Finally I sent him a message, asking if he wanted to take a walk.
I’d love to, he responded. But I’m going to a wedding today.
I texted the first thing that entered my mind: Do you need a plus one?
There was some hemming and hawing on his end. I wouldn’t know anyone, wouldn’t it be awkward?
It wouldn’t, I said, and meant it.
Then he texted his address. Can you be here in 20 minutes?
I threw on a dress and went.
When I arrived at his house, he hugged me hello and poured me a glass of water. “Do me a favor,” he said. “Don’t mention it’s our first date at the wedding, okay? I want to save some face.”
“It’ll be our secret,” I said.
We drove downtown and picked up a couple, friends of his. As we chatted together, I realized that my date and I knew a lot about each other. All of that texting had provided a wealth of history. There was an ease to our interactions, a conspiratorial energy to every movement. Even so, it was strange to meet someone in person … and then immediately meet his friends.
Once we arrived and began to mingle, I realized that every conversation with one of my date’s friends unlocked a smile and some comment about what a great guy he was.
This was a wedding of his tightly knit high school friend group, and I began to feel like I was a guest star on a sit-com. It was like a full immersion course in my date’s life. I met his friends’ parents, who shared stories of long-ago water balloon fights; I met the guys who had gotten him through breakups and played softball alongside him all through school; he didn’t mention it, but I’m guessing I met some of the women he broke up with. I felt at ease in my date’s presence, but meeting so many people who loved him gave me an extra dose of security.
My date and I moved seamlessly through the crowd, working the wedding like a team. He introduced me to a friend, recently divorced from one of the bridesmaids, who was drinking as if his life depended on it. “You can share my date,” he said, laughing.
I made friends with the girlfriends and wives, who dragged me into the photo booth. Once the dancing started, I took to the floor with the kids, including one boy who wouldn’t dance with me until I agreed to show him my moves. (Apparently, they passed muster.) A square-dancing guest twirled me so hard that my dress snuck down and I had to yank it back over my strapless bra, hoping that no one had noticed. I couldn’t remember when I’d had so much fun.
I noticed my date’s recently divorced friend at the bar and asked him to dance. “Baby Got Back” came through the speakers and he came alive, grinding in time with the music. After the dance, he kissed me on the forehead. “That was just what I needed,” he said, and went back to the bar.
“Grab that special someone and head to the dance floor,” the DJ said. For a moment, I felt like I had as a kid when I had to get off the ice for couple’s skate. But then my date appeared, smelling faintly of celebratory cigars, and took me in his arms. We slow danced like it was normal for us to be on a date together, like we’d danced many times before. A few minutes later, I cried as the groom danced with all of his female relatives — a gesture to honor his mother, who had passed away. I’m not generally one to cry at weddings, much less those of people I’ve just met. My date noticed my sniffing and passed me a napkin.
It’s easy for a wedding to feel like a reminder of what I don’t have, and what I want. But that night, my date and I borrowed each other, providing the perfect antidote to wedding blues. Unlike those weddings you might attend with an established partner, I wasn’t anxious that he might propose, or wondering if I was with the right person at all. I wasn’t tempted to find a quiet corner and sigh about being single. Instead, I gave myself permission to live in the moment, on my impulsive adventure. The stakes were low, but the returns were high. I enjoyed the event for what it was: a party, a reason to get dressed up and celebrate that love still exists.
My date and I didn’t fall in love. Our story ended, without any drama, a few weeks later. But I’ll always be grateful for his willingness to take a chance and bring a stranger to a wedding. That night, as he dropped me off at my car, he beamed from ear to ear. “Best first date ever,” he said.
And it was.