*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
A family member asked me to be a bridesmaid at his wedding. I wasn't excited about it. The wedding date was one day after my fifteenth birthday, and I was a painfully shy and awkward teenage girl. I wanted no part of it, but I had no choice. Family is family.
I didn't want to be fitted for a bridesmaid's dress, high-heeled shoes, and a painful strapless bra. The color burgundy didn't appeal to me. I didn't want to wear an ugly hat with a veil. I especially didn't want to walk down the aisle holding the arm of the bride's cousin.
The bride's cousin was a quiet young man with long blond hair. He was perhaps a year older than I was. We never spoke, not during the rehearsal dinner when we met, and not on the day of the wedding. He wasn't just respectful; he was silent.
His silence was fine by me. I was riddled with anxiety at the idea of sitting, standing, walking, or breathing next to him. Since I went to an all-girls Catholic high school and had never had a boyfriend, spending time with a teenage boy in any capacity was foreign to me. I was terrified.
I made it through the rehearsal dinner without incident. Like I said, his silence suited me. It made it easier to pretend he didn't exist. There was nothing wrong with him. It just humiliated and embarrassed me to be partnered up with him. You would have thought I was planning for my own wedding from the way my insides churned with panic and anxiety at the thought of it.
The day of the wedding came, and I planned to power through it. That's just what I would have done if it weren't for my meddling overprotective father. Despite this young man's total and complete disinterest in me, to the point where he wouldn't even look at me or say a single word, my father seemed to think he was a threat.
I felt absolutely horrified when my father approached my groomsman escort at the wedding for no reason whatsoever and threatened him when he had done nothing unseemly at all. I don't know exactly what my father said to him, but I have an idea. From the few words I overheard, there was something about "keeping your hands to yourself" and "or else."
It was so unnecessary and humiliating. I've never gotten over it.
After my father threatened my poor groomsman, the teen boy seemed even unfriendlier and more aloof than before, and I can't say I blame him. When a photographer stopped by our table and asked us to move closer together for a photo, I lightly laid my hand on the back of his chair and leaned toward him in the most awkward way imaginable without touching him. For years, I was afraid my father would see that photo, and I'd get in trouble.
I can feel the heat rising in my face as I write this, and it's been decades.