Hello from Bitter Island
They are ecstatically in love, and I am thrilled for them. But not thrilled enough, it seems.
“It’s like people aren’t happy for us,” my friend complained to me. “No one wants to talk about the wedding.”
I tried to explain the truth to him as gently as I could: It’s hard for friends and family to muster the same excitement a second time around. When all the feting of the first wedding took place — the endless showers and toasts, the parties and gifts — it was with the expectation that the marriage would last.
It was easy to be genuine in our happiness then, because we all anticipated that the words spoken at the ceremony — ’til death do us part and all that — were sincere. But a second marriage proves we were wrong. It mocks all the hopes we placed in the first one. So he’ll have to forgive us if we can’t generate that same enthusiasm again.
“You know why people aren’t happy for us?” he told me one night on the phone. “Because everybody else is unhappy.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It’s as if we were all on this bitter island together, the single people and the couples in crappy relationships, but then we” — meaning his new bride and himself — “managed to escape while everyone else stayed.”
I thought about it for a minute.
“Are you including me on that island?” I asked him.
“Well, you are, aren’t you?”
It’s true that I’m not in a relationship, but I have a lovely life.
Sometimes I like to complain about my nonrelationship status, but I always figured that if I were truly upset about it, I would do something to change it.
Still, what my friend said stayed with me over the next several days. Was I living on Bitter Island and I didn’t even realize it?
Maybe he’s right — and not just about me, but about our collective group of friends.
It’s impossible to be happy for other people when we’re not happy ourselves.
Perhaps we really are trapped on an island of dissatisfaction, the singles and unhappily marrieds, and the great wave of post-children divorces that takes place in our 30s and early 40s is on its way.
My friend just happened to be the first.
What if, I thought, instead of being angry at him for his annoyingly smug comments, I followed his lead?
Rather than defending my territory on Bitter Island, I should be finding an escape route.
Building a raft, so to speak.
They say we should never make important decisions under duress, but my friend had me so worked up that I couldn’t have stopped myself if I tried.
Late at night, after tossing and turning, I got out of bed, sat down at my computer and signed up for eHarmony.
If I’m going to make it off this island, I can’t do it alone. ¦