I'm past my best, but aren't we all?
Published 03/08/2014 | 00:00
It becomes more and more difficult to be a best man as you get older. At a certain point in the life of a groom, the kind of "hilarious" stories a best man might have shared at a earlier stage of life become inappropriate. Indeed, at my time of life, all the duties and rituals of a best man become inappropriate. After 40, you get set in your ways, you can't really do the whole drinking thing with the same gusto, and you do not want to wear any suit that isn't your own.
But I had one more ride on the merry-go-round recently in what I would imagine was my last outing as a best man. And the thing is that, apart from being unseasonably old to be the best man, I entered into the whole thing with one other fatal handicap. Which is that I have grown to hate weddings down the years. I kind of dislike organised fun of any kind, but weddings make me feel especially trapped. I hasten to add that this recent wedding was a great day out and I enjoyed every second of it, as far as I am aware. Even the aged relatives on both sides, who can often be problematic at a wedding, were a bit of crack.
The other problem with weddings at this hour of my life is that, like anyone who has been married for a great deal of time to the same person, I can tend to be a bit cynical about the whole cuteness and foreverness and lovey-dovey nature of it. People getting married look so happy and they think it's the beginning of a great romantic adventure. And of course it is. And the two people getting married on this recent occasion were two fabulous, fun people. But you know how it is, when all the eternal love and bunny rabbits starts, the married people in the audience tend to take it all with a pinch of salt.
Sure, they mention 'for better or for worse' and 'in sickness and in health', but those little words really give no hint of the rollercoaster that lies ahead, of tragedy and hardship and all the rest of it. Neither does it take any account of how uniquely two people who are married can annoy each other. People who are married can annoy each other in very special and intense ways, often by doing nothing at all. Or at least by seeming to do nothing at all. Unless you're in a full-blown abusive relationship, most of the aggression in marriage tends to be passive. You always need plausible deniability. So you stealthily push buttons and then adopt a 'Who? Me?' defensive approach. When you do issue an apology in these circumstances it is the politician's apology of, "I'm very sorry if anything I said caused anyone to take offence." Which is another way of saying, "I'm sorry that you're CRAZY and HYPERSENSITIVE."
But on the wedding day we old hands really try and put all that aside and feel the love, and the joy, for the happy couple. And indeed, at this recent one, even the most cynical old hand could not have been moved by the lovely intimate ceremony in the beautiful Unitarian Church. I have to confess I didn't even know my friends were Unitarians up to this point, but each to his own.
The major issue was really the speech. With the best man's speech there is an expectation that you will portray the groom as a wild and crazy guy. This is fine when you are young and when the groom is not a wild and crazy guy. You say that despite the fact that he is an accountant he once lost his shoe on a drunken night out and he is mental, and everyone laughs, safe in the knowledge that he is not.
But what do you do when the guy is not so young and has an actual past? Nothing scandalous mind, but hilarious nonetheless. What do you do when you are spoilt for great stories but it really isn't appropriate to tell them due to the demographics of the bride and groom and the crowd? Well then, my friends, what you do is you agonise for weeks, and then you do a 'Seinfeld'. You make a speech about a speech about nothing. You take the template for a best man's speech off the internet and you take the piss out of the template, with the odd hint of what you could say. But, really, you say nothing, and everyone laughs with relief and says that was a great speech.
Because everyone knows that the truth is that we are too old for this malarkey.