Richard Boehmcke hasn’t been a Best Man, or even a groomsman. He wants to know why it matters to him, and if other men worry about this, too.
I never panicked about becoming a groomsman until my best friend told me I wouldn’t be one of his.
It wasn’t something I grew up thinking, worrying, or even caring about; whose wedding party I’d be in.
Some things in our lives we realize will never be from the very beginning, things like dunking a basketball. And then there are experiences in our lives that we don’t worry about missing out on until the passage of time makes it abundantly clear that those things are not to be, things like being the best man in a wedding.
At which point we are left to figure out what our subconscious was anticipating in the first place.
For reasons unnecessary to explain and critically irrelevant, when my best friend told me over drinks on my birthday that he couldn’t put me in his wedding party, I played it as cool as anybody could. He was sweating as he stuttered and over explained and asked if I was hurt or upset.
Though flustered I brushed it off to comfort my already nervous friend who had expressed how uncomfortable he was and how tied his hands were.
I must have said “Dude it’s fine” 100 times.
Let me know if you’re not cool with this and I’ll change it, just let me know, just, ya know, just say.
I said what I meant: I would be there for him, I would give the best damn toast, and anything else is just titles and nonsense.
Relating to him… that was all true.
I didn’t necessarily anticipate being the best man in my best friend’s wedding as I figured that would be left to his brother. But I figured I’d be in the stable, the pit crew, the bullpen, a groomsman at the very least.
Why wouldn’t I be?
It wasn’t until days later that I suddenly realized I didn’t really have any other male friends whose wedding I could anticipate being a part of.
That thought made me uncomfortable and insecure. I felt like I was suddenly left out, the only adult not picked for a dodgeball team. It quickly became something I obsessed over. I went over a list of possible candidates in my mind, male acquaintances I might potentially be closer to one day, people I had lost touch with.
I couldn’t tell if I had done something wrong or if this was a normal occurrence for most men. I didn’t know how to do the math. And while I had heard women talk about the same situation ad nauseum, I was positive I had never heard another man speak of it.
What exacerbated my anxiety even more was that I knew who would be my best man if I ever got married. Had I misjudged friendships? Given too much or not enough?
I’ll admit it doesn’t match the traditional rubric of masculinity, worrying about whether or not one will become a best man at some point in their life. I imagine it probably sounds kind of girly to others, as it certainly does for me.
Had I more close friends I might not have become so worried. From the beginning I didn’t have very many shots at best manhood.
Nine years removed from college and I am left with a single close friend from that experiment in adulthood, which is sandwiched between periods in my life surrounded by significantly more females than males.
I’ve always had more female friends than male friends which has been an issue for my girlfriends when I was in past relationships and an issue for myself when I wasn’t in them.
It affects me, at a deeper more level, if not cosmological or metaphysical, then at least in a “where do I stand” type of way.
And the irony is not lost on me, wondering where I stand simply because of where I haven’t yet been able to stand.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be as upset if the few weddings that I attended of my close friends didn’t find me incurring responsibility and obligations not given to best men or maids of honor for whatever reason.
Being the one who runs the last minute errands at the church while everyone else gets their picture taken, putting out fires while everybody else gets ready.
I bare the traits and attributes that warrant responsibility if not honor.
While this concern of mine makes me feel insecure, speaking of it only makes me feel more ashamed, embarrassed, less than. There is anger mixed in there as well, most of that tied to a larger insecurity surrounding a historically poor membership in a club of male friends. It is not an obligation to friends on their day of celebration to recognize me for any sort of special denotation…. And yet that’s how it feels.
I wonder if it would be as significant had I more male friends, all of which whom, had chosen not to include me in their wedding activities. Perhaps that would make it worse, more obvious.
I suppose it’s enough of a burden to decide which men to include in your groomsmen whom had also or not also included you.
My father’s wedding photo had him standing in front of a half dozen men, most of whom I couldn’t name. None of which ever came by the house just to have a beer.
So it is of small wonder then that my sister’s fiancé is a man of few close male friends, as my father has buddies he may golf but do little else with. My father is personable and affable and a great storyteller, well liked at work, and professionally successful, but I have never known him to have buddies.
I don’t even know if he was ever a best man.
Have I unwittingly become my father?
Regarding a dozen other personal attributes the answer is almost assuredly yes, it only depends if we speak of this issue as well.
My father is a great man and yet what does it mean if he was never a best man?
It is the title too that irks me; “Best Man.”
It’s not arbitrary. It’s not objective.
It’s a relative subjective paraded as a kind of fact.
It doesn’t even match up with its titular equal the Maid of Honor.
While Bridesmaids and Groomsmen seem at par, Maid of honor seems leagues below a Best Man. How did we end up with a woman of honor and the singular best man. Man of honor would seem more appropriate.
Had things played out differently I wouldn’t be worrying about this. I wouldn’t be stressed and concerned and regularly wrapped in the throes of flimsy existentialism. Perhaps it would fulfill a superficial need I didn’t even know I had.
Which makes me wonder if this overexamined life I’m currently living leaves me better off. What and I, a 30-year old as-yet unmarried, unengaged seemingly normal human male to do at the frustration of being perennially unable to check of a small box of significance (real or perceived) on his life experience checklist?
Complain? Adjust? Question?
If these previous words are any indication, maybe all three. Perhaps Best-Manhood is not an honor as much as it is an award, an Oscar given to the most popular movie if not the best one. Perhaps it is of higher honor to be the one who gives the best toast than to be the best man. Perhaps it is of more relevance that any man has somebody, at least one person, to stand up there with him to have his back.
And I battle daily to decide whether I am the architect or the builder of my fate, I wonder what my future holds. I wonder if I will be fortunate enough to be married. And if I will still feel the same way then as I do now.
Who is the best man? Someone will ask me.
Who is indeed.
—Photo Daniel Lobo/Flickr