Aisling Keenan on the unbridled joy of going to a wedding after 18 long pandemic months and an unusually challenging pregnancy
“DANCING IS LEGAL AGAIN!” I shouted. At my baby.
She’s five months old and hadn’t a bogs what I was saying, but I could tell she understood based on her smile. Her glorious little response to the eyes-wide delight that had crept onto my face.
I took her to the full-length mirror in my spare bedroom, where Spotify was playing something cute by Ariana Grande, and we did a little wiggle – I had to confirm that I could, in fact, still move my hips to music. I could, of course – and in the most perfectly timed restriction-easing notice of the entire pandemic – four days later at a wedding, I WOULD.
A beautiful friend of mine from college got married a couple of weeks back in Wexford and, as I just mentioned, the restrictions had just changed to allow live music to resume and dancing to happen. I was already excited to go to the wedding (it was to be my first vegan wedding experience and my first night out since I had my baby girl) but now? Now I was ITCHING to hit the dance floor and to let the intoxicating hum of live music spill into my ears.
It was to be the first gathering that spanned more than just my immediate family and closest friends that I would attend since March 2019, and everything about it filled me with joy.
Getting ready to go? What. A. Treat. I had outsourced the baby, of course, so I was able to take my time doing my makeup. It was unreasonably early in the morning but I didn’t care. I was doing a complicated eye and I was thrilled. Knowing I could – literally – let my hair down without it being pulled by the aforementioned child… Liberating. Putting a heel on for the first time in 18 months? Exhilarating.
The two-hour drive to Wexford? Even that was exciting. I would chat to the pals I was car-pooling with. I would listen to some music. I would be both a hype-woman and a hypee.
Within five minutes of arriving to the wedding and reuniting with my exceptionally brilliant college friends, my face hurt from laughing. The in-jokes were flying. We had instantly snapped back to 2009, when we graduated, when life was about going Out Out from Tuesday to Friday and making yet more excuses as to why 9am lectures would be missed and should be outlawed. We had seen each other plenty over the intervening years, but only Whatsapp chat sustained us during the Covid period. So being in person with this group – this witty, alive group – was soothing and warm and left me wanting to pause time and stay in the carefree time warp we’d created.
Sure, there were little reminders. Masks. Signs reminding everyone present about hand sanitiser use. Texts from my aunt to update me about how the baby was getting on. The pandemic still existed, so did the fact that I was a parent. But for the few hours the gathered guests would spend together, things were… Fun. Relaxed. Social, minus the distance.
The room was well-spaced but still felt full. When the dinner ended and the speeches (I cried, we all cried, god damn did those people know how to emote) were finished, the band started to set up and assemble. Honestly, the first notes they played felt like magic. They felt like the first chords of live music I’d ever heard.
Hours later, in a blur of 90s RnB hits, 70s soul classics and Official Wedding Songs, Maniac 2000 by Mark McCabe burst onto the speaker system, and I genuinely thought I would pass out from the excitement. I screamed the lyrics (5, 4, 3, 2 ,1, take this house… to the… MAXIMUM) so loudly and with such vigor I could actually pinpoint the exact moment my voice went. It was blissful.
At a certain point in the night, I started to feel like I had weights hooked to my eyelids and that I might turn myself inside out with my own yawns, so I retired to bed. Reluctantly.
The next morning was spent giddily dissecting the craic from the night before, laughing at the requisite “I’m never drinking again” declarations and vowing to all get together again and not leave it so long, as though the pandemic restrictions weren’t at fault for us not getting together.
For the first time in far, far too long, life felt fun again. As a card-carrying extrovert, there was a floating awareness (read: pervasive gnawing) that I needed other people to get by during the seemingly endless lockdowns. It was tough for us all – introvert, extrovert or otherwise – because as much as a bit of alone time is to be cherished, the fact remains: We need each other. People, from loved ones to strangers, are the threads that create the tapestry of our lives and without them, there’s no texture. No interest. And certainly no craic.
I should probably say for the sake of transparency: The Monday after the wedding weekend was, in a word, bleak. I don’t drink and have never experimented with drugs, so it was the closest I’m ever likely to get to a come down. I cried several times and comfort ate rings around myself. From the highest high, the buzziest buzz, to grim, dull, tiring.
I remember thinking, glumly, “ah yeah. Back to real life.”
But the great thing was this. That wedding WAS real life. It was real friendship, it was real love, it was a real social occasion. The type of uplift we all used to rely on to break up the monotony. We’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, but the real life we once knew? It’s coming back, baby.