My Best Friend’s Wedding
May 2, 2006 7 Comments
I just got back to London from Washington DC where my close friend was getting married this past weekend. Now this is a friend I have had since boarding school in Nairobi; we went to the States for university at about the same time; and roomed together in Brooklyn for some years. BK or Fort Green to be exact was one party after the other, ‘shots all around’ being one of our more frequent utterances and of course where there is alcohol and testosterone, seeking the company of women was par of the course. Because of so many years spent as close friends we had developed our own private language. One of its more important concepts that we repeated like a mantra was ‘standards and rules’. These were applied to women. We carefully calibrated our individual preferences, analysed them over many beers and over time codified our romantic desires and how to go about satisfying them.
It was quite juvenile really but I think very serious for all the jokes we made about it. Sometimes I think it was an attempt to create some kind of order in the chaos of being single in New York City. We formed a little community with its ethics and battlegrounds even if they were only located in lounges and the succession of parties we frequented. Our enemy, I think, was loneliness. The feeling of not being wanted in a city built on the principle of aspiration and the conceit that only those who are weak or unworthy do not realise their every dream. New York has a way of inflating or redirecting your desires. For example, you may have thought that you wanted to date a funny and down to earth person when you got off the bus from some small town or country. A few months later, you would be telling your friends that you wanted to only date funny and down to earth supermodels willing to share you with their supermodel friends.
The city makes you believe that your most fevered imaginings are just a Thursday night away, just a matter of being at the right place at the right time. That place of course being yet another darkened lounge playing the same relentlessly funky jams and filled with people who manage to simultaneously seem completely unique and uniform. Fun is what it was. So much fun that I had it coming out of my ears so that it stopped being fun – like being made to laugh continuously without being able to stop or tickled for hours on end. Our standards and rules created ever finer distinctions. Before I got to New York, I had not fully appreciated the Eddie Murphy character in Boomerang who rejects a woman because her feet have cones. With the benefit of hindsight and at a distance, I now realise that I was actually having an almost sexual relationship with the city itself. I desired it as it was reflected in all the people I used to spend time with. Proof came when I left the city for London with my mobile phone holding hundreds of numbers. A few weeks after settling in London, I scrolled through these numbers and could not recognise two-thirds of them and had no desire to speak to more than a handful. Yet these other strangers were people I had spent many hours with, shared all manner of experiences, slept with some and argued with others. But it was really never about them as much as it was about being in love with the city that forced them into the same lounge I was in or even into my bed. The city demanded fidelity and very rarely gave anything that did not sharpen your appetite for its other (waiting) charms.
When my friend and his girlfriend decided to get married, it was an act of rebellion. It could only have succeeded once they removed themselves from their relationship with New York, which they did since they now live in Washington DC. He threw off ‘standards and rules’ which allowed him I think to see that these never had the ability to help him find his bride who is so much more than what he had thought he wanted when we were in Fort Green. His asking me to be best man forced me to turn away from the language that we had honed for so long since it could scarcely help digest the course he had chosen for himself. And what has been so great about it in the last year is realising progressively that our friendship which most people who know us would think is entirely based on partying was filled with all this other good stuff which had been getting built parallel to our life of tequila shots and thong analysis.
The wedding had about 80 people and was very simple. I got to be MC and so spent most of the day stressed that I was going to drop a clanger and be forever damned. I did drop several but I think only a few people noticed them. The more I think of it and our previous friendship as single men in NYC – since we are now in a different place – the thing that makes me happiest for him is that he has looked within himself for what he wants and not allowed external standards and rules to make the decision for him. I suspect something special happened to me this past Saturday as well but time will tell, for now though I know it was one of the happier days of my life.