I HAVE two weddings to attend in December. Neither of them my own. The first is my friend Gill's; next comes my brother's on New Year's Eve. In terms of probability, the odds are in my favour that I will catch one of the bouquets. This is not a good thing. Single people at weddings can look forward to segregation under the guise of inclusion, and ritual humiliation masquerading as fun.
Often they are sat at the 'singles' table', which, let's face it, is a form of quarantine for the social pariahs. They say you don't need to number the singles' table as guests only have to follow the scent of desperation -- the bang of want -- across the room.
Being positioned at the lonely hearts table is one of my greatest fears. That, and being pressed into a conga line...
Surely segregating single people is a violation of our basic human rights. It has to be. Brides and grooms argue that they can't afford to feed a stranger, which is fair enough. But why not dot all the single people around the room instead of converging them en masse?
I would rather be sat beside the aunt who is deaf in one ear, the mad uncle who half the family don't talk to or the precocious flower girl -- all of them even -- than be sat at the singles' table.
The very concept is like something from the Middle Ages, which funnily enough is when the tradition of bouquet-throwing was born.
Traditionally, bouquet-throwing takes place towards the end of the night so that we can be sure that the dignity and self respect of all the single women in attendance is utterly decimated before they go to bed.
Bouquet-throwing is an act of gladiatorial cruelty. Not only are you asking grown adults to take part in what is essentially a gushy; you are also asking single female adults to jump, elbow jostle and generally make buffoons of themselves for a chance to be next up the aisle.
I've heard of some sociopathic brides playing Beyonce's Single Ladies for this very moment. When you consider the way single people are, well, singled out at weddings, it's almost surprising they are allowed to stay for the whole night.
You would think they would be ferried home early in a special bus, with a big bag of sugared almonds for the journey.
The couples would line up along the driveway of the hotel to see them off and the single people would knock furiously on the windows, exaggeratedly waving back while pressing their faces up against the glass.
Perhaps this is why some of the invites sent to single people include the words 'and guest'. The subtext of 'and guest' is 'someone you fancy'. It's a romantic event, so you bring a romantic interest. Come on, get with the programme.
Mercifully, I have a 'plus one' on both of my invites, which means there are no singles' tables. Nonetheless, I'm flying solo. Bringing a guest is a much better option than the singles' table, but it's still a situation laced with social awkwardness.
My decision not to bring a guest to my friend's wedding, despite the kind offer, is a simple matter of selfishness.
To be frank, I couldn't be bothered introducing a gentleman to an entire room and then having to talk to him all night. My decision to fly solo at my brother's wedding is born out of logic. To ask a man to spend New Year's Eve with you... at your brother's wedding... is akin to saying "would you have any interest in marrying me in the near future?"
At the very least the subtext reads, 'I would like to get naked with you as soon as possible'. It's a big ask. Save for the groom-to-be, all of my siblings are single. Well, we were. The sister has only gone and fallen head over heels in love with a Catalan. She asked him to be her plus one the day they officially decided to become an item. See what I mean? It's a line in the sand.
So that leaves three of us: me and my two little brothers. Brother one is hellbent on bringing a date and I don't think it's marriage he's looking for...
Brother two brought him up on this recently. "You can't just take someone for the sake of taking someone." Oh, but he can. And he will.
So this left me and brother two, Paul. My mother automatically assumed that this would be the case when she started organising sleeping arrangements. "So you, me and Paulie will take one room..."
Paul interjected. "I might be, er, bringing a date." Our faces dropped.
Paul is the youngest in our family and so should have had the decency to know that he will always be 11 in our eyes. Who did he think he was growing up and becoming an adult?
My mother was worst hit. Paul is her right-hand man. Her counsellor, confidant and, lately, her personal wedding stylist.
He's trying to talk her out of wearing a chiffon gown that looks worryingly like a bridesmaid's dress (save for the slit up the thigh) and into wearing a traditional mother-of-the-groom two-piece suit.
"NO!" my mother shrieks. "I'm just not ready for that yet."
She certainly wasn't ready to hear that her 11-year-old child is in fact a 23-year-old man. This called for some unashamed Irish Mammy manipulation.
"You don't know what you're getting," she began. (She said the same thing about eBay once). "She could get drunk and get sick everywhere," she continued. (Read: Your guest could ruin the whole wedding... and life itself).
"She could have asthma and need to go back to Dublin to get her inhaler. She could have diabetes and need to go to A&E." And then my personal favourite. "She could be a junkie."
And so Paul's 'and guest' was rendered null and void. To think that two words, two unassuming syllables -- or the lack of them -- can cause such consternation among friends and family.
Flying solo is the way to go -- unless, of course, I find an 'official' boyfriend in the next four weeks. Which isn't totally impossible...