In August 2011, when I sat in the 50 degree Ferguson auditorium, a building on Pitt Greensburg’s campus, an older lady from the student health department stood on the stage and addressed the incoming freshmen. She spoke of temperance, minding your mental health, and practicing “safe” sex before a D-list comedian inherited the mic. Though he wasn’t funny in the least, he had a few enlightening bits to say. As he floundered from one raspberry topic to the next, he mentioned that, one day, towards the end of our undergrad, we’ll look around and find that all of our friends — the ones who have stuck by us for the best five and a half years of our life — are in committed relationships.
The prophecy came true. I woke to a crushing hangover this morning and began piecing together my blurry night. I recalled that I hung out with a friend from way back in middle school and her boyfriend of two years for a few hours and we talked grad school and big kid jobs before I left for the bar, alone, and got smashed with an old ex-marine I had just met that night. It was only after making drinking buddies out of strangers that I realized even the weirdest and most abrasive of my childhood and college friends have landed significant others and subsequently lost a step. It’s both a beautiful and sad turn of events.
What does this turn of events entail? It means solo trips to the bar when two guy friends renege at the last second. A class-A ratio is no longer enticing enough to get them to a bar on a Wednesday. Cookouts with a twelve pack take the place of parties with a gallon of Jäger and Aldi-brand Red Bull. Strangest of all, I’ll be told to bring a girl to any social gathering and the girl I bring is assumed to be my date. I’ll be asked how we met, what our plans are, and what kind of dog we want to get. It seems the culture of hookups begins to dissolve right around the time the chancellor hands you that paper. Everyone starts looking for the real deal and the once-lords of fratitude are scoffed at as immature man-children who can’t commit.
Several of my friends got engaged this year and a few others married this summer. Some pals just started playing house with their better halves. Few, if any, friends still stand at attention and fly the single flag with me. Gone are the long nights of closing down the bar and bribing our underage siblings to take us to Kings. These guys are expected home by a certain hour, or a county-wide search team will be sent after them. A rowdy night now implies quietly playing black jack at the kitchen table, sipping from a near-empty handle of Windsor that’s been above the fridge for a year. Beach vacations with buddies have gone by the wayside and my guy friends now take their girlfriends instead (which usually spurs a “why would you take sand to the beach” quip). They ask a stranger to take their picture standing by the shoreline to the exaltation of seventy Facebook friends. I see the picture and remember that guy as the brother who fucked a different girl in every bathroom of the house. Now he stands next to a beaming soft seven blonde, who is overtly flashing her rock for the camera.
This isn’t intended to sound bitter at all. I’ll be in four friends’ weddings next summer and there’s no money I won’t spend to make sure they can have one last taste of the life they’re leaving behind. I believe, with cautious certainty, that they’re all marrying the right people. Some of these guys might even make it over the seven-year hump. I’m sure there’s a disheartening statistic about college sweethearts tying the knot, but I’ll still hope for the best.
I reflect on all the advice I’ve heard since beginning college: You only get out of pledging what you put into it. Don’t get mad when no one takes your JI opinions seriously. Chase the girls in the white Converses because they put out the easiest. But the advice that still resonates the loudest came by way of that shitty comedian five years ago. Because he was spot on. Everyone’s friend group will experience a dramatic paradigm shift and padding your body count will suddenly be met with derision. If you’re like me, everyone from friends to relatives will expect you to settle down soon, too. But, as nice as those weddings and all the likes on Instagram are, someone has to keep the party going.
And that responsibility falls on my shoulders..