Being 22 and engaged in New England is socially awkward

Posted on October 13, 2010


When I tell people I’m getting married there is always a moment when they can’t quite repress the horror that they feel at the news.   I see it flash across their face (“OMG SHE’S LIKE FIVE YEARS OLD”) and then they wrangle up their emotions and start spouting off numerous clichés, “Well, I guess when you know you know,” or “Whatever makes you happy!” or the ever popular “Good for you… Good for you.”

When I was in Chicago, I made fun of everybody in school who was getting engaged at such a young age (Yeah… God was laughing at me the whole time).  I thought that they were getting married because: 1) They thought marriage would solve all their problems 2) They wanted 2.5 kids and a picket fence 3) they needed an excuse to keep curling their hair every day pre-8am.

Then I fell in love.

I want to marry Erik.  It is something I feel, but something that I have a hard time articulating.  I know God  has chosen Erik and I just for each other, but that holds little weight with people who are already questioning my sanity.  When someone is talking to me, clearly flabbergasted that I am getting married, I never know quite what to say (short of, “I’m actually not an idiot”) that will convince them that I know what I’m doing, and why.

The other day I went to get my last haircut before the wedding, and I encountered one of those people.  A hairdresser came over to me where I sat in the waiting area, put her hands on her knees, and spoke to me like you would speak to a super-cute puppy, “Oh HI! Tell me about how you want your hair cut today, honey!”

“This is my last hair cut before my wedding, so I would like-“

“You’re getting MARRIED?!” Her facial expression said it all.  Naïve, kind of immature, and definitely about to make a huge mistake. “You look like you’re in high school!”

“Thanks. And I’m almost 23, actually.  Which I realize is still young.” And I meant it. “So if you could please cut my hair-“

“Oh, of course.  And… congratulations.”

While she washed my hair, she tried to say “Good for you” enough times to compensate for the obvious mortification that she had shown about my upcoming nuptials.  She asked lots of questions about Erik and our relationship and where I worked and how old I was (more than five times).

“So, what does Erik want to do for a job?”

Oh great. Now she’s really going to think we’re morons, “He’s going to be a pastor.  We both hope to work in ministry eventually.”

When we sat down at the mirror, our conversation was interrupted by the client sitting next to me.  She was clearly very uncomfortable at the haircut she had just received.  The hairdresser had just blown it dry, and I saw that she had pretty bangs and highlights running through brown hair that hung to her chin.

“It looks great!” I told her.

“I thought you were going to cut it short.” Said a man sitting behind her (assumedly her husband).

“This is just perfect for now,” her hairdresser told her, fluffing it out.

“I, I like it.” She said as confidently as she could. “It’s short, but I like it.”

I wasn’t convinced.  I got a little nervous that my hairstylist was about to decide what was “just perfect” for me and chop all of my hair off.

I heard the tinkle of the bell on the door of the salon as the woman and her husband left.  And then I heard sobbing.  I saw that the hairstylist, who had just cut the hair of the woman sitting next to me, was sitting in the chair, crying her eyes out.  She saw me glance at her and hurriedly stood up and rushed out of the room, still clutching a pair of scissors.

I was really confused.

“That was Patty.” My hairstylist told me, “She used to have hair longer than yours. That hairstylist you just saw crying has been cutting her hair for eight years.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Patty has cancer.”

I felt a pit in my stomach.

“She starts chemo tomorrow.  She wanted to cut her hair so that the change would be a little less drastic, you know?  They had just sold their house and bought a new one in California.  It’s a beautiful house in wine country.  But that means that this is probably the last time we’ll see her.”

“They’ll still move to California?”

“Oh yes. Her, and her husband, look forward to getting the treatment over with and then getting to move and start over in a new place.”

“That’s terrible.” It was honestly all I could think of to say.

My hairstylist nodded.  She started pinning up bits and pieces of my hair, getting ready to cut.

Suddenly she stopped and said, quite fiercely, “This is why it’s wonderful that you’re getting married.  We need happy things in this world. I am glad that you are getting married. Now.”

And she meant it.

I am not getting married for the white dress, or the 2.5 kids, or the picket fence (although if all of those things occur, I will be thankful for them).  I still don’t have the right words, but my experience at that hair salon explains it better than I ever could on my own.

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD, O my soul.

I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:1-2