Always a Bridesmaid, Never the . . . Groom
Monday, June 30, 2008
The girl I loved married another man last summer. Their picturesque ceremony was on the lawn of a mansion overlooking the Manhattan skyline. I stood by her, as a bridesman.
"Do I have to wear a dress?" I questioned Sara after she asked me to be in her bridal party.
She laughed. Like the groomsmen, I would wear a navy suit, she said, but I would stand on her side.
Sara and I met five years ago at a recruitment dinner for prospective New York University graduate students. My plan was to spend the evening socializing with the professors who'd be deciding my admissions fate, but Sara had such an irresistible zeal that I spent the entire time chatting with her. We spoke often after that night and quickly fell in love.
I was her Will, she my Grace. We shared interests in theater, East Village wine bars and overpriced denim. When I had an emergency appendectomy, she was the first to show up at the hospital, even though she had the flu. We were both single and would go out to bars together. But she was a 26-year-old Jewish girl in Manhattan whose friends seemed to get engaged on a weekly basis. She didn't cruise for guys; she hunted for a husband.
Everything changed, though, after an Upper East Side party one late-October evening.
"I met the man I'm going to marry," Sara called to say at 8 a.m. that Saturday. His name was Ben, and he was sweet, cute and a really good dresser. Their first kiss was magical. "I know he's not gay!" she told me.
Ben was the stuff New York dating legends are made of. He was getting his doctorate in adolescent psychology, which meant he wasn't just going to be a Jewish doctor, he also liked kids. That information alone was enough to send Sara into ecstasy.
Three months after Sara began dating Ben, I nervously walked to the French bistro in the West Village to meet them for dinner. My mind raced: What if he didn't like me? Did she tell him I was gay and not competition? Was I competition? Will I be jealous when she leaves the restaurant with him, not me?
I stepped into the cafe and spotted them at a booth. When Ben stuck out his sweaty hand to greet me, I realized he was even more anxious than I was. His unease boosted my confidence: He was on trial here, not me. The conversation was awkward at first, but throughout dinner I was struck by how Ben looked at Sara like she was the most attractive and impressive woman. Clearly, Sara had found a man who liked her as much as I did, but also wanted her in a way I would not.
At home, I texted Sara so she wouldn't have to wait until morning for the verdict. "He's perfect," I wrote. I got into bed and wished I had someone at my side. In this supposed gay capital, my love life was nonexistent, and after an evening with my best friend and her boyfriend, I felt even more alone.
Ben proposed to Sara 2 1/2 years later, at the top of a cliff. When Sara called to tell me the news, she asked if I'd be a bridesmaid.