When C. asked me to accompany him to the wedding, there was no question I'd go. But once we got there, and the awkward jokes started the minute we stepped in the door, I once again felt like a fish out of water. I began to wonder, as I had so many times before, if the obstacle of our opposing cultures was one I could — or should — continue to surmount. 

As I was exiting the lavatory, a girlishly pretty woman with jet-black hair came in.

Nonetheless, I did my duty: I participated, smiled, and talked to everyone. By midnight, asking to leave seemed reasonable. To prepare for departure, I visited the ladies' room. As I was exiting the lavatory, a girlishly pretty woman with jet-black hair came in. I recognized her; she was the one who'd put a fair amount of effort into catching the bouquet. Slightly inebriated and very sweet, she was looking for ibuprofen. Unfortunately, though, there weren't any painkillers in the requisite wicker basket of hygiene products; I didn't have any on me either. So, after wishing her well on her Advil search, I went to the back patio, where C. was smoking a cigar with his buddies. 

"It's getting late," I said into his ear. "Can we head home soon?"

He'd begun saying his goodbyes when someone behind me exclaimed, "She bumped into me and spilled an entire pot of coffee down my dress!"

Turning, I saw the raven-haired bouquet-catcher. My guess was that she'd bumped into the waitress in question, not the other way around. 

With the coveted flowers in one hand and a pair of strappy black platform stilettos dangling from her wrist, the woman picked up the skirt of her gown. "It's ruined!" she said to her boyfriend.

In an instant, I felt for her; wrecking your outfit is so disappointing. And there really was something unusually sweet about her, almost child-like. So I said, "The stain's really not that noticeable, because of the fabric pattern. But maybe club soda will help?" 

Stepping closer to me, she said, "Do you think?"

"I'm not a stain expert — but maybe it's worth a try?"

Her boyfriend went off to get some fizzy water. She sighed then, and confided in me something that made me realize she had a lot more on her mind than dry cleaning: "We came here straight from a funeral."

The friend of hers who'd died had killed himself by sticking a piece of dynamite in his mouth. She and her boyfriend had discovered the body. "I can't get the image of him out of my head," the woman said. 

Having someone you can truly rely on makes life so much gentler, no matter how you feel about his social group.

Years ago, my closest friend committed suicide. The police found him, not I — and yet, for months and months, terrible images and relentless questions haunted me as I tried to come to terms with the shocking loss. I felt that I should have some wisdom to share with this poor woman — but everything that came to mind seemed too trite, facile. Recovering had been a long, complex process for me. In fact, it wasn't until I met C. — nearly a decade later — that the constant fog of pessimism that had overtaken me after the suicide really began to lift. 

I felt an urge to tell the woman to hang on tight to her boyfriend, who seemed like he was good to her. We can't always understand death, but it's easier to bear when love reminds us of our attachment to this world. Having someone you can truly rely on — someone whose patience and love helps your sadness recede naturally — makes life so much gentler, no matter how you feel about his social group.

But before I could say anything, she mentioned that this was the fifth bouquet she'd caught in the last year or two, and that this one wouldn't make any difference either; her boyfriend kept saying he didn't want to get married.

When C. came up a moment later and squeezed my shoulders, I kissed him, and then I kissed him again, and again. 

Now that he's in my life, I no longer have to fight a feeling of hopelessness every time the sun goes down. I no longer have to defend myself from a ferocious sense of despair at the end of every weekend. These days, I don't suddenly start sobbing uncontrollably on subways because I'm so exhausted by the effort of living. All the little agonies are not quite as crippling or misery-making as they used to be. Everything is so much easier than I ever thought it would be again.

Everything but having an ideally shared social life, that is. C. hasn't expanded my network, it's true. But he's made the world that I live in easier to navigate. You might say he's helped me scale up — to take on new challenges (like writing my first book and getting off antidepressants) and live my life more hopefully. 

In the moonlight outside my apartment building, when we got home from the wedding and found a parking space, C. and I danced our silent dance, heads on each other's shoulders. More than just making me happy, he makes me feel like I finally have a home in the world. I can't choose my boyfriend's friends, but I can choose him, and I do.

Commentarium (39 Comments)

Jan 30 12 - 2:09am

I'm all for love but it sounds as if you're relying on him too much. What would happen if you brake up? Back to disliking life? You should be able to be happy on your own, without C.

Jan 31 12 - 5:31pm

I thought the same thing. More literally "Damn, she's in deep." I'm not saying that she should forever have her guard up or anything. I just think it's dangerous to completely rely on a boyfriend for happiness. Based on the way she wrote, she might off herself if they ever split.

Jan 31 12 - 8:54pm

I had this thought too. I almost feel bad saying that I didn't like this story very much (i thought it was disjointed and didn't explore its own premise very well), because I've seen Maura Kelly's work in other places and generally enjoy it.

In the writer's defense, at least she has enough self-awareness to realize how much she relies on him and is being honest about it at the risk of our judgement. I think we've all been in places where we suddenly realize how deep we're in with someone, and that can be a terrifying realization. Instead of being terrified, the author seems completely comfortable with this, which I agree is dangerous. Obviously if they break up she'll have a very difficult time, but even if not, the entirety of one's self-worth and motivation is a heavy weight to place on another person's shoulders. No matter how much that person loves you and wants to help you be happy, it's a lot of pressure and constant work, which can lead to resentment and put a strain on the relationship, or lead to codependence if the other person is similarly reliant.

We all need a little bit of perspective and encouragement from others from time to time to keep us sane, but it seems the degree to which the author relies on others for this contributes to her fragility. Making one's own happiness and confidence is easier said than done of course, but it can be done. Think about your good traits and find ways to put them to use (through work, hobbies, friendships, etc.). Do some hobbies and things on your own that don't require your bf's motivation for you to pursue and improve at. Find something minor you'd like to improve about yourself, and make and follow a plan to do it. It can be stuff as simple as committing to yoga 3x/week and witnessing yourself getting stronger and more flexible, or resolving to floss every night. Or use your sensitivity and listening skills to reach out to a friend having a hard time. Whatever it is, just make it yours. /End unsolicited advice

Jan 30 12 - 2:59am

I disagree with MI, we are meant to be social creatures and for many, even most of us, the most meaningful social relationship we have is our romantic one. This was a wonderfully sweet story. I tend to not along very well with the friends of women I have dated, usually because I think they can sniff out my bad tendencies before I can.

The ending made wistful for a just ended relationship and slightly bemused that I could never dance with a girl and rest my head on her shoulder unless she was somewhere around 5'10

Jan 30 12 - 9:10am

This is sweet and touching. Maybe one day you'll find one of his friends that you can stand spending time with. Believe me, if you don't like his friends just wait until you have kids and realise your whole social circle is made up of their dreadful parents.

Jan 30 12 - 12:08pm

this is why I don't go after people in the humanities department, unless it's a one night stand. They tend to be too volatile, insecure, and believe that people who are into the sciences can't talk about arts, feeling, psychology. And if we do get to speak about it, then they start bitching about taking the magic out of life. No, were just being extremely logical and thought provoking. And we have the patience to look at the math behind things.

Jan 30 12 - 7:44pm

Surely you see the irony of pre-judging humanities people because they pre-judge engineering types.

Jan 30 12 - 1:20pm

"I value him the way you'd value a cheerful, well-lighted space you could finally call home after a lifetime of sublets."

I'm guessing this statement is probably more literal than the author intended.

Jan 30 12 - 1:37pm

*WOW* that was a bodyslammer of a comment... but insightful. are you single and female and non-lesbian?

Jan 30 12 - 2:36pm
she sucks

This woman sounds terribly boring and full of herself.

Adult film star??? What a terrible joke. He deserves to have his testicles removed to make sure he can't procreate. My friends talk about the Guggenheim and gossip. We're like Sex in the City and his friends are like the Big Bang Theory.

Get a sense of humor and get over yourself.

Jan 30 12 - 4:14pm

This comment was way harsh, but not totally off base.

Jan 30 12 - 8:55pm

Nerve commenters are the worst. Why so angry and judgmental? This girl is sharing herself honestly over here, and you guys are acting like you know her. I think she has a sense of humor. It just doesn't include douchey porn star jokes. If it did, we wouldn't be reading her writing.

Jan 31 12 - 12:33am

I also do not understand how we can judge someone for an entire article that they've written and published describing their thoughts and feelings about a situation. We should judge people on the things that are really important, like a single bad joke they told in passing.

Jan 30 12 - 3:48pm

I'd have to agree that developing a sense of humour, being less self-obsessed may help. I say that, myself being a secret misanthrope who can maintain general social niceties with people I don't particularly care for. It's just being civil--you don't need to define yourself by his friends, or even him. (Fancy that!)

Fuck the whole math versus humanities divide--so many couples have made it work across racial lines (even in less tolerant times/places than here/today), age, countries, even the hetero norm. So lady-up, grow-up, and stop acting like this is so brave.

I'm rooting for you two crazy kids, but please--develop a sense of perspective!

Jan 30 12 - 7:43pm

Well-said. I hope the writer reads this comment!

Jan 30 12 - 4:25pm

I really really adored this piece, dare i say it my favorite so far!

Jan 30 12 - 7:51pm

I enjoyed this piece..it hit very close to home.

Jan 30 12 - 8:09pm

Wait, is this the same Maura Kelly that slammed fat people for kissing on TV? This explains the co-dependence perfectly. She who is comfortable in her own skin wouldn't feel the need to insult people with such broad strokes--or was that the sensitive, thought-provoking conversation you and your friends have at the Guggenheim?

Jan 30 12 - 8:35pm

Maybe you can't relate to these people because they create something of worth to society while you wallow in your tortured artist psyche. You're right, we need to create a world where inteligent and driven software engineers keep their thoughts on search engine optimization to themselves and the struggling creative folk can freely discuss obscure film. Get a grip on reality.

Jan 30 12 - 9:50pm

Holy crap...doubleplus like.

Feb 01 12 - 2:51pm

Got to respect those whose comments are four words, two of which are "holy crap." Okay, I'm just an "artsy" loser who has no grip on reality. On the other hand, I might be somebody who is taking a huge risk and sacrificing material comfort to do what I love. I have nothing against people with science backgrounds. Yes, many software engineers are "intelligent and driven" (although some are dicks who happen to be really good at one particular thing that, at this historical moment, allows them to succeed in the job market). And I agree that the author seems a little self indulgent. But suggesting that artists don't create anything of worth or contribute to society just makes you seem incredibly ignorant.

Jan 30 12 - 9:49pm

You really missed the point of the joke. Things like that are funny depending on the delivery and while it may have been mis-timed/delivered all it reveals is your own insecure about the outfit you were wearing that night. Had you had more confidence on the night you more than likely just let it go.

It's sound like for someone who into literature (arts, whatever) you don't really understand that verbal humor is often based on misdirection and exaggeration of reality. Instead you took it on face value.

On top of this, considering the type of person your boyfriend hangs with (Internet geeks) I'm really not surprised about the comment. Gentle ribbing is part of internet culture and if I were one of your boyfriends friends I think it would be only natural for him to assume that you would have similar sense of humor.

Just saying considering from beginning through to the end of this piece is littered with an me vs them mentality (his friends, girl who spills stuff) maybe trying not to judge people on face value will lead to better relationship with a more diverse group of people.

Just saying.

Jan 30 12 - 10:04pm

I tuned out after I realized that she couldn't take a joke. The whole tortured writer no one understands thing is a bit played out. Being awkward is a personal problem not a disciplinary one.

Jan 31 12 - 2:47am

I think that it's important to take a step back here, though. Wow some of these comments are fucking vicious.

First let me say that as an "Engineer Type" I found the author's description particularly insulting. Then again, what type of neckbeard calls someone a porn star when they first meet them? Answer: The worst kind. It's a minor misstep but it's a misstep nonetheless. And it should be easy to tell when someone's bored of discussing search algorithms, being a good gossip is just as important.

What gets me thinking more than anything else in the article is this line:

"These days, I don't suddenly start sobbing uncontrollably on subways because I'm so exhausted by the effort of living"

If your artsy friends are so far superior to C's mathematical ones... how come this was a regular occurrence? I agree with other commenters that maybe some perspective is in order here - I get along with socialists, republicans, artists, and programmers alike. They're different, but it's important to have a diverse group so you can hang out with who you're in the mood for. Your own social homogeneity obviously left you unhappy, so some thicker skin and a check on your disdain for those who are different is in order.

Feb 01 12 - 5:14pm

I just felt compelled to thank you for introducing me to the use of "neckbeard" as an insult. Brilliant.

Jan 31 12 - 7:12am

wow. What a bunch of assholes. Everybody latched on to the hyper literal interpretation of engineers versus arts students. (Theres a joke in there somewhere.) Apparently a nerve was struck. The story was not about that at all. All the deets about the friends was just context. Its about how a problem like not getting along with your bfs friends is actually irrelevant next to how the person makes you feel.
"Having someone you can truly rely on — someone whose patience and love helps your sadness recede naturally — makes life so much gentler, no matter how you feel about his social group."
I thought it was sweet and heartfelt. Score one for the nice guy. Don't be so literal, bitches.

Feb 01 12 - 2:39pm

"Everybody latched on to the hyper literal interpretation of engineers versus arts students...The story was not about that at all." Really? The story was ostensibly about two very different people who are able to make it work because of their love (one of whom is saved by love?) In reality it came off as the writer's attempt to romanticize every aspect of her life. She ends a piece about how she would like to be better friends with her boyfriend's friends by revealing the fact that she used to sob uncontrollably in subway cars. People who want to tell you things like that when they're barely related to the topic at hand just seem so...self indulgent. Which hardly makes the generalizations about science and arts people seem self aware. There is no joking tone there.

Jan 31 12 - 12:21pm

There's absolutely no reason why arty and math-y people can't get along perfectly well. Unless you're an awful snob who can barely see the humanity in people who have slightly live in a slightly (and I do mean EVER so slightly, all of you being employed, educated, NYC twenty-somethings) cultural milieu than you do.

I'd remind you that writers tell good stories, and that doing so requires empathy, understanding, and an observant nature, but clearly your version of "writing" is writing self-involved journal entries, so that's not going to be particularly important to you.

Jan 31 12 - 5:36pm

The merits of this particular piece aside, who are you to define who and what a writer is? Or what good writing is? It certainly doesn't revolve around empathy, although a lot of good writing is empathetic. It doesn't even have to come out of understanding. It can come from confusion and rage and it can come from people who display heinous behavior in their personal lives.
And don't give me any bullshit about some inherent "nature" that gives rise to being a good writer either.
As for you saying the author doesn't see their "humanity," what piece are you reading? She said they were incompatible, which may make her closed-minded but she isn't denying they are human.

Jan 31 12 - 5:40pm

The idea that "techies" pontificate more than "artsies?" is utterly preposterous.

Jan 31 12 - 12:31pm

The writer of this piece sounds very self-absorbed. She also sounds EXACTLY like me. I work in the tech industry and her assessment of the people and the way they behave is dead-on ("math class hell" is brilliant). I spend my nights writing a novel for my MFA, working on a comic book, doing a podcast, and generally cultivating my whole 'more-sensitive-than-thou' writerly identity.

This piece was really eye-opening for me.

Jan 31 12 - 12:47pm

Maybe the joke teller was trying to break the ice in an awkward moment. Doesn't mean you have to like the joke but don't judge him for it either. I have a suspicion that your bf's friends would not judge you the way you're friends would judge him. In my experience the liberal cultural types are the worst at being snobby and cliquey.

Go out with his friends and just have fun. Don't over analyze things and just accept his friends for who they are without judging them as unsophisticated neanderthals just because they drink bud light instead of some rare hard to find import beer. So what if they think fart jokes are funny, you're not better than them.

Jan 31 12 - 5:10pm

Some of the best conversations I have had in the past year were with Ruby On Rails developers. Maybe it depends on the kind of programer but I know alot of them and they are all really intelligent and insightful people.

Feb 01 12 - 10:44am

"It wasn't clever. It wasn't relevant (I was dressed pretty demurely)..."

I'm not saying it's a fantastic joke, but the humour revolves around it being an inappropriate comment. If you had been dressed like a porn star, he wouldn't have made the joke.

Feb 02 12 - 11:22am
Warning Signs

I would advise this woman's boyfriend to make a run for it.

Having dated a couple of people like this writer....

This is how it goes:
First, you are the knight in shining armor for giving them a life and lifting their depression.
Second, every day life sets in.
Third, as their depression returns, you become the cause.
Fourth, they liberate themselves from you and experience another brief period of freedom and happiness.

Feb 02 12 - 6:44pm

What's in it for him? She sounds like a lot of work. Wild, fabulous sex? Probably not.

Feb 03 12 - 12:02am

I just didn't find this to be a very interesting or insightful article. It reads more like a journal entry.

Jul 03 12 - 10:28pm

I understood the point here - she's introverted, he's more extroverted, and they have different interests. What the author realized is that's not a deal breaker, even if it means occasionally feeling feeling awkward or lonely or whatever. If you love someone and feel safe, that's what counts.

As for the porn star joke - what a fucking douche. What adult says such a thing when first meeting someone?

Jul 31 12 - 8:03am
Sad Ida

I've been going out with my guy for about two and half years. His little close-knit group of friends have known each other since they were kids. I am from another country and my personal history is totally different to any of theirs.

During the past months the feeling that I am not very much liked by any of them has grown stronger and I am finding it very hard to find a solution to how to deal with this situation.

It really hurts me that my guy tells me I don't make an effort. It's not true. I am polite and nice around them and I do take part in conversation with them but there is only so much I can do. Quite often the topic shifts to things that are deeply rooted in their personal histories and that's when I seem to have lost the game: no wonder they find me boring when I just sit there and can't say anything interesting.

I agree that my guy could facilitate my attempts to create rapport with his mates. He could show example to his friends and include me into the conversation at times. i have also suggested that we could invite his friends around for a dinner but he's never keen on the idea of having too many people in his house. There's no space for a party he says. He recognises that he could do something about this situation but nothing ever gets done. I am thinking of just accepting the situation and concentrating on my own friends instead, hoping that maybe in time those of my boyfriend's and I will find the same frequency. In the end of the day, I have sometimes been someone's friend whose partner I didn't like at first but learned to accept in time.