As I write this something is happening, about which I should be happy… But I’m not.
Someone I care very deeply for, is experiencing, what his hopefully, the best day of her life, the fulfillment of a long standing desire, the beginning of a whole new phase of her existence. She’s getting everything she wanted and I should be thrilled for her. …for her. For her, I suppose I am happy, it’s just really hard to see. That happiness, for her is grossly eclipsed by the sadness and the loss that I feel for myself. It’s over-shadowed by the selfishness I’m feeling and it’s completely drowned out by the disgust I feel for myself for feeling this way.
My dearest, closest friend, in all the world, is getting married right now and I’m not there and I’m not happy.
For a long time, I thought I might be in love with Heather, or at least could be, given half a chance. She’s the only woman I’ve ever felt that way about and for a time, when I first accepted I was gay, I thought she was the exception to the rule. Like, somehow, if she was only in love with me, gender and genitalia wouldn’t matter to me, we could be happy and live a long beautiful life together. Who knows, that might even be true, but she isn’t in love with me and never has been.
In recent times I’ve learned a few things about myself and my life. I’ve come to realize that my feelings about Heather are based in something else entirely. I do love Heather and I believe she does love me, but the reasons for that love aren’t based in romance or physical attraction. I won’t presume to speak to what her feelings are based in, I can only speak about my own. Heather is unlike anyone I have ever known, and the reason that my relationship with her has been so important, so vital to my existence, isn’t because we’re soul mates, it isn’t because we’re meant to be together, it isn’t because she’s my “one true love”. The reason our relationship has been so important is because of who I am when we’re together.
Heather is the only person in my life who has wanted to know me. She’s the only person who has paid attention and made the effort to get in, to break through the walls. Heather is insightful. She knows when I’m not being honest, even with myself and she pushes me to dig deeper. Heather is the only person I’ve ever known who has never judged me nor condemned me, never made me feel like I was “less than”, always encouraged me and accepted me exactly where I was and for exactly who I was. There are things about my relationship with Heather that are nearly impossible to put into words. When I’m around Heather I feel like a better person. When I’m with Heather I don’t fear being honest (or at least not as much as I do all the rest of the time.) With Heather, I feel like I’m “enough”. With Heather, it’s OK for me to be who I am, how I am, where I am, and however I feel. In Heather’s eyes, I’m worthy, just because I’m me.
The thing is, when I’m with Heather and someone else all of that disappears and I’m the same fearful, insecure, unwanted, unworthy, closed off, walled up man that I am all the rest of the time.
When I moved to California twelve years ago, I thought I’d never see Heather again. I didn’t know that her Grandparents lived relatively local to my current location and that she came to visit them every year the week of Thanksgiving. So when she called me the first year and asked if I wanted to get together with her, I was ecstatic and jumped at the opportunity. I spent much of the day with her, her infant son and her parents, which was fine because I know and like her parents. We had dinner at her Grandparent’s house and after she and I were able to go off alone together and spend the evening, just the two of us. It was great and I was just sorry that it couldn’t happen more often. Every year since, I have gone to San Jose the day after Thanksgiving to hang out with Heather, and at least part of the day, some portion of her family. Some years it was even just the two of us.
Heather met Joe several years ago and she fell pretty hard for him. She would come with her family for her annual trips to visit the Grandparents and while Joe stayed behind, they texted and telephoned pretty regularly. Heather spoke frequently and fondly about Joe. She told me all about him, sparing very few details and giving the bad with the good. I didn’t like him. I was sure this was a short term thing, it couldn’t possibly last. The important thing was that we were getting our one day a year together.
Four years ago, Joe came to California with Heather. She wanted him to meet her Grandparents. She wanted him to meet me and for me to meet him. She wanted to show him the sites in California. Suddenly, our one day a year, some portion of which would be just the two of us, was gone. I didn’t have any alone time with my best friend. Joe had the nerve to be a nice and likeable enough guy, which pissed me off immensely, but it didn’t change the fact that he was in the way. Suddenly, I had to share Heather with him and that was not cool. But Heather told me that they planned an every other year arrangement where he would come out with her one year and stay home the next, so all was not lost, we’d still have some alone time. This arrangement didn’t sound especially permanent to me and I was OK with that. Likeable or not, Joe was in my way and I was having a hard time accepting that.
Joe didn’t come to California the next year, but he did come the year after that. The following June (2009), he asked Heather to marry him and a count down to my worst fear was realized. I’m afraid things will never be the same between Heather and me again.
It wasn’t financially or logistically possible for me to be at the wedding. I didn’t have the money to pay for air fare, let alone a rental car and/or hotel. I could have stayed with my mother, but frankly, I didn’t want to, and even if I did, I couldn’t be sure that I’d have access to her car today. My only reason for being there would be Heather’s wedding, at which I would probably get all of five minutes to talk to her and the rest of the time, I’d be all alone, with no one I know to talk to. It just wasn’t feasible and Heather swears she understands and doesn’t mind. What we haven’t talked about, though I truly believe she also knows, is that it’s too hard for me. Weddings are not, in my mind, the joyous events that everyone makes them out to be. Weddings, for a bride and groom, are the start of something new and hopefully wonderful. For everyone else, weddings are the end of something. I’ve seen it happen more than once. People with whom, I felt I was close, had a one on one relationship with, meet someone and fall in love, get married and suddenly everything changes.
Weddings are an end. They are an end of individuality, an end of freedom, an end of independence. Maybe I’d feel differently about that if I were the one losing (or giving up) all those things, but as a third party who is none the less effected by that end… Well, I don’t like it. Women are worse than men, but when a person gets married, she is no longer an “I”, suddenly she’s a “we” and it doesn’t even matter how you, the third party, feel about it:
Me: Hey, it’s me! I’m in town for a couple days, thought you might like to get together for dinner or something?
Her: Yeah, that sounds great! Let me just check and see when we’re free.
Notice that “Me” didn’t ask if “you two” would like to get together. But it doesn’t matter what “Me” wanted because “Her” only hears “you two” even when “only you” is what “Me” meant.
And there’s something else. I’ve never been to a wedding where I wasn’t jealous. I know, that’s terrible for me to say, but it’s true. Weddings mean love, and happiness, and acceptance, and joy, and support… And I don’t get any of that. Never have, never will. And that was all when I thought I was straight and “allowed” to get married. NOW… Now, all of that is out of the question! And wrong as it may be of me, I can’t find it in me to be joyful about someone else’s blessed event when I’ll never have one of my own. I’m not just hurting and sad because this day is a reminder of what I’ve never felt worthy of, but now I’m bitter too, because even if I were worthy, I’m simply not allowed… Not that any of that is Heather’s fault and I’m not blaming her, but the simple reality is it doesn’t matter who’s wedding it is, the implication is all the same.
This wedding is what Heather wanted. This man—this life is what she’s set her sights on for quite some time now, and the fact is, I am happy for her. I just wish I was strong enough to let that be enough and I hate the fact that I’m not, that I’m being so selfish as to not be able to set aside my own feelings and be joyful. I’m angry that the pain and misery I’m feeling about this is so strong, so powerful that I can’t experience anything else.
And there’s more. There’s so much