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 Three weeks ago, I served as a groomsman at the wedding of one of my closest friends. It was one of the more memorable weekends of my adult life, and to commemorate it, and to congratulate (and horrify) my friend Matt, this and next week’s columns are devoted to it.

For years, people have told me how weddings, for single groomsmen, are one step removed from a college frat-bar meat market. “Oh, Will, people always hook up at weddings,” they tell me. “And they especially love dateless groomsmen.”

I never believed them, mainly because I’d never seen it. At most Midwestern weddings I’ve attended, everyone either already had dates or was married. There were never enough single people to go around. Plus, it would seem that members of the wedding party would just be too busy to have a fling at a wedding. I mean, I’ve got groomsmen duties to perform. There are pictures to pose for, and, um, er, … alcohol to drink, and, uh, … you know, all the other stuff that groomsmen have responsibility for. Besides, with my recent breakup still lingering, and the confusion and depression not having dissipated, the last thing I wanted was any excess female contact. It has been all I can do not to start any conversations with women these days by saying, “Hi. My name is Will. I am a human. I respond to logic, reason, and external stimuli. My life view will be the same in five minutes as it is right now. Please, tell me about your species.”

But people told me to just sit tight. “They’ll find you, Will. You’re a groomsman,” they told me. “People always hook up. Always.

And, would you believe it … they were right.


Setting: The reception at Matt’s wedding. I ended up sitting next to an attractive young woman at the front table. (She wasn't in the wedding party, which I had thought meant she couldn't sit at the head table, but no matter.) After a cursory discussion, I learned that she played tennis at a Midwestern university and was the best friend of the bride’s sister. We ended up talking about collegiate tennis — which I covered when I worked at the Daily Illini — and had a nice enough time, though I thought little of it. I was just concerned the bar would run out of Dewar’s.

After dinner, I told her it was a pleasure to meet her and went downstairs for the first dance. As I tend to do, being the Wacky Groomsman, I danced a wacky jig with the mother of the bride, coiling her round-and-round until she vomited on the tuba player, and then, out of nowhere, the tennis player butts in. OK. So we dance for a bit — I am a wretched dancer; I look like I am being pummeled by miniature, invisible railroad laborers — and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, right there on the dance floor, in front of God and everybody, she starts to kiss me.

I would have protested, but I was already quite drunk. Oh, and there was an attractive, athletic blonde in front of me. This lasted about two songs. Then, after I socialized a bit, she asked if I "wanted to go for a walk." I said, sure, air is good, walking stimulates circulation. So we went for a walk, and she started kissing me again. She then asked me what I was doing after the reception. Like everyone else in the wedding party, I said I was going back to our hotel. She smiled and looked me deep in the eye. "I'm coming home with you. I want to spend the night with you."


I did the rest of my wedding stuff, with this woman trailing behind the whole way. (Talking to a friend of mine the next day, I was told: "We were all sitting in the back watching you guys, thinking, 'Will has no chance. It's like she came here to attack someone, and she chose him. You were a Dead Man Dancing.'") At the end of the night, we all piled into the limo and headed back to the hotel, with just a brief stop at a bed-and-breakfast where the groom’s parents were staying. (They were next to us drunken kids in the limo, looking nervous while we passed around liquor bottles.)

The tennis player sat next to me, whispering things in my ear while propping her quite-muscular legs on my lap. The limo cruised on. She then pulled out her cell phone. I heard her call.

"Hi, it's [The Tennis Player]. Listen, I'm in a really bad position right now, and I'm not sure how to get out of it. I need someone to come pick me up. Can you do it? You can't? Oh, jeez. I dunno, I don't know how this happened."

Um …

I turned to her, quietly, and said, "[Tennis player], listen, I certainly didn't mean for you to be in a bad position. I, uh, kinda thought this was your idea. Seriously, you don't have to go anywhere or do anything. I'd be more than happy to tell the limo driver to go wherever you need to go. It’s really OK." She looked down, then made another phone call. Exact same conversation. Exact same result.

I repeated to her that the driver could take her wherever she needed to go. She remained silent.

We then arrived at the bed and breakfast. The groom’s parents said their goodbyes and exited. Then, right when the door was about to shut, the tennis player jumped out. Just like that. The limo then took off.

(I can't imagine what the groom’s parents thought of this. They leave a limo of drunken groomsmen and bridesmaids, and out hops a scared college girl, no idea where she is or where she's going. I must have looked like Charlie Sheen to them.)

And that was that. I went back to the hotel and became even more drunk, and I ended up even more depressed. I did not see her again.

So let's get this story correct: Will meets girl, she's really into him, she's all about Will, then, suddenly, with no warning, she just switches, decides she wants nothing to do with him, and vanishes.

It was like every relationship I've ever had, sped up really fast.



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