Max Liu is about to get married. The only problem: he doesnt have a best man. Is it normal for men to let friendships slide?
I dont know how Ive aimed up standing on the doorstep of a long-lost friend, too scared to ring the buzzer. Well, I do. Last year my girlfriend Lucy and I decided to get married, and ever since one question has run over and over in my intellect. Who can I ask to be my best man?
Im not even certain Im at the right house. Can it actually be five years since Ive is right there? Prior to that, Owen and I gratified every week for tennis and coffee, over which we discussed work, movies, books, relationships, just as we did in the sixth form, half our lifetimes ago. Last time I assured him, he was helping me move. We argued about politics that day and, after that, we both let the friendship slide. Now here I am, hoping to patch things up and ask Owen to be my best man. Ive been trying to pluck up the courage to do this for months, but once again I lose my nerve and run.
Some people guess devising the seating plan is the complicated part of organising a bridal. For me, it is finding a best man. At 35, I find myself with no close male friends. I havent fallen out with anybody, but I have allowed friendships to take a back seat.
Ive been busy with work, with Lucy, with her friends, with household. Old friends are merely a call or email away, but it never feels like the right moment to get in touch. The more time pass, the less likely it seems theyll want to hear from me. Its only now, when Im forced to confront the situation, that I realise how cut off Ive become. But am I the only one? Or are my friends, and other men my age, feeling the same route?
Growing up in Cornwall, I was fairly popular and played team athletics. Ed, the scrum-half in the rugby team, was the drummer in my band or, as Ed might say, I played guitar in his band. At school we were a sarcastic duo, but we supported one another through our teenage trials.
Ed and I went to separate sixth kinds, so I formed another band with Jack. When my first girlfriend dumped me, Jack listened to me drone on about my heartbreak. He fell out with his parents and came to live with us for a while. When I left for university, though, Jack stayed in Cornwall. In the holidays we picked up again and smoked weed on the beach. Gradually, I came home fewer and, whenever I did, I hastened past the fish restaurant where Jack ran, keen to avoid an awkward encounter.
My best friend at university was David, who impressed me with his leather jacket and passion for Beat poetry. We chatted between lecturings and, on winter mornings when my thumbs were too cold to attain roll-ups, he offered me his Marlboros. David fostered me to ask out Lucy, our classmate, and before long Lucy and I were rarely apart. We graduated and together endeavoured to Manchester, merely an hour from David, so I expected to see him soon. But I never did.
In Manchester I gratified Tom, who was a few years older than me and already a successful playwright. On Tuesday evenings I went to his flat for Scrabble and always lost. Tom was a calm presence throughout my directionless, post-university phase, and I seemed up to him. I hadnt watched Tom for three years when, the morning after this years general election, he tweeted: Shout out to everyone who decided to support the carve-up of the NHS. I hope none of you get the expensive various kinds of cancer. In the pits of political desperation, I remembered how comforting his surly humor had always been. But it had been so long, I didnt even dare to click favourite.
Lucy and I moved to London, where I got a job editing a blog. I liked some of my colleagues but I never joined them for beers after work because I expended most evenings writing book reviews. Eventually, I left to try my luck as a freelance novelist. Everyone, including me, was shocked when, on my final day, I burst into tears.
I supposed I was crying with relief but perhaps, subconsciously, I was frightened. I was fed up with writing banal copy but, in a city where I was otherwise anonymous, there was something comforting about the office: its murmur of chattering, bleeping phones and familiarish faces.