Last summer I was a bridesmaid at one of my very dearest friend’s weddings. I wore a fitted black dress with a white sash that made me feel a little Audrey Hepburn-ish.
When I walked down the aisle, I smiled tearfully into his eyes and then I took my place by his side.
That’s right. His.
Ben has been one of my closest friends since I started college. He’s the one I confided in when I failed tests, when I got my heart broken, even when I lost my virginity. We’ve gone on crazy wild adventures together, sleeping in cars and getting lost in the woods. He’s held my newborn babies and I’ve held his.
He is closer to me than most people in the world and my husband is just fine with it.
The truth is he isn’t my only male friend. I’ve been very lucky to have maintained most of my closest college friendships, both male and female. These relationships have sustained me through the lonely days of new motherhood and the challenges of re-discovering myself after so many years of being a stay-at-home mom.
There is beauty in marriage, in this pairing off of one woman and one man (or two women or two men… whatever your preference). Sharing a life together develops an intimacy that few other relationships can match. But, there are many kinds of love and many people you can connect with. Closing yourself off to an entire gender always seemed to me like it was based more in fear than anything else.
Fear of attraction, fear of being judged, fear of jealousy. I’m not discounting those things. They can cause real problems. In the early days of our marriage, I remember feeling stabs of jealousy at my husband’s friendship with women in our circle. When I brought up those feelings, he listened to me and together we decided what boundaries we were comfortable with and how to keep either one of us from feeling hurt.
We are in a different place in our marriage now. I hardly ever feel jealous because I know how strong our bond is. We have worked hard to overcome those early fears, and the rewards have been enormous. We both feel freer, happier, more connected to the world.
When I stood under the chuppah with Ben, I looked through the crowd until I saw my husband. He met my eyes and smiled. At that moment, I realized that it was the strength of our relationship that allowed me the freedom to be in that spot at that very precious moment in time. A fresh stream of tears filled my eyes.
After the ceremony was over, the rabbi pulled me aside. I swallowed hard and readied myself for a reproach. Did he disapprove of my role in the wedding? Would he tell me that I needed to maintain a distance now that Ben was married?
“I just wanted to tell you how wonderful it is to see the friendship that you and Ben have.” He squeezed my hand and smiled. “It’s the right thing,” he said. “The right thing.”