When You’re Not Invited to a Party You Didn’t Want to Attend Anyway
My friend Cecelia and I worked together at Lehman Brothers in the 1990s – I for the Fixed Income Division, and she in the facilities/design department. We weren’t particularly close, but our work paths crossed with some regularity and we occasionally had lunch together.
I think it was an off-the-cuff comment about my former roommate and Tony’s best friend, Mike, that led to the idea of fixing him up with her friend, Annette. Now Mike is a big guy – tall, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’4”, and also a large man, girthwise. He’d been single for a while, having married and divorced his high school sweetheart when they were both 20. Eventually moving East to get out of the Iowa sticks where he and Tony had grown up, he was soon to become our new housemate; I was less than thrilled at the news.
Mike was a liberal and much more politically aware than I was back then, but we had some really interesting conversations. I could talk with him for hours about all manner of subjects, whereas Tony’s interests were generally limited to baseball, blackjack, his CD collection, the Boston Celtics, and all things Macintosh (Apple). Tony’s political persuasion was nonexistent – but he would have been a Libertarian, if he’d cared enough to get involved. I still remember him arguing that seniors didn’t deserve any kind of price break at a movie theatre or on a bus, as they didn’t take up any less room than anybody else. To be fair, it was sometimes difficult to tell whether he was serious or kidding. Mike eased my mind when he, who’d known Tony for about 16 years at the time, told me he was never quite sure, either.
The thing is, my friendship with Mike seemed to rattle Tony. Years later, Tony explained to me that he was a master compartmentalizer – and it just hadn’t computed for these two disparate parts of his life (his childhood best friend and his adult girlfriend) to overlap in the way we had. At some point it became obvious that Mike had feelings for me – but I never saw him that way. It wasn’t just loyalty to Tony – I was never romantically attracted to Mike. Damn, I’d wished I was – would certainly have made things easier!
So Mike was lonely. I don’t think he had any particular ideas about the physical description of the woman he wanted to meet – but she had to be relatively smart, at least able to carry on a good conversation. At 6’2”, Ceclia’s friend Annette was tall for a woman. And so it was based on that very foundational commonality – height – that Cecelia and I arranged The Blind Date. If I’m not mistaken, Mike’s first comment when I asked how things had gone was that she had horse teeth.
“But did you like her?”
“Enough, I guess. We’re having lunch again later this week.”
Within a couple weeks, they were seeing each other regularly. Since Annette was Cecelia’s friend, I’d never met her, so Mike arranged for the three of us to have dinner at South Street Seaport so that she and I could get to know each other. I still grit my teeth recalling that ridiculously uncomfortable meal. Annette was the first to arrive at our appointed meeting place. I arrived a few minutes later. We were both about 10 minutes earlier than Mike. Aware that Annette was working in the art department at Estée Lauder, I tried to start a friendly conversation with her. I opened by asking if she paid particular attention to her competitors’ TV commercials and magazine ads. Her answer, through clenched teeth (and, I imagine, looking down her nose) was, “Oh, I don’t watch television.” All right, then. Eventually Mike showed up to break the silence that had ensued – and we walked over to the Seaport together. We must have looked quite odd, me at my full 5’2” stature, walking with this pair of Goliaths.
As long as I’d known Mike, he loved pizza – would willingly eat it seven days a week. Adding peppers and onions to it was as close as he came to ever eating healthy food. He and Tony had devised a weird gastric concoction, a combo of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Hormel Chili that they called “Domestic Violence.” One of the funniest things I remember was when one of them bought a bottle of habanero pepper sauce. The instructions on the bottle said: “CAUTION: Do not add more than a couple of drops of this sauce to your dish.” These idiots added almost a teaspoon and then tried to eat it. The stuff was so hot, even they – who were used to eating food so spicy that all you could taste was the hot – couldn’t eat it and had to throw it away. So we were at this seafood restaurant – Mike, his new girlfriend, and I. Imagine my surprise when he ordered a salmon sandwich.
Again trying to further the conversation, I asked whether Mike had told Annette about the adoption. Annette said she had no idea what I was talking about – so before I continued the conversation, I gave her a quick rundown about having placed my son with Kathy and Bruce a year or so earlier. Later during the same meal, Annette made a comment that indicated she had known about the adoption prior to my telling her. Christ, this woman was a piece of work! I’m still not sure why she had me tell a story she already knew, but I went from being uncomfortable with her to intensely disliking her, and we were less than two hours in. We made it through the dinner – and within a few months, Mike proposed to her.
This was all happening at a point when Tony and I were definitively OFF. Not dating, rarely speaking. Of course he would be Best Man. It took me a long time to get over, but even though I was one of the two people responsible for the blind date through which Mike and Annette met, I did not receive an invitation to the wedding. Damn, was I pissed! It just seemed like such a thoughtless, graceless thing to do. I’m sure they were worried I might create a scene and mar their special day – but obviously they didn’t know me very well, because I just wanted the courtesy of the invitation. I had absolutely no intention of actually attending the wedding. Isn’t that ridiculous – to be upset not to be invited to an event you didn’t want to attend in the first place? But perhaps you can relate.
I heard from Mike after the wedding that Annette had forbidden him from bringing anything from his prior life – other than his clothes and computers – into their new house. It was as though she wanted to eradicate anything from his life that pre-dated her. I understand wanting to start fresh, but for crying out loud, the man was nearly 30 years old when he met her – of course he’d had a life before her! That worried me at the time – but they’re still married, so who am I to say?
The last time I spoke with Mike was September 12, 2001. He worked in Building 7 of the World Trade Center and was among those fleeing the rubble from the Twin Towers. I called to make sure he was safe – thankfully, he was. Social media changes everything, though. Peeking through his Facebook posts a few days ago, I learned that Mike’s mom passed away just this past November. It would be quite odd for me to reach out at this point – but I send love and good wishes through the ether, ever grateful for his friendship all those years ago.
What do you think the chances are that my invitation just got lost in the mail?