Last weekend I got to watch my best friend get married in the mountains outside of Salt Lake City. It was the perfect fall wedding. The weather was warm in the day and crisp in the evenings, the leaves turned to brilliant yellow and splotches of red on the mountainside. The property, a ski resort, was beautiful, and the wedding itself just as beautiful. But I’m not going to talk about the wedding, or about staying in Snowbird, Utah. Not today, anyway. I want to talk about something different, albeit wedding related.
Today we’re talking friends. As simple as that. And as complicated.
Rachel, the newlywed, is a friend of mine made at work. We’ve only known one another for about five years. (We met and became friends on the same night she met her new husband, in fact. I take all the credit they’ll throw my way for getting them together.)
Yet the depth of our friendship exceeds its years. A week or so before the big day, she asked if I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her during the day before the wedding. While she got her hair and makeup done, while she slipped into her stunner of a dress, while she spent her last moments as a “single” woman.
“Is this a weird request?” she asked in the video message, and I shook my head no, holding back tears while listening in my car.
As the schedule took form, she apologized in advance for making me the “Bride’s bitch” for the day.
And after we’d got her dressed and coiffed, and down the aisle, and married off, and danced into an oblivion of joy, the next day she thanked me SO much for being there for her on her big day.
And each time, I felt like the one who should be giving thanks.
I don’t know if she understands how much of an honor it was to be asked to fill this role. Bride’s bitch, best friend, makeup buddy, errand girl, just-in-case off-the-ledge talker—whatever you want to call it.
Meeting Rachel’s different groups of friends, nearly all of whom traveled out of state for the wedding, it is clear that she is the kind of person that attracts good people. I made fast friends with all of the women at her bachelorette party in Montana and was thrilled to see them again. And meeting all the others I’d heard of at one point or another was the cherry on the sundae. She has so many awesome people, from different walks of life, who adore her. She is so, so loved.
And this made it extra special that she requested my presence in the hours leading up to one of the biggest moments of her life.
I felt a similar sensation last year, when my other best friend, Corey, got married in Colorado. That wedding, in Summer 2020 and the height of the Pandemic, was a virtual affair. Guests logged in from their homes around the country to watch a small but lovely backyard wedding. The in-person guest list was immediate family only…and me.
“I just need one person there. Please come out to Colorado to the wedding.”
And so, I did. She later officially asked me to be her Maid of Honor, and I of course accepted. I flew out and I helped decorate and organize. I wrote a speech and I hung out with my best friend before and after she became a Mrs.
They must call it “Maid of of Honor” for a reason, for though Corey’s request that I take part in her special day may have been less surprising than Rachel’s—Corey and I have been friends for more than 20 years—it was nonetheless an incredible honor. One I didn’t take lightly.
I know everyone has friends, and a lot of people have ‘best’ friends. Brides have maids of honor all the time. They have their bridal parties stay with them while they get ready. But for me it doesn’t matter what “everyone does,” or what is “normal.”
For me there was nothing ordinary in Corey or Rachel’s requests.
Before last year the only wedding I had ever participated in was my mom’s when I was fourteen.
Never a bridesmaid, always a guest. And really, I haven’t minded. Sitting back and enjoying the show is A-OK with me. But having these two women—who I love and respect and adore as if they were my blood—ask me to take an active role in their wedding day felt really important.
Even with a title like “Bride’s bitch” I couldn’t help feeling awestruck that she’d asked me. Just like I couldn’t help beaming with pride that my friend, thousands of miles away, had asked me to come be by her side.
In my life, I had never been the person. The one entrusted with important things. Called upon to show up, to calm nerves. The one invited to share the most significant moments in someone else’s life.
And now, apparently, I was.
It is really something.
You see, for a long time, I believed I wasn’t a good friend. That I couldn’t be one.
I was bad at maintenance, I said. I sucked at keeping in touch. I had tunnel vision, could not pull myself away from what was right in front of me to send a “checking in” text to someone far away. I had dozens of friends to go out with on the weekend but felt a nagging sense that it was all surface level. That I would be on my own if I needed something deeper. That I would not be able to step up to the plate if they did.
I was in and out of romantic relationships. I spent time with my partners and befriended their friends. I had my own friends, sure, but they were busy a lot. I was busy a lot. They had their own lives, and so did I. This was how it worked, wasn’t it?
Years ago, discussing details of our hypothetical wedding that would never end up happening, my ex and I got stuck on one point often. I didn’t want a bridal party. She did.
An introvert, she told me she was not about to stand in front of a room full of people and talk without having support behind her. She needed her people to have her back.
And I understood that very well.
But who were my people?
Who could I ask to stand up?
I didn’t feel like I had any support.
I pictured scrambling to piece together a bridal party of acquaintances and party friends. I imagined the awkwardness of asking someone I’m just not that close with to be a part of my most special day. How obvious it would be to them that I did not have real friends. How uncomfortable it would feel to ask anything of them. How it would all be a sham. How I’d feel like the odd man out at my own (someday) wedding.
For a long time I believed I wasn’t a good friend.
That I couldn’t be one.
This is going to be another one of those moments that surprises people who know me. I’ve been a “social butterfly” since I was a child. I’ve always had plenty of friends, and I’ve always spent a lot of time out with friends. I’ve been good at making new friends and have struggled with FOMO, fearing I’d miss out on the best night ever if I one time turned down a social invitation.
But for all the time I was busy socializing, much of my alone time was spent…feeling alone.
I thought that this was just the way it was in adulthood. We have friends to go out with once in a while. We might catch up over drinks on a weekend or for someone’s birthday. But in day-to-day life? Regular contact? Emotional connection and vulnerability? Wasn’t that a bit…extreme?
Something has changed and I don’t feel this way anymore. I don’t know if it is age or sobriety or the year off from socializing during the Pandemic that has created this shift, but it is a welcome one.
And it is because of the person that I was before—the girl who couldn’t keep in touch, who was bad at maintenance, who thought of friendship almost as an afterthought—that I appreciate so, so much the woman and friend I have become.
I am now the kind of friend that friends want to share their biggest life moments with. I am the type of friend that my friends can depend on. Not to text back immediately—I will never be that kind of friend. But for the important things. To confide in. To hold space for and withhold judgement from. To support with a cheerleader’s enthusiasm. To show up when it matters. Y’all, I’m someone’s person.
Another friend texted me over the wedding weekend, by happenstance and out of the blue, to tell me that she was grateful for my friendship and proud to call someone like me a friend. I told her I felt the exact same way about her and our group, and I meant it with all my heart. A year ago, I was worried I would lose some of these people when I quit drinking and “wasn’t fun anymore.” And here I stand today, as fun as ever, and much closer and more sincere in these friendships. Surprised in the best way and so, so grateful.
My friends are the real deal. And apparently, these days,
I am too.
I don’t know that I’ll ever get married or if a bridal party would be involved. But if the time came and we decided upon a traditional setup like this, I could easily pick out my people to stand beside me and have my back. It would be a simple decision. I know who I’d ask, and I know they’d say “yes.”
And that is really something.
I guess the point of this post was just to take a moment to appreciate the people in my life, and also the shifts in my life that have allowed me to become someone I like more. I wanted to float around in the good feelings I’ve been swimming in all week for a little bit longer. To get down in writing how fucking good it feels to have found your people, your tribe. To figure out that you aren’t intrinsically flawed. To show up for the people you love. To be invited to show up. To have given enough of yourself to earn a place in their hearts and lives.
My friends are the real deal. And apparently these days I am too.
It is a good place to be, and I plan on staying a while.
There are people, friends from earlier phases of life, that I still care a lot about, despite the distance in space and time and communication. People I think of fondly and wonder if we could ever strengthen our old, worn bonds. We are new people. We’re older, and hopefully wiser. And maybe, just maybe, our new selves would align beautifully. It is hard to find the time and hard to right old wrongs and it is hard to try again. But I’m willing to try.
Lone wolf to Bride's B*tch
May you all find a tribe as dope as mine. May you be supported and uplifted by the people around you. May you inspire others to be their best selves and let the ones you love know it in no uncertain terms. And may you exit the relationships that are anything less than belly-laughing, joy-sparking, encouragement-giving goodness. It’s a short ride, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Wishing all of you a happy weekend and the best friends.
To my friends—old and new, in or out of touch—I love you.