Love Kindly But Love Boldly

My freshman year roommate (and best friend ever since) A, never wanted to get married. Instead of holy matrimony, she wanted to move to Italy to be a plastic surgeon and adopt a herd of children. (No really, she used to say she wanted eight!). But she quickly found out medicine wasn’t for her, and then she met this guy M, while doing an overseas school of business program in China — and something shifted.

Or really, everything. I knew from the moment she Skyped me to tell me about him – her cheeks flushing red (and no, not only due to the intensity of the Chinese July sun) that she was rather smitten with this new dude. It was still several months until I was introduced to him, but when I was, I couldn’t have created a more perfect or nicer guy for my best friend to be with.

This past weekend, she married that man on a lovely fall night in North Carolina. And I was honored to be a bridesmaid.

I couldn’t tell you what I loved the most — seeing someone I love literally glowing from the rehearsal to the reception, or seeing her new husband’s face as she cascaded down the aisle. Maybe it was the laughter from her friends and family or getting to know the other bridesmaids who have their own stories with her, and their own moments when they knew she’d marry M.

It could have been unexpectedly catching the bouquet (!!) or crying my eyes out when she danced with her dad.

Or when at the end of a great wedding weekend, they decided to have their guests cast Chinese wish lanterns into the sky instead of throwing rice, blowing bubbles or making a fluorescent path with sparklers.

It was probably all of those things mixed into one loving memory of this special, transforming time in A’s life — but the thing that stood out the most and kept me thinking, were the words of her priest during the ceremony. Though I’m not Catholic, I enjoyed experiencing a true, devout wedding and in those heels, appreciated a chance to get to sit down, too. As he was blessing the couple and giving them advice, he said five little words that held so much meaning:

“Love kindly — but love boldly.”

It seemed simple enough hearing it from the second pew, watching M and A share cute cryptic glances and holding hands as the church witnessed their promise to each other. But when I thought of my past relationships on my early flight back to NYC to avoid Sandy and rescue Lucy, it was clear that while I’ve most certainly loved kindly — I can’t say I’ve ever truly loved boldly.

Sure, I’ve fallen for a guy who was more wrong than right, who challenged me in a way that wasn’t healthy or conducive to anything longer than a torrid affair. I’ve thought I’ve loved someone for who they were, only to figure out it was the vision of what I thought they could be or what I could make them into that really fascinated and captivated me. I’ve loved what I’ve wanted more than what I’ve had, I’ve given third chances after declaring the second was enough. I’ve promised and willed myself to stop loving someone who wasn’t good, but given into the lust that argued he was. I’ve bent over backwards and forward, sideways and in circles to be what someone wanted. I’ve given someone everything they’d ever need without demanding much in return.

If there’s anything that I’ve excelled at in my relationships so far, it’s being a nice girl. A loyal, thoughtful girlfriend who knows how to please and well, to pleasure. But in most cases, I’ve forgotten about myself and what’s important to me while playing my part. I’ve also not pursued men who make me a better person, instead I’ve chased guys who I aimed to make into better men.

And that — that isn’t the beginning to a story that ends with kissing-the-bride. That isn’t loving boldly. That’s giving away your power and really, it’s not doing anything but making a guy far too comfortable to appreciate what he has.

Loving boldly means that you speak up when something doesn’t sit well with you. It means you don’t accept laziness or a complacent attitude. It means that being unavailable is a total dealbreaker. It means that you seek someone who wants to grow in his life, in his career, in his heart, in his mind — and with you. It means that you don’t let someone walk all over you or what you believe, but you’re with someone who may think differently enough to give you a new perspective. Loving boldly means listening to the other person and not just for the cue words you need to check off an imaginary check list, but you really hear what they tell you and what they promise. And then, you  watch to see if it happens — and if it doesn’t, loving boldly means challenging them to do what they say they will. It means that you lift your partner up without making yourself feel less worthy, it means you show them how great they can be without sacrificing how great you really are. Loving boldly means standing by your man, sure — but while standing your ground, too.

But what it really means to be ready for such a love is when you’ve found a way to love yourself boldly. For all the things you are and all those things you’re definitely not. For those flaws and those features, those dreams you wished and you found, and those that you had to let yourself let go of. For the curves that are beautiful and yours, for the men you were tough enough to leave because they didn’t deserve you. For all of the things that have rocked your confidence and made it wiser. For those chances you took that made you soar and the words you’ve been strong enough to speak.

Loving kindly is easy — it’s the way most approach everyone from strangers to dearest friends. But loving boldly — yourself and the person you decide to be with — is harder. It takes more practice. It takes much more patience. It probably produces more fights and tears than what we’d prefer to stomach.

But love is kind and it’s pure. It doesn’t boast and it doesn’t delight in evils. But it’s the boldness of love that makes it protective, trustworthy and hopeful. Because really, the boldest move of all is love. 

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A Dose of Wedded Crazy

Tis’ the season for drinking overflowing glasses of free champagne. Tis’ the season for dancing awkwardly and making awkward conversation. Tis’ the season for fasting for weeks to feast for an hour. Tis’ the season to dodge flowers flying at your face while sporting five-inch heels.

Oh yes addicts, it is wedding season.

I haven’t attended too many nuptials and I’ve only been a bridesmaid once, but for the first time this year, I’ve come to understand what all of my friends have called “wedding season.” Suddenly, Wedding Crashers makes a hell of a lot more sense to me, instead of just being funny. Mr. Possibility and I will attend three weddings together in the next month, located inNew York and in the South. I’m debating if I want to go against my personal belief system and go to a tanning bed since I’m tired of being pasty white, and I’m figuring out how many dresses I should buy or if I like what I have.  I’ve been invited to about six weddings this year; one of my best friends is engaged to be married next year, while the other is probably being proposed to by the end of 2011.

Unlike how I probably would have reacted to my gaggle of girls getting hitched a few years ago – now, I’m genuinely happy for them. I’m thankful they met someone who they want to share their life with and more than anything that they are so ridiculously smitten it makes my teeth hurt.

But I also know things will change.

Recently, my friend K and I went to see Bridesmaids. Lillian (Maya Rudolph) and Annie (Kristen Wiig) have been stereotypical friends forever, and while Lillian’s life has taken a nosedive, Annie’s career is excelling and she’s engaged. The movie is the lead-up to the big day, highlighting the bachelorette and engagement parties, dress fittings, and the heart-to-hearts wedding bring up. And of course, because it is Kristen Wiig and a starring cast of comedians, each of these blissful events are chaotic and flat-out hilarious. K and I laughed from the first sound we heard until Wilson Phillips serenaded us out of the theater.

While the selling point of this movie is definitely to laugh – as most things do, it got me thinking: why do weddings make people so crazy?

I haven’t attended my best friend’s wedding yet or held the coveted and dreaded MOH title, and I’m definitely nowhere close to planning my own, but if Bridesmaids portrays anything, it’s that there is something about saying “I do” that can make a bride or her maids say “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I think the reason behind the delusions and the outta-control behavior has nothing to do with being jealous of the blushing bride, but more about change. From long-term cohabitation and the end of boy-scouting at bars, to discussions turning away from Prada sample sales to questions about pregnancy and fertility – marriage brings a new dose of reality to the couple, and also to the pair’s friends.

Will our friends still be the same after they become wives? Will we get along as well? Will they worry about our “poor” single selves? Will we be able to talk as candidly and open? Will we hate the new group of friends their husbands bring with them? Will our friendship be as strong and close-knit?

A few days after the movie, K and I were passing the day Gchatting aimlessly when the conversation of varying roles people play in our lives came up. There are certain things a man can never give that a woman can. There are words your girlfriends say that would never make sense to our boyfriends. And if in the case of K and I, while a man may have connected you, it isn’t the dude that makes you friends.

So while weddings bring on madness and transformation, and often come in bulks at the start and the end of your twenties, they aren’t the end of a friendship. A wedding band may put an end to one-night stands but it doesn’t damper the connection between a woman and her ladies. And if a man tries to come between a duo, even if he is the groom, there isn’t much hope for him. Because we’ve been promising in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, since the day we named our friends our best.

In celebration of wedding season, remember to celebrate something else – your girls. Married or single, engaged or jaded, go see Bridesmaids, sans men. It’s worth the trip, the ticket, and the giggles. Just a word of advice though, don’t eat Brazilian food beforehand.

PS: Have a crazy story from being a bridesmaid? Tell me and you could win a prize pack from Bridesmaids.