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 I have two weddings to attend this summer. It is fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of my old friendsí relationships, finding which friends settle into a single life and which ones eventually check their baggage at the door, cry uncle, and dive in.

The first one of my friends to get married was Kim. It was while we were still in college, to her longtime boyfriend whom sheíd begun dating her sophomore year of high school. It made perfect sense; Kim had always been a little more grownup than the rest of us, her husband-to-be was an engineering major with a bright career full of money and stability ahead of him, and neither of them had ever dated anyone else seriously. It was Mattoon. It was the next logical step.

I attended that wedding with the woman who darned near made me the second one of our friends to marry. That was almost six years ago. Lots of shitís happened since then.

It was not surprising when Andy, from Mattoon like Kim, became the next friend to fall, also to his high school girlfriend. The notion of high school sweethearts eventually becoming spouses has always been intriguing to me. It reminds me of what my mother told me when I asked her what made her realize that my father was the man she wanted to marry. She smiled weakly. ďHe had a nice car. I always liked guys who had nice cars.Ē If thatís all it takes, well, Iím clearly living in the wrong city. (Another funny story: I was telling a Midwestern friend of mine the other day that I knew this one guy here was rich because he ďhad a car.Ē I then explained you know someone is filthy rich, likely a millionaire, in New York City if he has a garage for his car. My friend paused. ďWill ... why the hell do you live there?Ē)

When I moved to St. Louis, every one of my friends was single. This single life is not to be confused with a Sex and the City standard of living. These people were not single because they couldnít commit or theyíd been burned too often by love. They were single because ... well, because there was apparently no one to marry. They didnít really date anybody because there wasnít much opportunity. They just watched baseball games or sat in a dark tavern booth discussing ERA, OPS, or WHIP. They were passive, sweet-hearted folks who seemed amazed that a girl had ever really been a part of my life at all. After the nuclear winter of the end of my engagement, these were exactly the type of people I wanted to hang out with. No one ever hosted dinner parties or brought their significant other to the bar. We just drank and talked and watched sports and held off adulthood as long as we could.

And then I moved to New York, leaving my comfortable, calm, and chill friends behind — after eventually becoming the guy who messed the whole thing up by bringing girls to our bull sessions — and failed in repeated attempts to get settled. Next thing I knew ... every single one of those close friends told me they had met someone, it was really special, you gotta meet her/him ... and then it was announced they were gonna get married, canít wait to see you at the wedding, so on, so forth, weíre off.

It amazed me. It was like they were all waiting for me to leave so they could grow up. (ďOK, Leitch is gone. Time to quit acting like weíre 12. Maybe we should vacuum or something.Ē) Two of the Big Four St. Louis friends were married last fall. The other two go down this summer. While Iíve been in suspended animation in New York, they just kept on living and, next thing you know, they were buying houses, carting in furniture that didnít once belong to their great aunt in Pittsburgh, and yelling at the neighbor kids for playing their music so loud at 10 p.m., which is really fucking late goddammitwegottagotoworktomorrow.

I was discussing what married life was like with one of those Big Two the other day. She pointed out that single people just talk to you differently when youíre married, like youíve just added a third arm coming out of your back and are permanently changed. And itís true. The notion of marriage becomes a little less foreign by the day, but itís still way outside of my frame of reference. Most of my friends donít even date and wouldnít know how to pick up a girl at a bar if she was a robot specifically programmed to hit on them. If I had a married friend here in the city, thatís probably all Iíd talk to them about. (ďUh, Paul ... about that third arm.Ē)

And my two friends getting married this summer — theyíre among the least likely two. I figured Iíd get married before they did, and I donít even own a credit card. Theyíre both marrying women Iím fond of, one I know better than the other, but both are certainly worthy of marrying the really cool people they're ending up with. Their weddings will be joyous occasions, where we will all drink and bask in revelry and act like college kids playing dressup. And then, when theyíre over, the happy couples will go to their homes and pay mortgages and send thank-you cards and eventually (no! no!) start thinking about (gasp!) children. And I will go back to my cheap apartment and make sure I can afford cat food.

The question remains: Would I want to get married? Is that something I see myself doing? I am from the Midwest. It is ingrained. Iíve got quite a bit of growing up to do, and my history isnít exactly a shining advertisement for the institution, but I do believe in love — and that special person who means everything. That sounds sappy. It is sappy. I donít care. Mock me if you will. But mortgages and thank-you cards and all that ... Iím not ready for that. Who is?

When I go to the first wedding over Memorial Day, I will be looking to continue a most peculiar streak. Every wedding Iíve been to since I was in Kimís wedding party, when they gather all the single guys on the dance floor to catch the garter that the groom throws ... Iíve caught it every time. Iím 6-for-6 lifetime. The guys Iíve been around at weddings — they donít attach any significance to the event. Itís just another excuse for us to flap our dicks around, blocking each other out, acting all macho, like itís one more competition. But itís a competition I win every time. I mean, 6-for-6! Letís see Barry Bonds touch that.

Iím told whoever catches the garter is supposed to be the next person to get married. Maybe I might want to look into getting a credit card first.



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