Ernie R writes to The Good Life of two best men: his own, and himself.
My guess is you will get a lot more submissions from guys a lot younger than I am (50) because they are closer to getting married or have recently gotten married. My wedding took place 23 years ago. I want to tell you about two best men: myself, and my best man.
When I was a best man to my college roommate I did everything right (or as right as broke college students can do)—bachelor bash, help with whatever he needed, emotional support for him and his fiancee—he could not have hired a better one as either a best man or a best friend. But I did it all looking backward at an intense friendship that was dying. For a lot of reasons I won’t go into here, I was this guy’s best man because I earned it, for all I did for him, for all the shit I put up with and because while he had other friends, good guys, I was the best of them all—no brag, just truth.
But I failed my own test of “best man-ness” because I looked at the “honor” as the final task, the last, best thing, I could do, before setting myself free from a friendship that had turned into a toxic burden. Though I occasionally wonder how this former friend is doing, being his best man “paid the bill” for whatever I felt I owed him. And I sincerely wanted to do the best I could, even though I knew our friendship was ending. That marriage lasted five years; ending for some of the same reasons our friendship ended. I find no vindication in that, just sadness for him because he just couldn’t seem to grasp the idea of loyalty, either to a friend or to a wife.
In contrast, my own best man was a guy I had known, trusted and loved ever since we became friends in prep school. In a lot of ways he was “my brother from another mother.” We laughed a lot, cried some, too, shared some painful family secrets and discovered we could still look at each other without shame our condemnation. I knew this guy would always be my best man from the way he looked after both my wife and me, how he supported us as a couple. And then something happened about ten years ago: Due to some chronic illnesses, some extended family stuff, some middle age stuff, I ended up in a very dark place of depression. The people I worked for were kind and supportive; they gave me space in which to heal, but it was my best man who got me through: Two calls a day, every day; sometimes to talk, sometimes to listen; sometimes to hear the same story over and over again. But always to be a light at the end of the tunnel, keeping me connected and drawing me forward to wholeness. He made those calls for months, along with calls to my wife to support her, to my kids to encourage them.
What I’m saying to other guys who are choosing their best man is this: you can get a best man like I was, who did everything right, but couldn’t and wouldn’t be there for the long haul. Or you can get a best man like mine, who, through the best and worst of over 30 years has never bailed and rarely failed. I got the better deal.
Image credit: katielips/Flickr