So happy for you (really)

January 30th, 2014

When I was in Ireland last year, I came home from the pub one night and was surprised to have an email from my father informing me that my elder sister, Hannah, had gotten engaged earlier that evening (it was two in the morning in Ireland, but only 9 p.m. at home). I was shocked. No one saw it coming. But it was exciting. It was the first engagement in the Richter family and therefore, a very big deal.

Hannah and her fiancé, Tyler, decided on a long engagement and are due to get married early in September. When you plan a long engagement you run certain risks, but you don’t usually count on your other sister getting engaged 10 months after you and planning to get married two months before you.

That’s right. I have not only one sister getting married this year, I have two older sisters getting married this year. Emma in July and Hannah in September. And I have to be a maid of honor in both of them. And I have to plan a joint bridal shower. And I have to basically be a really good sister for the next eight months.

I’m about to get real. Gonna start dropping some massive truth bombs in the area. Here’s the thing, I really have trouble being happy for other people. I mean genuinely happy. For some reason it is difficult for me. Especially in situations like two weddings in a year, I find it really hard to not mope and moan about how terrible it is going to be for me with all the planning and fittings and decorating and sentiment (y’all know how I feel about sentiment).

It isn’t so much that I don’t know how to be happy for other people. I can be if I want to be, but oftentimes I struggle to see past my own selfishness and really be truly happy for people. In this case, it’s hard for me to be happy for my sisters because I know that I’m going to have to be involved in the entire planning process and I’m going to have to deal with all their sentimental pre-wedding emotions and some part of me just isn’t into that.

But I love my sisters and so I know I should be happy for them, and so I’m using their weddings as an opportunity to learn how to be happy for other people, even when I may not be thrilled myself. Sometimes you have to be happy just because other people are happy. And let’s be honest, it’s not going to be terrible at all. Weddings are great and fun and have open bars, even though I might not be totally into the whole lovey-dovey, sentimental aspect of it all.

It probably shouldn’t have taken me 21 years to learn this lesson, but feigning emotion is not something I have ever been good at. And while I have been told that my frankness can be refreshing, usually it’s less than flattering, especially when it isolates or insults people who I love.

There is a fine line between honesty and hurting people. When I was in middle school there was a book that I absolutely loved called “No More Dead Dogs” and it was about a kid named Wallace Wallace (now wondering if that was inspired by Humbert Humbert from “Lolita,” but probably not) who wouldn’t write a positive review of the book “Where the Red Fern Grows” because he had vowed to always be honest with people. His scathing book report was condemned by his teacher and he was forced to be a part of the school’s stage production of the book.

At the end of the book, Wallace Wallace (honestly, why was I not bothered by this?) not only uncovers the identity of the people who have been sabotaging the play (everyone thought it was him, of course), but he also learns that even though honesty is good in some situations, sometimes you have to entertain other people’s opinions or at least have some respect for them. Honesty is good, but not when blunt honesty will hurt people.

Honesty is good, but when it makes people feel bad it should probably be reigned in. I’m sorry that it took me 20-plus years to learn this lesson. Because, to use a cliché, they tell me that an old dog can learn new tricks, and I should have learned my lesson earlier. Sometimes you have to learn to tolerate the things you don’t love in order to show those you love that you love them.