Say what?? Two posts in two days?! I'm on a roll... watch out now!
By all accounts, Julia Roberts is a pretty decent actress. Everyone has at least one favorite “ro/co” (romantic comedy) where she plays the sprightly heroine with the contagious laugh and wide grin. Most of my friends are particularly fond of “Pretty Woman”, which became an instant classic when it was released so many years ago. But, my personal favorite Julia Roberts film is “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. Today, it is a Sunday afternoon, and it is raining, and I just finished watching “My Best Friend’s Wedding” for probably the 100th time. And, as always, I had the same reaction when the first intense scene came on.
Julia Roberts played “Julianne” who had made a pact with her best friend, Michael, that if they were still single by the ripe old age of 28 (ha!), they would marry each other. When Michael calls Julianne a few months before her 28th birthday, she panics, thinking that he is calling to remind her of their promise to each other. But, in fact, Michael is calling to tell her that he has met Kimmy, a 20-year old blonde bubbly rich girl, and that they are getting married in four days. It is at that moment that Julianne realizes that she has been in love with Michael for their entire 9-year friendship, but has been too afraid of commitment to act on it. Now that she runs the risk of losing him, she feels she must act quickly and take drastic measures to stop his impending nuptials. She travels to Chicago and agrees to serve as the maid of honor at the wedding in the hopes that keeping Kimmy, her new enemy, close, she’ll be able to put a stop to the wedding. Unfortunately, things go awry (and hilarity ensues along the way), and Julianne ends up at the wedding alone, watching her best friend run off to his honeymoon while she sits at a table crying in her cake at the reception. Of course, there is more to the story than what I just laid out, but that’s the plot in a nutshell.
At any rate, when the movie was first released back in 1997, I was a senior in high school. I was watching the film with someone in the theater (I can’t remember who) and, at one of the most intense scenes, I burst into tears. Now, I am not the type that cries easily. In fact, back in 1997, the last time I had cried at a movie was probably when Ricky got shot i in “Boyz in the Hood”. So, nobody was more surprised than I was when my body was racked with sobs as I watched Julia Roberts grapple with her emotions as she realized that she was about to lose the man of her dreams and there was nothing that could be done about it. At the time, I didn’t even have a male best friend, so it wasn’t that I understood the implications of what it meant to deal with foreign emotions about someone who had been closest to you. It wasn’t as though I understood the risk that Julianne was taking when she came clean about her emotions. But there was something that I related to in the movie. It made me sit up and take notice. And, I can say that there probably isn’t another movie (except maybe “Love Jones” and then later “Brown Sugar”) that has had such a profound influence on the way that I view romantic relationships.
Little did I know that, one day down the line, I would be placed in a similar predicament with my own male best friend. For our purposes, we will refer to my male best friend as “MBF”. MBF has been all manner of things to me in the last year that we’ve been friends. Like Michael and Julianne, we had a pretty hot month or so of dating under our belts before we decided to just be friends. And, I should probably mention that the being “friends” thing was not my idea – it was more a unilateral decision on MBF’s part. But, I took a real inventory of my feelings and decided that it was much more important for me to have him in my life in just some way – ANY way – than to have him be in my life the way I WANTED him to be there. Maybe that sounds weird and extreme, but I have a connection to him that I just can’t explain. Something about him is special and endearing and just… just something that I couldn’t immediately make a clean break from. And, so, we became “just friends”. And after confiding everything in each other, including hopes, dreams, and fears, we became BEST friends. It just happened so naturally that I almost didn’t realize that it was happening. But it did. The only problem was that, after a few months of best-friendship, I realized that my romantic feelings for him became even more intense than they had been before. I knew all parts of him – the good and the bad – and that just made me love him more.
My personal philosophy is that men and women can’t be “just friends” if even one is attracted to the other (if both of you are attracted to each other, your “friendship” is doomed from the start). In friendships, your guard is let down, you are comfortable with being vulnerable, you are your real self. So often, you don’t get to see that truthfulness and honesty in another person until very far down the line. And, when you see that in a friend of the opposite sex, whom you also find very attractive, it logically follows that you will begin to feel a sort of affection for them that transcends friendship. Well, see, that’s what happened to me and MBF. But, rather than risking our friendship, I decided that I would sit on my feelings and never voice the way that I was feeling until I was certain that he felt the same way. I mean, I was never really sure if maybe I wasn't just confusing the intensity of the affection I felt for him in friendship with feelings of romantic love. Come to think of it, I think that might be easy to confuse. Always wanting to be with someone, feeling your best when they are around you, needing their approval and their attention... those are all feelings that you could have about a best friend of the same sex without actually being in love with them. But, then, there was also intense jealously and a desire to be physical... two feelings that I had never experienced with friends of the same sex and it would be quite awkward if I did feel those things toward, say, Bestie. That would also open a whole new can of worms and cause me to spiral into an identity crisis!
Now, there were times when I sensed that the feelings that I had for MBF were mutual - if not the romantic feelings, then at lest there was a mutual attraction. But, they were never expressed. And, so, I never expressed mine. In the meantime, MBF dated other people and I knew about it. And, although it pained me that it was happening, I still kept quiet for the sake of the friendship. But, then, something happened that made it so I couldn’t avoid saying something.
MBF met a girl. We’ll call her Gwen. Gwen ended up being someone that MBF liked very much. In fact, he liked her so much that he told me about her. MBF had mentioned people to me in passing before but he was always careful not to make too big a deal out of any of them. And then Gwen came along and MBF told me that he really liked her and because he felt that she might become a part of his life, he just thought that I should know. (See, this is how I fell for MBF in the first place… because he does considerate things like this.) I appreciated his honesty, but when he said it, my stomach hit my shoes. Literally, my heart dropped and I felt like I had been slapped. I mean, OF COURSE, MBF would meet someone eventually. It wouldn’t just be the two of us like ’08 Bonnie and Clyde for the rest of our lives. I was stupid and naïve to have thought otherwise. But as MBF moved forward with his feelings for Gwen, it almost felt as if a little part of me was dying. And I thought that if I could just let him know how I felt then he would possibly forget all about Gwen and tell me that he felt the same way about me that I felt about him and we’d live happily ever after. I tell you, unrequited love SUCKS y’all. And it makes you crazy… (but that’s a different story)
It’s like when Julianne from “My Best Friend’s Wedding” asks her new best friend, George, what he thinks Michael will do when she finally comes clean and tells Michael that she is in love with him. George says that Michael will choose Kimmy, Julianne will stand beside Kimmy at the wedding, kiss Michael goodbye, and go on with her life. Julianne obviously knows that this is how things will turn out between her and Michael, but she also feels a deep longing, an irrepressible hopefulness, that makes her go through with her plan to foil the wedding. There is something prodding her along, telling her that maybe Michael will change his mind. But, naturally, he doesn’t. He, in fact, chooses Kimmy, Julianne stands next to her at the wedding, and in the end she kisses Michael goodbye, and then moves on with her life. In an interesting turn of events, she even puts Michael’s feelings before hers and, even though her heart had been broken, she worked hard to mend the relationship between Michael and Kimmy, and was integral to making sure the wedding went off without a hitch. And, in the end, Julianne is emotionally rescued by the unconditional love of her gay best friend (a necessity for a single woman these days), George, and ends up dancing the night away with George at the reception as Michael and Kimmy depart for their honeymoon. She does not hide under a rock and die afterall, which is exactly what I would do if faced with this outcome in a similar situation.
But, I digress.
Even after seeing that movie one million times, my head told me that MBF would not reciprocate my feelings, but my heart hoped for a different chain of events. And so I told him how I felt. He was flattered, naturally, but did not choose to cross the line of friendship, which had been clearly drawn in the sand for the last 8 or 9 months. When the decision that we would remain “just friends” had been made – for the second time (!), I did not hide under a rock and die there (Huh. Go figure.) and the awkwardness that I had been fearing never materialized. We carried on exactly as we had before I told him the way that I felt. But, I was relieved to have gotten it off my chest. What a weight that was lifted off my shoulders! I just needed him to know, and now that he did, it was up to him where things went and he could never claim that he didn’t know about my feelings. In fact, a few weeks after I revealed my feelings to MBF, Gwen did something very immature that exasperated MBF and he said to me, “If you are still single when you’re 35, we should get married.” My mind immediately went to Michael and Julianne and that pact that they made before the start of the movie. Would MBF and I end up just like the characters in the movie? Me wanting MBF, MBF wanting whoever will be the object of his affection, and me being wanted by no one? How utterly sad and depressing.
At any rate, like I said, I should’ve known that things wouldn’t end with us holding hands and walking off into the sunset to face another day together. It didn’t even end that way in the movie! Instead, the movie ended with the Julianne dusting herself off and moving on with her life. Maybe I should’ve recognized that, one day, I too, would be in a similar situation to Julianne. Surely, there was a reason why I identified with her character so strongly. And, even though pessimism is probably my strongest personality trait, I am a closet romantic who loves the idea of love and what that little four-letter word could mean for me. When I was younger, I would sit and fantasize about who would love me, and when, and how. And, in the end, I was always under whelmed by what love turned out to really be, as well as disappointed by who was doing the loving. Let’s face it, I haven’t had the best romantic relationships, that’s for sure.
I often wonder what happened to Julianne, Michael, and Kimmy. You know… what went down after the credits finished rolling? Let’s imagine that the story continued. Did Julianne get her happy ending with someone else? Did Michael realize that he made a horrible mistake by choosing Kimmy and leaving his best friend behind? Will Michael and Julianne end up together afterall? Does Julianne turn into a spinster who’s great joy in life is being the Godmother to the Chinese baby that George and his partner adopt several years down the line? I know it’s just a movie, but I really do ponder these scenarios every time I watch. And this time when I watched it, I thought of the absolute horror I would feel if MBF told me that he was marrying someone else. How could I keep on a happy face? How would I find the strength to mask my disappointment? But I’d have to deal. I mean, how totally unfair would it be for me to ask him to sacrifice his chance at love to be “just friends” with me for the rest of our lives? Realistically speaking, I have learned in my days that just because you love someone, that doesn’t make them love you back. So, in the end, my heart will probably be broken (unless I meet “the One” and marry first… dear God, please let me be first!), but at least I’ll always have my MBF.
Things didn’t work out with MBF and Gwen (although she is still trying to weasel her way into his life). But, there’ll be another Gwen. And, another. And, another. Where will that leave me? I mean, hopefully, I’ll find someone of my own who doesn’t want to be “just friends” with me and who I will love with the same fervent emotions (or emotions that far surpass even those feelings) that I feel for MBF. But, nobody will replace him in my life and I hope that nobody will replace me in his.
I just hope that, by the time I have to endure my own “Male Best Friend’s Wedding”, I will have my emotions in check enough to be that friend that he really needs me to be on that day. My gut feeling is that it will take all that is within me not to stand up in the ceremony and holler “I object!” at the top of my lungs.*** But, I sincerely pray that at that moment, I will have enough restraint and dignity to put his feelings first and let the day progress as he would see fit.
But we’ll just have to wait and see…
*** MBF reads this blog, so he will get a kick out of this since he always jokes that, despite the fact that I am his best friend, he will not be inviting me to his wedding… at least I THINK he’s joking…