubt in the happiness I depicted to the world. It took enough convincing to get people to see the engagement as legitimate in the first place, after being an on-and-off couple who had also just graduated from college, so it was impossible to face them after it ended. They didn’t need to say “I told you so;” their faces said it all.
The second one has too much. I knew with this next time, I would have to be certain. But I went into the relationship shattered from the first, jaded to the idea of ever loving someone fully again, cynical to the core. My previous idealism had been shattered, so I settled into a love that fit like a glove, but a glove that wasn’t my style at all, that I never would have worn if I hadn’t been so damn cold. I was safe, and we were stable. It works the way I needed it to work. People saw us as real, because we were truly functional together. But no one saw the lack of spark in my eyes, because it had been burnt out so long ago that they’d forgotten.
I got further the second time. It wasn’t just a ring that time around. It was a ring, then bridal parties, then engagement photos, then a venue, and almost so much more. We threw money at the situation, built up a dream of a wedding, all the while daydreaming of the day that would come but seeing only paper dolls in the place of the other. We weren’t in love with each other; we were in love with the idea of never having to look for “the one” again, because we had both had our dreams of true love shattered by the one who came before.
When this one ended, I let it slowly fizzle out. It wasn’t some big fireball in the sky for everyone to shield their eyes away from. It took place in the shadows. I snatched our photos offline one by one at a glacial pace, praying no one would notice. And honestly, few people did. I still got questions about the wedding months after the break up, only to awkwardly break the news each time. But at least the pity came in bursts, not like the flood after the first end. In those shadows, safe from their judging faces, I was able to heal from both losses in a way I never had before.
It’s astounding how they hover now. I know it’s from a place of love, but there are only so many times you can ask “are you sure” or remind someone to pace before they realize your complete lack of faith in their own ability to be sure. Thank god I still have faith in myself and in love. If I didn’t, those wedding daydreams would stay in my head, and I would be terrified to utter the word “yes” once more.
Despite it all, despite the doubters and the failures of my past, I believe that next time I will know. I believe that my third time will be the charm. When that next girl proposes, my first thought won’t be “oh shit” like it was the first time or “this doesn’t feel right” like it was the second. I know I will cry the way I always imagined. I know I will finally make it down that aisle, but this time walking toward the right girl. I will be validated with a relationship that ignites jealousy and awe in the hearts of those around me. I will exist within a love that radiates out into the world and infects it with happiness. There will be a reason I still have yet to try on a wedding dress. This time it will be real, and this time it will last.
So you can call me the girl who cried wolf, because I will prove you wrong.
Next time, I swear to you, the wolf will be real.