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  LIFE AS A LOSER #118: "LEAVING IT ALL AT THE ALTAR."  
   
   
 

 Did any of you ever go to summer camp when you were a kid? Could anything beat summer camp? For anywhere from one week to two months, whomever you were at home — whether you were the youngest squirt in a family of eight, a baseball-card-collecting dork with no friends, or just a regular kid looking for a change of pace — none of that mattered. You could completely reinvent yourself because you were with people who didn’t know you from Adam.

Your friends at camp weren’t the type of people you usually hung out with; they were just the guys who happened to be staying in your cabin, or the guys you were assigned to activities with. As far as they knew, you were the most popular guy at your grade school. You could actually be cool, for a week or so.

My friend Matt got married about a month ago, and his wedding was about as close to summer camp as this adult’s gonna get. On the grownup hand, everything was gorgeous, the bride looked ravishing, the food was fantastic, the reception was at this vineyard with a stunning, picturesque vista, or something. On the other hand, it was one big huge tequila-soaked party. That’s my kind of wedding.

***

Bill is in some sort of sales. He went into greater detail about what exactly he does the night of the rehearsal dinner, but it was loud in the bar and I couldn’t really understand him. He spent a lot of time on his cell phone, though, talking about accounts payable and end-of-the-month sales goals and quotas and dammit, JoAnn, just file the papers, file the freaking papers. Bill is an excellent golfer, nearly bald, and lives in Philadelphia.

Tyson is about to get engaged, I think. I’m told he’s in a serious relationship, and it’s only a matter of time. I couldn’t tell you what he does for a living. Something with computers, maybe. Tyson is a terrible golfer, even worse than me, is rather tall, and lives in Washington, D.C.

That pretty much sums up all the personal information I have on each. Oh, and Bill has this really wacky father who wears plaid sports jackets, writes books on the Kennedy wives, and actually tells knock-knock jokes with a straight face. And I know both Bill and Tyson went to Davidson College, a small school in North Carolina, with my friend Matt.

And for four days, Bill and Tyson were as close of friends as I’ve ever had.

Bill and Tyson were the other two groomsmen. Matt’s brother was the best man. (Isn’t meeting lifelong friends’ siblings a fascinating experience? If my friend Matt had chucked the corporate life and became a long-haired schoolteacher in Austin, he’d be his brother. It was like Bizarro Matt.) But he brought a date, and, as tends to be the case, he was preoccupied with her most of the weekend. (Matt’s brother aside, considering his girlfriend was pretty and nice, I ask, why do we bother bringing casual dates to weddings? They’re always more trouble than they’re worth.) Bill and Tyson were dateless, like me. So, essentially, it was summer camp. Three dudes, with everything paid for, with endless fountains of alcohol, dressed up real nice and ready to stir up some shit.

Whatever you do when you’re home, when you’re thrust into the decadently formal chaos of being a groomsman at an out-of-town wedding, the normal rules of engagement no longer apply. It’s a world of endless free booze, attractive women in tight, sparkly dresses, and everyone in a raucous, joyous mood. The outside world doesn’t matter anymore.

And it was basically the three of us. Matt was busy, you know, getting married, so we were on our own. Almost immediately, it was us against the world. There was a wedding going on around us, but we were in our own world: three guys, drinkin’, talking girls, sharing old stories about the groom like we’d known each other forever.

We picked enemies, whether they deserved it or not. The ushers at the wedding were the brides’ friends, not the groom’s, and we, not to put too fine a point on it, found them insufferable weenies, total snot-nosed wimpy kids whom we ultimately labeled “The Yahoos.” We joked about which bridesmaids were the hottest. We sucked tequila shots off the table. We sat in the corner and snidely mocked anyone, really, who wasn’t us. Because we were the only cool ones.

It had the feel of a locker room. To be honest, it was a lot like a sports team, actually, to the point where we even started using sports clichés to describe what made us such excellent groomsmen. We talked about “giving 110 percent, ‘cause that’s all you can give” and “leaving it all out there on the altar.” We stayed up late and yammered every night. All we were missing was towel snapping.

Hanging out with Bill and Tyson helped me to understand why people join fraternities. Just a bunch of dudes, causing trouble, being guys.

***

The night before the wedding, after the rehearsal dinner, the entire wedding party shambled over to a nearby watering hole and commenced more heavy drinking. Bill and Tyson settled in with a group of attractive women, of course, and I caught my friend Matt’s eye. After a few shots of tequila, we decided to go upstairs and play Golden Tee, that video golf game popular among balding white men. But it was taken. So we sat down, grabbed a beer, and, the night before his wedding, talked for about two hours, man to man. When we both lived in St. Louis, we were the two single dorks, with no girls around, ever. And here he was, almost a married man.

You know that point when your friends make that leap into true happiness? When they put themselves in a position where you know they’ve got it, they have it all figured out? When they become a man? That was Matt that night. I’d never seen a guy just beam like that. It was all he could do not to start jumping up and down, twirling about, hollering, “I’m getting married tomorrow! To her! Me! Woooo!”

It was really something to see. I felt honored to have the opportunity.

***

Ultimately, the wedding came and went, we all drank, I had the strange experience with a tennis player, and we folded into the hotel room. I was quite intoxicated and, thanks to my recent breakup, rather depressed.

OK, a lot depressed. By the end of the night, with Tyson, Bill, Bill’s wedding hookup, and another friend in the room, I had decided to lie down on the floor between the air conditioner and the bed because “I didn’t deserve to be anywhere but on the floor, like the pathetic worm I am.” Many of my friends would have left me there, or tried to reason with me, or told me about how they’d had troubles with women too. Not Tyson. He walked over, blurted, “Jeezus, Will, get up. Christ.” And I did, and we talked for three hours, and he pulled me out of it, and the Groomsmen reigned triumphant again.

The next day, everybody left to go back to their lives. I shook Bill’s hand, then Tyson’s. I made them promise to invite me to their weddings, eventually. I’m sure they won’t. I’d be surprised if I ever see either of them again, to be honest. But, for one weekend, we were the Three Groomsmen. We left it all out there at the altar. We pushed ourselves to be the best. And we drank. Oh, how we drank.

Perhaps this whole column has the feel of a postcard, a note containing nothing but in-jokes that only those involved would understand. That’s fine. That’s the way it should be. That’s summer camp.

See you next summer! Make sure to write! Good luck in homeroom!

 

*BT*

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