Saturday, September 8, 2018

Best Man

I've been tapped for best man duties twice. I did and still do consider it a great honor. It's a pretty big deal if a buddy thinks highly enough that he'd ask me to fill the role over say, his brother or a friend he's known since grade school. And in both cases, these were two friends I'd only known for 2 or 3 years at the time they got married.

First time was my rookie outing. My friend and his bride were together since high school before I knew them. I remember being really nervous because I knew I'd be expected to do a speech. Nowadays I'm much, much better at speaking in front of a crowd. I fucking hate doing it, but I've got a certain sense of style and comedic timing that I've developed over the years. So for my first time doing a speech I gave up trying to write something and just decided, "Fuck it. We're doing it live." Shot from the hip and totally winged it. I was nervous as hell but glad when it was over and I could get back to drinking a beer and reenacting the "Louie, Louie" scene from Animal House during the reception. All in all, I'd give it a 3 out of 10. They were really good friends and it felt awesome to be included in their special day.

The second time was like night and day compared to the first. You're gonna need a bit of backstory first, though. The groom in question was a great friend I met in the Army. My first line sergeant actually. Supposedly there's no fraternization with the enlisted Joes, but we got along well enough that we threw that rule right out the window. We had a lot in common, including the same birthday as it turned out. Odd, right? Anyway, he had met his bride back in high school (there's a trend here, I know) and they separated when he joined the Army and she went to college.

At some point when we were hanging out talking about high school girlfriends, the way guys do, he pulled out one of those wallet photos that were popular back when physical pictures used to be a thing. I was dumbfounded. She was a beauty. I recall my reaction was something along the line of, "This girl? She actually talked to you?" They were both from Portland, and one weekend trip down to Portland from Fort Lewis I got to meet her when she was home from college. We used to take a lot of weekend trips down to Oregon to escape the drudgery of being on base all the time. I was amazed when I got to meet my buddy's ex-girlfriend, because she had personality, manners, charisma: the works. Stellar human being. On the drive back to Fort Lewis we stopped at a gas station. And I remember while he was filling up his tank I said to him, "Dude. If I find out someday that was the girl that got away, I will find you. And I will beat you." Something really close to that, anyway.

Flash forward a few years. After me relentlessly egging him on, they ended up dating again. And eventually engaged. And since you started this short story at the beginning obviously you know they ended up married. When I was doing my best man speech I even invoked the "girl that got away" quote, which was now null and void since he was scared enough of me that he got married instead. Don't thank me. I just do what needs to be done. Anyway, I owned that speech and good times were had by all. Solid 8 out of 10.

I find it ironic that a guy who doesn't know the first thing about relationships or marriage somehow made a good enough friend to two different couples that they included me in their ceremony. And I won't lie. It does hurt a lot that they don't talk to me anymore. Friends moving on is sort of a recurring theme in my life. Over the years people fade away, and in their case it's more important to focus on their families than an old friend who isn't in the picture. I don't blame them one bit, and even though I'd like to say I'd never do that if the roles were reversed, I probably would. There's only so many times you can try to keep friendships active before you realize you're making all of the effort and it's time to stop. Eventually I learned to step back and let them move on to be happy in their own world.

What else did I learn? Good friends are rare and an incredible find when personalities click. Enjoy friendships while they last. Embrace the laughter and good memories. Step aside when it's no longer your time.

Also, I'm not the best man. But I do think I'm a pretty good one. Solid 10 out of 10.

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