Here’s the thing about the internet (okay, okay one of many things, but this is the thing I’m talking about):
A lot of people use this infinite void of social media, listicles and clickbait to fill their egos, seek validation, or, as I have both witnessed and have caught myself doing, for throwing epic pity parties.
I want to share with you a story. It’s a story I have been hesitant to write because, well, I don’t want it to feel like a pity party. I never wanted the reader to feel sorry for me. It’s not a “woe is me” story, but it’s an important one, and so is one I have to to tell. Why? Because, and I kid you not, the experience relayed in the kick off to my whole “Self-Help-Vision-Board-Self-Worth-Self-Love” journey. You know that cliché, “Everything happens for a reason”? Well, there might just be some truth to that. So bear with me here. I’m going to go ahead and really open up. I want you, the reader, to know how little I once valued myself, and the crap I was once willing to tolerate because of it. The crap I have no time for anymore. Have I figured it all out? Hell no. I am still a mess (I’m human) and am still trying to excel in this course called life. I’m still, and always will be, a student of life. But this particular experience was truly an eye opener for me.
It starts the way all great stories start: I was the best man at a wedding.
The honor. The prestige. The role. THE ROLE. A childhood friend had asked me to be his best man and the time, I was living out in Oregon. He (and the wedding) was in New Jersey. Did the distance from coast to coast even cross my mind at the time? Obviously not. I was wanted! Needed, even! Honestly, I put zero thought to what was signing up for before I said yes. There were about 2,800 miles between us, but I figured, meh, I’ll deal with it when I have to. Well, I was stupid. And even with that mileage gap, it wasn’t enough to mitigate the amount of complete lunacy it turned out I signed up for.
Here’s the thing. This friend I had already been growing apart before I was asked. Not out of resentment, not out of bitterness, but simply because time was passing. We were becoming our authentic selves and well, those selves were becoming different, evolving separately. And that’s okay. That happens all the time. However, what I began to sense was a desperation from his part, clinging on to nostalgia, and thereby dragging me into what ultimately became more a circus than a wedding.
The closer the wedding came, the more apparent it became that we were drastically different. Not only different from the kids we used to be, but different from each other—incompatibly so. It was starting to get awkward. It was becoming such a chore. But what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t back out—not now. I couldn’t risk offending someone!
A few weeks before his wedding, I threw an enormous birthday party for myself in the city. The soon to be wedded couple did not come. I found this odd. It was at a gay sports bar and friends from all corners of my life showed up to celebrate. It was actually a fantastic night. Believe me, I rarely ever throw parties, let alone for myself, but, it was wild, fun, and so cool to see so many people in my life come together under the same roof.
So many people except for the friend who was supposed to value me above all other friends. I was the best man in his wedding, for goodness sake! Needless to say, I was hurt and downright confused when he didn’t show up.
Then, the bachelor party. Yes, that time-honored tradition. I had put together a little something, as I thought was my role in this wedding. Another friend, however, had other ideas, took complete control of the situation, and my duties of best man-who-plans-bachelor-party were completely lost. So we ended up at a strip club. How original. And my friend and his soon-to-be father-in-law each got a lap dance—side by side. Talk about zero boundaries. Barf city. Later in the night, while my friend and I sat next to each other watching two girls go at it on a pole, he turned to me and said, “Is this what gay bars are like?” Oh god. Gay strip clubs but, yes, but, I don’t think it’s the standard for anyone in any bar—gay or straight—to walk around in the nude.
Suffice it to say, the whole situation was just odd. And, yet again afraid to rock the boat, I said very little. Until I asked if I could bring a date.
This conversation was bananas. I—the best man—asked if I could bring a date to my supposed close friend’s wedding. One would think that my bringing a date was a given. One would think wrong. Instead, I was told seating arrangements have already been made. I was told that only “serious” relationships were catered towards. I said I would pay for my date and call the venue and arrange to have a chair added. I was then told that this wedding was not about me. By this point, I had begun to put the pieces together and figure out what the real issue was. When I asked if this sudden reluctance to let a best man bring a date to a wedding was because I was gay, he confirmed my suspicion saying, “It would be a little tense if you brought a guy.”
Disheartened and crushed, I had to accept that it wasn’t that he didn’t want me to bring a date. The truth was, he didn’t want me to bring a guy as a date.
I ended up continuing my duties as best man, even though I didn’t feel very “best man-ly” anymore. I couldn’t back out now or else I would have been signing up for drama for years to come. I think?
I was a godawful night. Truth be told, I actually left right after the reception. The next morning, my newly married friend texted me asking if he could get a copy of my best man’s speech.
Guys, it was just flat out ridiculous.
We have not spoken since this wedding. I have since heard that the happy couple have a gotten a divorce.
But that’s not the important part. Here’s why I wanted to share this with you.
I was treated like crap and at the time, and I was okay with it. I let it happen. Being kind, being forgiving, having spiritual values is great, really it is, but it can also come with this fun bonus that someone else MIGHT take advantage of you. Why wouldn’t they? You let them! “Yea, ask Rob, Rob will just do it.”
Looking back, I should have just said no. I know that now. However, I am damn proud of myself that I went through that shark tank ALONE. What I would have done for a shoulder to lean on during the entire ordeal. I mean, it wasn’t all rotten—some of the other guests were lovely—but Bridezilla and Butthead McGee were the central pieces of misery and unfortunately, were my main connections to the whole fiasco.
I could sit here all day and fill in other pieces to this story (this is just the tip of the iceberg), but I don’t want to lose you. Instead, here are some important things I have learned from this experience, though it’s taken me a few years to really understand:
1) You, yes you, do NOT deserve to be treated like the extra, the role player, the expendable side character. I was the best man and treated like a doormat.
2) Speak up. Sometimes people don’t know how hurtful or their words or actions are. Hence, why some people continue to be so hurtful—they don’t KNOW that they are being assholes. I left the wedding and wasn’t asked where I went. Hard to believe, but I promise you, some people are so oblivious. To this day, I don’t think what happened was out of malice. I don’t think the intentions were, “How can we make Rob miserable at our wedding?” But, when you’re dealing with self-absorbed people, if you care about the outcome at all, it might be up to you to at least attempt to bring them back to reality.
3) Holding on to friendships that are now dead is a terrible idea. Yes, people come and people go, people change, some people don’t, relationships strengthen, relationships weaken, life is all about flow. It’s okay to be sad that a friendship has faded away—it doesn’t mean that the friendship itself wasn’t important and necessary in the time that it thrived. Some people come back into your life, some people you never see again. You do have a lot of power in this one. You have some control who you want in your life. Once you start forcing the relationship, however, you are destined for problems. I was on the receiving end of this and it sucked. It felt weird. It like completely wrong. Like, it wasn’t meant to be.
In the end, if you take nothing else away, remember this: trust and LISTEN to your gut. It’s typically right. I was not listening to my gut at all. I was the Yea-sayer when I should have been the Naysayer.
I feel like “love yourself” has become such a buzzword. Well, let me tell you a little something about only ONE part of self love. Self love is feeling confident and comfortable establishing a boundaries. As the great blogger Mark Groves once said…”Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach where the door is.”
Here’s to learning how to establish healthy boundaries 🙂