It’s almost wedding season again, and you know what that means: I’ll be losing a couple more buddies to that place called “marriage,” where my friendships go to die.
OK, OK, I kid. I still have plenty of relationships that have thrived even after my buddies have found someone who both look and smell way better to replace me. I’m terribly happy for them—especially because their wives seem to be way out of their league—and I certainly hope to join their ranks sooner rather than later. But I've observed over the years that the disappearing act is just one of those telltale signs that, like it or not, inevitably shows up when a man is getting serious about a woman. You don’t see your buddy as much, and rightfully so—spending time with a woman he's looking to propose to is about as good as it gets.
But that’s not the only thing I've noticed. Here are a few more observations I've made of how my buddies change when they’re ready to take the plunge.
01. PROPER TRANSPORTATION
It wasn’t much to look at, but when it comes to trusty old trucks, it doesn’t get much better than Glen’s '94 Toyota pickup. Glen’s a man’s man, so he loved driving that truck, to the point where he didn’t mind (and hardly even noticed) all its imperfections.
Until, that is, he took Glenda out for the first time. Then, all of a sudden, he grew terribly self-conscious about the janky ignition switch that required a screwdriver, not a key, to start the engine. Combine that with the fact that he was still getting the hang of driving a manual transmission, and it made for a rocky first date.
There was something about this woman that made him want to get serious about his life. Certain things he was willing to put up with in his bachelorhood, like semi-reliable transportation, just wouldn’t do now that he had somebody else to care about.
So before he dared to ask her out again, he asked me if I wanted to drive a Toyota pickup, and my answer, of course, was “Yes.” I bought his truck, Glen bought a new car, and he and Glenda were married within two years. The truck, by the way, didn’t last through the year. But it was sure fun while it lasted—best $750 I ever spent.
02. PRIORITIES, PRIORITIES
I’ve always felt that my birthday required more than one day to celebrate (that's not just me, right?). But when I decided to begin celebrating it for eight days, the reviews were mixed. Let’s just say there were a few people who thought it was a bit over-the-top. Not Mark. Mark made a point to clear his schedule, and, even after he moved out of town, would drive or even fly into town just for the occasion.
Last year, right on schedule, he tells me he’s got a plane ticket and wants to know what the plan is. So as the Octave came and went, and still no Mark, I knew something was up. As it turns out, his trip home prominently featured a certain young lady, and as much as he intended to come celebrate with me, he had bigger fish to fry—you know, like proposing marriage—and was ultimately unable to join in my birthday festivities. The nerve…
All joking aside, there’s a point in a relationship when a man must put his girlfriend ahead of random guy-time, at least when the occasion calls for it. A few years back, the father of my then-girlfriend underwent an emergency appendectomy. I had plans to play Risk with my buddies that night (yes, the board game...), and chose to hang out with them instead of with my girlfriend and do what I could to help out her family.
Suffice it to say it was the wrong decision. It actually was a huge wake-up call when I realized how selfish I was being, to the point where I felt I had to end the relationship simply because I was not treating her how she deserved. I’ll still be the first to argue that time with your buddies is important, even essential. But a sure sign that a man is ready to marry a woman is when he has no problem identifying when there are more important things to do, even if that means something as simple as being with his beloved during a difficult time.
03. MEETING THE FAMILY
A college buddy of mine once said that a woman would have to go back with him to his small North Dakota hometown and pass the “drunken night out on the town with all the old friends" test before he knew it was true love. I’m still investigating the relevancy of that experiment. But there is definitely something about an intentional introduction to the family, especially when they live out of town, that raises my eyebrows.
The whole “meeting the family” thing can be cliche and overemphasized at times when it comes to its significance in a relationship. Nonetheless, meshing with the family is important. I can’t speak for all men in this regard, but I put a lot of stock into what my family thinks of a woman. So if I go out of my way to bring her around the family, especially if that means a planned trip of any sort of distance, I mean business.
My roommate Anders just returned from such a trip, and the part of me that wants to see my friends live happily ever after is thrilled for him. But then there’s another part of me—the one that doesn’t want our perfect bro-love relationship to end—that’s having a really tough time right now. Let’s talk about something else.
04. NOTICING OTHER WOMEN (OR NOT)
As I’ve detailed before, I tend to score very high in attractive woman awareness (AWA). And, since gifts are meant to be shared, I am happy to alert my buddies of she whom I’ve noticed. My single buddies tend to be all too happy to join along in the fun. And, to a certain extent, my dating friends, too. But every once in a while, I notice one of my buddies has become considerably less interested in hearing about my newfound love-at-first-sight.
My brother might be the best example of this phenomenon. At a certain point, I stopped telling him when I noticed a pretty gal, if only because I tired of his facial-expression-equivalent of, “Who gives a crap?” Not he, because he has only one woman on his mind at all times, and has for some time now.
As much as a long-distance relationship can be a risky proposition, it’s relatively easy to make a phone call every day or two and then be able to live the rest of your life as you would otherwise. So when my buddy Esau recently decided to move to Georgia to be closer to his girlfriend, we weren’t terribly surprised to find out that he proposed just a few weeks later. It’s amazing how the prospect of having to relocate tends to show how serious somebody is about change.
And let’s be honest, marriage is a huge change, perhaps the biggest in a dude’s life, and it’s a change that doesn’t come easily. After all, a bachelor resides comfortably in that privileged place at the center of his own universe, while proposing marriage is to offer that honor to someone else.
Marriage is probably always going to be a scary proposition for a guy, which is OK, to a certain extent. The good ones know that, confront it, and start taking steps to reorient their lives around someone else. And for those of us who are all too familiar with boys who aren’t ready to be men (no matter their age), it’s easy to spot the ones who are ready to get serious.