There have been a few hundred bad movies and a few dozen decent ones written about the different ways men and women relate to marriage.
By and large, they all say the same thing: Women are hopelessly excited about it and men are hopelessly nervous about it, even when the marriage is not their own.
But they never explain the reason this is true, which is that, it turns out, women make relatively terrible friends, whereas men are more or less dogs (in virtually any sense, but especially in that they are loyal).
Pick any woman you know. Think about her two or three best friends. Most likely, at some point, they have been in a protracted disagreement that caused them to temporarily end their friendship. This disagreement most likely involved one of two things:
1) The rights to a boy.
(Example: Jan can’t believe that Donna would send a flirty text message to Steve when she clearly knew that Jan had been to the Tasty Freeze with Steve last weekend).
2) The rights to attention from others.
(Example: Donna is livid that on her birthday, Jan decided to announce she wanted to break up with Steve, causing the rest of the party-goers to focus on Jan’s hardship, rather than Donna’s celebration).
What started as a simple slight or (possible) miscommunication became a verbal struggle involving totally unrelated epithets designed to bombard each other’s self-image. The only remorse expressed between the two was quickly followed by an excuse for the offending behavior which doubled as an attempt to swing the emotional attention back on the apologizer’s side.
This lasted from three to 12 weeks.
Now, this is not to say men don’t get into disagreements. But it is to say that men on both sides of the disagreement prefer to end the disagreement as quickly as possible, in order to resume the friendship. There are many strategies for this, including:
1) A fistfight.
2) Just dropping it forever.
3) A rhetorical compromise.
(Example: “Hey, man, I’m just saying that if you’re gonna drink my protein powder, just ask me about it first,” which really means, “You’d better stay out of my protein, and you know that, but I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”)
I’m speaking in generalities, of course. But I’m getting to a point. And my point is that all of this is the reason men and women approach marraige differently.
Ultimately, women are subconsciously trying to get away from their friends and men are consciously trying to hang on to them.
This is what I realized in watching my two best friends, Lance Hill and John Tanksley, get married this summer.
For any of this to make sense, you have to realize that no man will ever be ready to get married without an outside stimulus.
By that, what I really mean is that no man will realize he is ready to get married without an outside stimulus. This is because when men think of ourselves as married, we think of ourselves as being mature, settled, successful, secure. We imagine buying an engagement ring with cash. We imagine having a three-bedroom house with a Suburban in the garage. We imagine wearing suits to work, and being (pseudo)-important. We imagine being able to grow awesome facial hair.
More than that, we imagine having it all out of our system — the fart jokes, the video games, the punching each other in the chest, the burnouts in the parking lots. We think at some point, that’ll all be over.
But it never is. That’s where the outside stimulus comes in.
If we waited until after our last (hilarious) fart on a crowded elevator, until the last time we felt the urge to test the handling capabilities of our girlfriend’s Taurus, the last time we watched something on TV strictly because it involved cleavage, we’d never get married.
For men, getting married isn’t about being grown up, because we never grow up. It’s about realizing we will never grow up, and finding a woman who is OK with our particular flavor of immaturity.
That is my best friend, John, and his new wife, Brittany. They got married in Buffalo, New York in June, which was about 1,000 years before I thought John would get married.
I was not ready for John to get married. And I wasn’t ready for my friend Lance, who got married Saturday in Chicago, to get married either. This is to say nothing of the women they married, who are both delightful. It is to say a lot about the male psyche, or at least mine.
A lot is made of the father of the bride and the giving away of his daughter, which is both figurative and literal. But it isn’t the same for the groom. His father doesn’t cry when he sees his son take a woman. It isn’t bittersweet. It’s just right. He’s doing what he is supposed to do, starting his own little empire in his own name. It feels that way to men.
What nobody realizes it that it is really the groom’s friends who give him away. It is the groom’s friends who have to reconcile with the reality that the wolfpack is disbanding, that they aren’t 16 or 19 or 22 anymore, that this kid they’ve been farting on is going to have to take on some real responsibility. He won’t be able to come play Madden until 5 a.m. anymore. It’s not that they’re losing him, any more than a dad loses his daughter, it’s just that he isn’t just theirs anymore.
No matter how long it takes, it always seems sudden. Marriage is one of those life events that just finds you. You’re sitting on a bad couch with a video game controller in your hand and an oversized burrito in your belly, when it knocks on the door. It’s time. High school graduation is that way. Moving away from home is that way. Getting a real job is that way*.
*As a sportswriter, I can only assume this is true.
All of it is exciting and new and terrifying and necessary all at the same time.
Even though it came at John and Lance and me and the rest of the guys in what seemed like no time, it was time.
The following documents the occasions:
Another key element is having one exceptionally aggressive dancer in the group. In this case, it was John’s brother, James, who was easily the best nude male dancer at this party.
Sometimes, it can get a little racy.
The point of this exercise was that, every inch up Rachel’s leg I slid the garter (which I had caught) represented some amount of time John and Brittany would be married. As such, they will be married for, “just short of public indecency,” however long that is. Hopefully at least as long as I’m on parole.
One of the best parts is watching the boquet toss vs. the garter toss. It is not uncommon for the garter to just land on the floor and get scooped up by some unwitting toddler.
Now that is has all happened, I’ve realized that my best friends as married men really aren’t any different than they were as single men. They’re a little more predictable, I suppose. And it’s gonna take a little more planning for us to get together to punch each other in the chest, or whatever else we used to do, but that would have been the case anyway. But so far, my relationship with them hasn’t changed because of it, and I don’t think it will.
If this seems surprising, it’s because it would make a terrible movie.