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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A meditation on love and friendship

Published: September 11, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

<i>PHOTO FROM Internet Source<i>

PHOTO FROM Internet Source

My cousin got married last weekend, so I made the trek from Boston to Chicago to be present on his special day. The wedding was beautiful and, of course, I cried.

I didn’t think I would, but as the music started and my cousin walked down the aisle to await his beloved, like a Pavlovian response, my tears began to flow. I don’t know if it was my cousin’s look of solemn expectation or the bride’s failed attempts at remaining dry-eyed, but something about the two of them under the chuppah moved me.

This was the first wedding I’ve attended that I’ve been old enough to remember, and as a valiant chuppah attendant (I didn’t know this existed, but basically, I stood next to one of the four poles holding up the canopy during the ceremony), I got to see the show up close. Perhaps it was proximity that got me, but now I think I would have cried even if I had sat through the ceremony. On the one hand, it’s not surprising that I cried. “Ten Things I Hate About You” made me sentimental even before Heath Ledger’s untimely death. But on the other hand, I’m not a hopeless romantic and I have many bones to pick with the institution of marriage. Most importantly, I have never cried at an episode of TLC’s “A Wedding Story.”

I’m going to credit the rabbi’s words about love, commitment, and respect. In life, we’re looking for people who bring out the better angels of our nature, who temper our faults, who help us to grow, and who make us feel like it’s okay to be just who we are. And though our culture privileges (heterosexual, monogamous, married) romantic relationships above all others, that does not signify that love, commitment, and respect do not exist in non-romantic relationships. In fact, those values may be even stronger in the platonic relationships in our lives.

As college students, some of us are consumed with finding romance – so much so that we forget that we have amazing relationships all around us – our relationships with our friends. A pretty young thing’s attention at the frat house might give us a temporary high, but in the end, it is the love, commitment, and respect of our friends that should fortify us. Our friends know us. They’ve seen us at our best and they’ve seen us at our worst. They’ve laughed with us, cried with us, partied with us, studied with us. And they haven’t run for the hills. It’s a blessing.

Unfortunately, the messages we receive from our culture that tell us that the only meaningful relationships are (heterosexual, monogamous, married) romantic unions prevent us from fully understanding the value of the blessing of friendship. Unlearning these messages is no easy task. I have no advice to offer but I might start with my rereading of my cousin’s wedding.

Perhaps I was moved not by the pomp and circumstance – the dress or the music or the open bar – but by the idea that people are capable of profound love for others, romantic or otherwise. Maybe, underneath the layers of patriarchy, a wedding might be beautiful because it is testament to the human ability for love, commitment, and respect.