My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

These are the moments that mean something

As I write this, I’m very sore, because I spent several hours last night dancing. I had the privilege and honour of not just attending the wedding of my friend Cassie but of being in her bridal party.

I’m starting to get the hang of this wedding thing, I think.

Cassie is one of my oldest and bestest friends. Although there was a lapse during our childhood after I moved across town, we reconnected at the end of high school. Ironically, I’ve had no problem keeping in touch with her across the vaster distances between here and Ottawa, where she did an undergrad and now slaves away at grad school. I don’t envy her!

I don’t know Chris, Cassie’s husband, very well. He’s from Sudbury but also went to school in Ottawa. But he seems like good people. So I was excited when Cassie told me they were getting married and when they set a date. In typical Cassie fashion, she apologized when she asked me to be part of her bridal party, as if it were a great imposition. And I suppose that in some weddings this is the case—there are expenses, expectations of time and effort—but I knew that wasn’t going to be a problem here. Cassie was no bridezilla. Her wedding was a perfect blending of traditional and modern, guided by convention but never bound by it. Case in point: the bridal party comprised three men and Cassie’s sister, Carly, and the groom’s party comprised two men and two women. Also I got to wear a bow-tie instead of that noose people call a “tie.” This was a win–win.

But I digress. I was really honoured to be included in the wedding as more than a guest, and knowing Cassie, I knew it would not be much of an imposition. Even the amount of time I was expected to dedicate to wedding preparations was reduced: because so many people in the party were flying in from outside Thunder Bay, there was no rehearsal until the morning of the wedding. So that made things easier for us, albeit perhaps more nerve-wracking for others.

The wedding itself was at Fort William Historical Park, which is a beautiful place to get married. My sister got married there—that was my first wedding, and I don’t remember much of it aside from being offered wine at the reception, when I was 15! Despite some rain very early in the day, the weather had turned sunny and warm—too warm, in fact. For some reason, yesterday was one of the hottest days of our summer—and we got to spend a few hours outside sweating in three-piece suits!

Being an auxiliary member of a wedding party is not a demanding job. You don’t have to make a speech. You don’t have to do much in the way of planning. You just have to show up, stand around, and look good—I can do that. It’s a lot of waiting around. After the fabulous and moving ceremony, we went to the Fort proper for the wedding party photographs—and that was about an hour and a half of standing around, setting up shots and waiting to have our photos taken. It was fun, don’t get me wrong; the photographer was enthusiastic and really knew how to use the Fort as a backdrop. He even persuaded one of the re-enactors to fire off his musket in the background of one of the photos of Cassie and Chris. However, the combination of not having a proper lunch (hello, lone Subway sandwich), sweltering in my suit, and spending over an hour standing around did make for an exhausting afternoon.

Still, all that waiting around is a small price for the dancing. Er, I mean, for the joy of participating in the union of two people who love each—oh, I’m not fooling anyone. I was there for the dancing.

If you saw my little music video, you’ll know I love to dance. I hate being the centre of attention, so it’s unfortunate that my passion for dancing, even alone, attracts eyeballs. Oh well. Live is too short to worry about it—YOLO, and all that jazz. Weddings are an interesting place for dancing—much nicer than going out to some club somewhere.

So I danced up a storm last night, as I am wont to do, both with partners during the slow dances and by myself, or as part of the group, for the faster tunes. The music, much like the ceremony, was a delightful mix of tastes both traditional and particular to Cassie and Chris. Some romantic slow music, some indie bands, some jigs….

I tend to opt out of a lot of socializing that other people either genuinely enjoy or at least pretend to enjoy for the sake of being polite. That doesn’t mean I dislike socializing. I just prefer to do it on my own terms. Similarly, marriage isn’t something on my radar and ceremonies aren’t something that interest me that much. But just because you don’t put much stock in something personally doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone. I can see the appeal.

Our lives are short. Perhaps not as short and nasty and brutish as Hobbes believed … but short nonetheless. And we seem to live in a largely uncaring universe; we are subject to events over which we have no control that can alter our lives in a hearbeat, even to the point of ending them arbitrarily and without appeal. Given this uncertainty, it’s no wonder we have all these ceremonies and rituals and excuses to party. And I’m no more immune to this urge than anyone else.

The highlight of the evening for me? There was a moment when I was alone on the dancefloor with Cassie and Carly, who were just as enthusiastic about grooving to the music as I was, even if they were very tired from a very long weekend. I had spent most of the day happy for Cassie and Chris but feeling awkward nevertheless—aside from Cassie and immediate family, I knew no one at the wedding, and I’m not exactly outgoing or forthcoming when it comes to getting to know strangers. Sometimes it takes a while for me to warm up and feel like I seem human to others.

But there I was, dancing with two of my oldest and closest friends—and there was no better reminder of what it means to live in the moment. I knew it wouldn’t last forever—would not, in fact, ever come again. But I had such a great sense of belonging. We have these ceremonies and parties to find meaning in the chaos of our lives—and we get that meaning through the bonds and ties we form with others. Romantic love, marriage—those are very strong ties, steps which Cassie and Chris have now taken with a courage and commitment I applaud. But friendship and love between friends are powerful bonds too. I am not an outgoing person; the shallow, surface interactions we have flow past me like so much noise. I cultivate my friendships precisely because they mean so much to me. And I am so lucky to have amazing and wonderful people like Cassie among my friends.

(I’m not just saying that because she invited me to be in her wedding party, honest. But I’ll take this moment to mention my schedule for summer 2016 is wide open at the moment—hint.)

So despite an exhausting day with lots of standing and waiting in the hot weather and far more talking to strangers than I like, yesterday was a great and memorable one. Congratulations are in order for Cassie and Chris—and I’m happy I got to be a part of their coming together.