The wedding is more than six months away and I’ve started the long tumble down dread. It’s not, as dozens of best friend movies posit, the loss of the bff to her love; C and I have lived in different cities for too long for the day-to-day to make much of a difference. It’s that I’m not her best friend. I claim that title because I feel I need to have someone, someone to whom I am terribly wonderfully close. I am not sure we were ever that close, even when we saw one another every day. It’s rather that she has kept in touch with me, something I’m awful at. Without her, I would have no long lasting friends, no one who knew me back when.
And maybe be that would be better.
K will be there. We will both be bride’s maids. Despite C’s gorgeous disavowing of all standard practices and operating procedures, in the end, the pull of the wedding is that of certain traditions. K, who supplanted me. When I fell down and could not longer get up, when I lay in bed with fantasies of something grander, K was the girl that took my place in C’s life. It was with K that C hitchhiked across America, helped repair the city of New Orleans, danced on the amateur stage and got, if not rich, enough money to continue their adventure. The adventures of C and K live on to this day, with bear spray and guns in Alaska, sunbathing in Prospect Park, horseback riding and hot tubs in Iceland. Their drugs, their drinks, their lovers never stopped them, at least not in the narration. And all the while I stumbled from one pile of disinterested sheets to another, sucked water pipes for lack of better drugs, drank for lack of better hobbies, and, worse, criminally worse, stayed home.
I cannot fully fathom the depression I had sunk into. Even having faced others, and found the other side, the blankness of those years haunts me so that I cannot really look at it.
If K liked me, if she bothered to have me in her life, it might feel very different. But she doesn’t care for me: I suspect the admiration I have for her is equal to the disdain she has for me. Not an active dislike, but rather just a “not relevant” attitude. I am not charming or witty enough to merit interest. While my life to many is out of the box, uncontrolled, I know K sees in it the grind of suburban marriage and children.
Like T’s former best friend V, who I felt such an affection for only to realize he saw me as something small, puny, frankly and simply, inconsequential.
A, my other best friend in high school, doesn’t return my calls or emails either. And neither does my other friend C. But the sting is less: I have stumbled in to certain successes they lack, and no amount of describing the pain and frustration of marriage or kids alleviates the longing of the single, childless woman who has done everything in her power to have a mate and family, and failed.
But I’m leaving out W.
A few years ago I told C I’d like to catch up with him, thank him for how he changed my life, shooting it off in a new direction at a pivotal moment. This desire to reconnect must have been just after I submitted my MFA applications and before I received the rejections. Which is to say, I few months period where I felt truly hopeful, where I was ecstatic with possibility. And could be magnanimous.
W, the first love of my life. W, who sustained a constant attack on everything I said and did. W, who destroyed my belief in friends and friendship. Because the attacks were so often public, within the sphere of peers, that I had to realize they, none of them, could be counted as friends. Not one person stood against him, and at least in my memory, only one another received the blows: B, who was also in love with him. That he and C later slept together does not actually bother me. If anything I feel a slight pity, that they were still in SC and in need of fuckbuddies. What is seared into my brain is W’s absolute condescenion of everything. And by everything, I do mean anything and everything that may pertain to me. Certainly, he championed other people. Certainly he made it a point to tell me who was and what was deserving of attention, respect, admiration, and why I was so distant.
I could say, now, he was the first antisemite I ever knew. But this would be grasping at at his nastiness in some way tangible to a wider audience. An attempt to retroactively build a case against him. Surely, most found him charming. Likely many found him obnoxious as well, but this isn’t at all the point.
We hear voices in our head, and one of mine is my mother’s, and the other is his. Voices which, if I look worn out at the wedding, will harp on the exhaustion. If I look fresh, will goad that. If I am fat, unkempt, worn-out, I will be the pathetic middle aged mother. If I am thin, I will be the pampered, self-obsessed, but equally pathetic middle aged mother. I had in my head that i could get something published by them, couldn’t I? I had this in my head as buffer against failure, see, here I am wrinkling forehead, dull religious life
Because like my mother, for W all my success, traveling the globe, speaking three languages, sustaining a marriage and kids, the relative freedom of work that I have, my BA, my academic conferences, the 1.5 publications I do have, none of it matters because it is mine.
And yes mom too will be there. Mom, another voice. For whom my marriage will always be some lop-sided curse. My husband a monster, and worse–to her–uncharming. She says money doesn’t matter and then turns her nose up at our furnitureless house, our pictureless walls. Last night when I couldn’t sleep I thought about her comparing my marriage to that of her sister: your uncle never lets her have anything, he’s a miser, just like your husband. For his projects there is plenty, but not for hers. And I thought about how not true that was for my marriage. And I thought about my aunt never working, a kept woman, and I thought, yeah, that’s what happens. If you don’t work, and you don’t demand from him what you want, what else would possibly happen? but my mom sees what she wants to see: that I should both be home with the baby, and have infinite funds.
Perhaps for both, there was some early vision of me, like with C, something they thought they saw in me. Something which I never lived up to, for which I am a constant disappointment. Or perhaps that’s just in my head, too, like their voices which will undermine each little victory. How on earth to move past this?
Luckily, W will not want to see or speak with me any more than I him.
In the car, I decided that mantra should “the wedding will be good.” I choose that it will be good, because it cannot be other than what it is, so I might as well make that thing good. Using the paradigm of movies, the wedding is not a best friend flick, but the homecoming-as-failure. I hate being reduced to a type, to a schtick, but there it is. You wanted, you expected, to have accomplished something slightly more than this. The wedding will be good, because this is all I have ever been. the wedding will be good because it’s better to embrace the self you are, walk to the mirror and be unafraid, unashamed.