A bridesmaid's lament

Doesn't friendship deserve some fanfare, too?

By Carrie English
June 12, 2011

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The third time I was a bridesmaid (I’ve been one two more times since then), I was sea foam with envy.

It was the wedding of one of my college roommates, who, in addition to being a dead ringer for Uma Thurman, has a PhD in neuroscience and the world’s sweetest disposition.

In the vows they wrote, the bride and groom gushed about how lucky they were to have found someone who loved them unconditionally – someone who made anyplace home – someone who was their best friend. And I stood there under the flower-covered gazebo thinking: “Why not me?”

You’re probably guessing I had a crush on the groom. Or that I was feeling bitter because my boyfriend’s priorities were his shot-glass collection and his Wii, while my biological clock was ticking loudly enough to summon the bomb squad. Or that I was feeling bad about spending Saturday nights with my cats.

Actually, I was thinking: “She loves me unconditionally. The house we shared always felt like home. And I thought we were best friends.”

Surely I can’t be the only person who feels like weddings are a bit of a rejection – two people announcing in public that they love each other more than they love you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love weddings. I really do. I may not have a serious boyfriend right now, but I’m still a red-blooded American woman; I can spend hours happily debating wrist corsages versus pin corsages, Vera Wang versus Monique Lhuillier. (The fact that I can spell “Monique Lhuillier” proves my point.) How could anyone dislike a custom that involves dressing up, eating cake, and dancing to Journey?

But there’s no denying that weddings change friendships forever. Priorities have been declared in public. She’ll be there for him in sickness and in health, till death do they part. She’ll be there for you on your birthday or when he has to work late.

Being platonically dumped wouldn’t be so bad if people would acknowledge you have the right to be platonically heartbroken. But it’s just not part of our vocabulary. However much our society might pay lip service to friendship, the fact remains that the only love it considers important – important enough to merit a huge public celebration – is romantic love. This despite the fact that platonic love is the only love that’s truly unconditional.

Our parents may say they’ll love us no matter what we do, but they have an awful lot of opinions as to what that should be. Have any of your friends ever criticized you for buying a raincoat that is merely water-resistant instead of waterproof? I didn’t think so.

And romantic relationships involve exponentially more demands. Have any of your friends ever asked you to lose 10 pounds? Brush your teeth before kissing them? Get a Brazilian wax?

Of course not. Your friends are there to tell you that you look amazing, your breath is like a cool mountain breeze, and that your boyfriend is not allowed to give anyone grooming advice until he gets rid of his soul patch.

Can we just take a moment to marvel at the fact that there are people in this world willing to chip in for your birthday cocktails and hold your hair back after you disappear them, even though there is zero chance you’ll ever give them grandchildren – or hickeys?

And those are just the basic things friends will do for you. I, for one, have made some truly grand platonic gestures. I once hopped a flight to comfort a friend through her first heartbreak. When another friend was stuck in bed with a broken femur, I read her all of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (complete with high-pitched Dobby voice). I’ve been the designated hand-holder at the courthouse for divorce proceedings, at the hospital for biopsy results, and at the synagogue for funerals.

Isn’t that worth celebrating?

I think so. And I urge you all to go out, buy some champagne, bake a cake, and throw a fancy anniversary party for your friends. Have your guests toast to a lifetime of Bridget Jones marathons and road trips to Wrentham. And renew your vows to be there for one another through thick and thin – even after all of you are married.

Carrie English is a writer in Somerville. Send comments to

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