“Sometimes you ask yourself: why is this person my friend?”

My undergraduate participation in the Early Entrance Program (a L.A. program that basically allows people to skip high school) has shaped my life far more than I ordinarily care to admit. EEP is sort of like a happy cult — a bunch (around my time, it was about 40 or so in all years, though it has increased recently) of mildly-to-extremely socially maladjusted and unreasonably smart people, all on the borderline between sanity and insanity and with bizarre senses of humor, who spend four or so years only socializing with one another. Not surprisingly, long-term and strong friendships are built, and, recently, we’ve had a couple of weddings among the older alumni crowd.* The L.A. wedding was, of course, one of those, and the second wedding I’ve attended between two eepsters. (Well, technically, the first, since the previous was only the reception because certain beloved rat bastards refused to have a big ceremony.)

It gathered basically an entire social circle of the less-socially-awkward people from a range of years spanning roughly 1992-2000, with a few prominent absences from people who are mired in places like Scotland. There was copious alcohol, dancing singalongs that have already generated several humiliating facebook photos related to things like Mr. Roboto, Summer Nights, and Baby Got Back, as well as, of course, numerous Red Elvises songs.**

As is becoming traditional, the actual ceremony was conducted (thanks to California’s liberal laws) by an eepster. (I shall demand that I get to do the next one.) Specifically, it was conducted by one of my very favorite people, Brian King, now a Cambridge philosopher of math, and silently, but, I think, universally regarded as the Funniest Eepster Ever. Due to a wonderful typo when he began the program, however, he will be forever known as Brain King. Naturally, he gave an address, which immediately followed a reading of (what else?) The Owl and the Pussycat from one of the bridesmaids. I insisted he send me a copy of the aforementioned address, which displays a truly healthy attitude toward life and human interrelation, for blogospheric immortalization. Thusly:

Finally, a few words from the Turkey who lives on the hill.

There is a saying: you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I’ve never thought this to be true, or at least not completely true. Friendship is in so many ways as accidental as the accident of birth. School friends, work friends, friends of friends. Friendships flourish and blossom serendipitously. And friendship is not always easy – any more than family is. Forgiving, forgetting, foregoing, forbearing: virtues that anyone with even a single friend or family member must practise almost constantly. Sometimes you ask yourself: why is this person my friend? So I’m not convinced you choose your friends.

But I’m also not convinced that you can’t choose your family. Because today we meet to witness just that: two friends will shortly choose to become family. What an extraordinary thing. They are freely – and knowingly – taking on all of the usual attributes of family life: the headaches and the heartaches, the resentments and recriminations, the animosity, acrimony, anger, and all, even to the edge of doom. There’s still time to change your minds. Because there is no guarantee of good times, of richer, of health. There are no conditions on the covenant you are about to make. This is no bargain, but a bond of love with chains of your own forging and there is no promise of reward.

In fact there is but one consolation to which you will be entitled from this day forward: each other. The vows you make today can be summed up in four words that will resound through time and space: ‘You are not alone.’ From this day forward, there will be no ‘Mine’ or ‘Thine’ but only ‘Ours’. The wonders[***] and terrors of this vale of tears will be met with together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, as long as there is breath in both your bodies. And that must be enough. Everyone here, your friends and your family, we wish you every conceivable happiness. We bring you our love, our food, our gifts. But the gift you give to each other – the gift of your own life – surpasses all. You can’t choose your friends or your family: but you have chosen each other, and I am happy for you.

And that is why Brain is my friend.

* Rich, the long-time director of the program, used to repeat the following line about the relative social and psychological health of the students in the program, relative to age-group peers: “no pregnancies, no suicides.” At the latest wedding, we saw very cute and toddling evidence of the final collapse of one of those assertions, and I fear more are to follow if the plague of marriages follows its ordinary course.

** The Red Elvises are basically the unofficial theme band of this social circle. Naturally.

*** He tells me that this was originally “horrors,” but the bride and groom made him change it.


10 Responses to ““Sometimes you ask yourself: why is this person my friend?””

  1. ben wolfson Says:

    Surely he didn’t mean no pregnancies ever.

  2. Mike Says:

    When I saw those pics where you had been tagged on Facebook, I got jealous: “Holy shit. I bet all of those people are smarter than I am.”

    As it turns out, I was right.

    Yet another testament to the power of (informed) stereotypes.

  3. Arvita Says:

    Mike, did you reach the conclusion that we were smarter based upon our utter lack of dancing ability or the giant “MENSA is for dummies” banner?

  4. Friendship « Aaron Weingott Says:

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  5. Mike Says:

    Arvita: Neither. White people can’t dance, so I controlled for that variable. And I didn’t even notice the banner.

    Mainly relied on facial expressions, body language, and fashion choice.

    Show me a person who puts together an outfit that he or she believes to be stunning….. but that is completely bat-shit crazy…. and we’ve got relevant data re: IQ.

    Wearing a trucker hat to be ironic = idiot douche bag. Wearing a trucker hat because one genuinely thinks it looks good (where one is not in the demo of an actual trucker) = person who is probably at least brilliant.

    I imagined the dude with the cape looked at himself in the mirror, and thought: “Yes, this is rather dashing. I wish I had occasion to wear it more often.” His companions, without any irony or ill intent, would have nodded in agreement.

  6. Arvita Says:

    Was the cape really all that crazy? I thought Brain looked rather good in his academic robes. Not to mention that if my reward for a dissertation on Kant and Mathematics was a robe, I would darn well wear at every occasion possible.

    My vote for crazy outfit of the afternoon was Jacob’s red cashmere tuxedo jacket. Though, again, I thought he wore it well.

  7. Mike Says:

    I would, of course, not expect you to see anything odd. Which was my point. ;-)

  8. Paul Gowder Says:

    The cape was in fact quite dashing! And, apparently, traditional for Cambridge, which gives it a good 800 years or so of style points…

    Also, we need to make a banner like that.

    (For a moment of seriousness, though, Mike, what’s “objectively” wrong with the cape/robes?) (And Jacob’s red jacket was intended humorously, I’m quite sure. Everything Jacob ever does is intended humorously.)

  9. Mike Says:

    You’ll get another Zen Riddle from me, Paul.

    There is nothing objectively wrong with a fashion choice. That one cannot see what is wrong with a fashion choice is evidence of a person’s IQ.

  10. Geneva Says:

    My absence was prominent! Yay!

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