the more things change
Elfboy got married, and was kind enough to include me in his wedding party. It was an interesting experience.
First, it was great to watch the “behind the scenes” stuff of someone else’s wedding! Having recently gone through all of this myself, I knew exactly how Elfboy was feeling at various times through the day.
Second, it was of course a tremendous joy to watch two people so happily in love commit their lives to one another. I meant what I said at the reception: we’re all happy and proud of both Elfboy and Kelly.
Third, although many of us went to high school together, Kelly and the bulk of her bridal party lived in a very different social caste from Elfboy and I. In high school, I found many of Kelly’s friends to be shallow, superficial, mean-spirited and bland. I haven’t spent any time with any of them since high school, so I was reasonably willing to allow for the fact that they’ve grown as people, and that they’re decent folks now. Or rather, I thought I was willing to allow that. What I found, though, was that I still harbored a huge grudge against them and their social caste. I was almost completely uninterested in getting to know them, or hearing about what they’ve been doing with their lives. I found several telling indicators that at least two of the girls really hadn’t changed much since high school, save for the fact that they could purchase more drugs with their higher incomes. Perhaps I saw only what I wanted to see, since I certainly didn’t give them a fair chance. Yes, this is shallow and short-sighted of me.
I wonder – vaguely – how these people see me. It was clear they had no use for me in high school, and probably found me rude and mean-spirited, as well as out-right weird. I suspect their opinions haven’t changed much.
This weekend was an interesting experience for two other significant reasons, though. It is with some trepidation that I continue, but it’s really been eating away at me and I feel like I need to get this out.
Significant Reason #1 was that I was forced into a social situation with an ex-friend. Dave and I had a serious falling out after a rather malicious attack from him towards me over beers one night. As is always the case, this was the culmination of a long-growing split between us. We haven’t really spoken since this attack, and I’ve been holding some resentment toward him since. So it was mildly uncomfortable for me to make polite small talk to a person I’d not be seeing or speaking to on any other occasion. Incidentally, I was frankly quite surprised that Dave, the best man at the wedding, asked if I’d like to make a few public comments at the reception. I hadn’t expected the gesture, but I was glad for the opportunity to express my feelings for the bride and groom.
And this leads us directly to the the truly interesting bit for the weekend. Elfboy and I have been friends since freshman year in high school (actually since the summer just before our freshman year!). We’ve been friends through a lot of great times, a lot of rough times, a lot of meanness and nastiness and all that high school angst and college self-discovery. We’ve matured and grown up alongside one another. Although friends, in the last couple of years we haven’t been best friends any more. Two years ago I started dating Carina, and her twin daughters became a part of my life. This had a profound (if slow to develop) affect on me, my life, and my decision-making. Of all my friends, Elfboy was the most accepting, the most supportive, and genuinely the most friendly about this change. There was an undertone of tension (at times bordering on hostility) with everyone else when it came to the kids… It was made abundantly clear that they were not invited to activities, no matter how kid-friendly that activity may have been. It became abundantly clear that my absence at a few activities (because I chose to spend time with Carina, who could not – or would not, occassionally – get a babysitter) resulted in fewer invitations being extended to me and Carina. The more stuff we missed, the more stuff we were excluded from.
Through all of this, Elfboy and I managed to see one another on an infrequent basis, usually meeting for a quiet beer and a catch-up conversation. And through all of these years – high school, on – Elfboy has always made the casual comment “You know you’re going to be my best man.” I was always flattered, but didn’t put too much stock into it.
You see, Elfboy is not the most reliable of human beings. He’s a great guy, but it’s hard to make firm plans with him. Historically, he has deftly avoided committing to plans with some ambiguous, open-ended “Yeah, let’s shoot for that…” kind of comment. It was a long time before I realized why he did this: it’s because he’s leaving open the possibility that a better activity will come along, one that he can comfortably attend without feeling like he broke his original plans. For awhile I resented this – in no small part because I have always valued scheduling ahead, and having firm plans. It became increasingly frustrating when I began to spend a lot of time with Carina and the kids – a lifestyle that does not allow for too much spur-of-the-moment decision making. But we managed to connect, however infrequently. And I still counted him a close friend – my closest, truthfully, because there’s no one else who’s weathered the breadth of experience that he and I have together. And through it all, “you know you’ll be my best man.”
When Elfboy told me he had proposed to Kelly, I knew straightaway that Dave had been selected for the best man. That’s okay. Before I go any further in this meandering soliloquy, let me make the following point absolutely clear: I am not mad, resentful, hurt, or upset. What I am is intrigued, and maybe just a little disappointed. I’m not disappointed that I wasn’t asked to be best man. What I’m disappointed about is the reason I wasn’t asked. When Elfboy explained the best man selection to me, his comment was “Dave has stepped up, and taken that responsibility”. I politely expressed my surprise, and Elfboy’s response was “Well, Scott, you just haven’t been around as much lately.”
Yes, that was absolutely true. I had not been around as much. I had not been attending the weekly BW-3 get-togethers. I hadn’t attended the weekly Saturday night karaoke in ages. But I feel that I’d made it known to Elfboy that he was my friend, that he was an important part of my life. It stung to be told that Dave had stepped up when I hadn’t even been given an opportunity. At first I was a little upset – hurt, even. I’m over that, now. I’m genuinely happy for Elfboy and Kelly. I genuinely harbor no resentment or ill-will toward Dave. When all was said and done, I was glad not to have been saddled with the responsibility of dealing with Kelly’s bridal party in any greater depth than I did. I was glad to be able to meander away from the reception hooplah to goof around with my daughters.
Maybe Elfboy had anticipated all of that, and taken it into account in his decision. He’s surprised me like that in the past: a seemingly knee-jerk decision that carried a lot more thought than was immediately discernable. But one would think that in that situation, the presentation would have been a little more … compassionate.
There. My conscience is cleared, having purged this secret for the world (and, presumably, Elfboy) to read. I’m not mad, or upset, or devastated, or resentful. I’m a little disappointed that a friend shorted me. Nonetheless, I’m delighted beyond words that Elfboy and Kelly are happily married.