So I’m back in Sydney with very, very mixed emotions. I left last time at peace with the place. But it’s much easier to be shanty banty about somewhere when you think you won’t have to see it for another 5 years.
My brother Tony is getting married to a lovely German woman. Uli is brilliant, and when I meet her for the first time at my parents’ place, I understand all the stories that I’ve been hearing about her.
They bring out the best in each other, I’ve never seen Tony this at ease with the world. It’s a wonderful thing. There is a part of you that always feels a stitch of guilt when you are so far away from your family, so it’s good to see that all is more than well. I feel absolved in a weird way.
I stay with my parents, who have a new apartment overlooking the harbor. It’s ridiculously good and basically life in Sydney looks pretty chipper.
The wedding day itself is great, I mean, it’s a really boring way to describe it, but a two people who love each other get married in front of their friends and family on a day of beautiful weather, with the harbour in the background and kookaburras in the trees. All two years to the day from the first time they kissed. It’s as it should be.
Ok, there were a few too many rivulets of sweat on freshly ironed shirts, but hey, it’s a Sydney summer and secretly I’d be disappointed if the weather had been mild.
So as the bride and groom whiz away for a honeymoon, the rest of us spill up the road to the pub.
But this is where the trip suddenly began to feel weird. The bridesmaid, Nicole, a great friend to Uli and Tony, and this relationship’s number one fan, got to the pub with all of us. And then cried.
Me: Are you OK?
Nicole: Yeah, I just need a minute.
Me: Is it all the stress of the wedding?
Nicole: That and my two best friends just got married.
And then the words just came out of me before I could stop them.
Me: And you’re wondering when is it going to be your turn?
Nicole looked at me and we both nodded. I realized that the thing that had been scratching at the back of my head since the day Tony told me he was getting hitched was exactly that thought.
When the fuck is it going to be my turn? The whole of the trip became coloured by this one thought.
One of my best mates Rod, who I would hang out with all the time when I went back home, had met a new guy since the last time I left. And a great guy. I met him and I was duly impressed. But that changes things; when you nest, you go into DVD and couch mode, as it should be. So I barely saw Rod when I was back and then I realized that Rod was one of the only reasons why I liked Sydney. And how much I counted on him to be single, party organizing, cruise director Rod. Selfish, I know, but hey, I didn’t realize till I was there.
But it’s that bittersweet thing. He’s a mate and you love him and want him to be happy, but that means he can’t be the same person for you anymore.
In fact, everyone I know in Sydney has settled down, got married, had kids or moved away. Or all of the above. I’ve always been down on Sydney for never changing; every time I come back, it seems that the place hasn’t moved on at all. Then when it does, you realize that the very thing you criticize, is the thing you secretly love about it. Yum, yum, a slice of irony pie.
The whole Australian family and the extended family from Germany all gather together for Xmas at Uli’s sister’s house. Our family is small, the Weisbrods are a tribe. And as I meet the whole of the clan and we all sit down to eat, I realize that the next youngest single person at the table after me is 12.
Through Facebook, an old friend of mine from years ago tracks me down. She’s in Sydney and we hook up for coffee and I meet her and her baby. She’s getting married in a couple of months. The international jet-setting, freelancing Julie has put down roots.
My great mates in Melbourne, Scott and Emma announce their engagement after dating since they met riding their dinosaurs around.
And David and Sarah who I know from Amsterdam days, have a wonderfully Australian wedding in early January with a reception at the Surf Life Saving Club right on the beach. I’ve never seen David in a suit, let alone leather lace up shoes before, but there’s a first for everything and your own wedding isn’t a bad place for it.
Now I know that it’s probably the red car syndrome that I’m suffering from to some degree. You know, you never see a red car and then you get one and you see 20 a day. And I did once read a quote that when there is something that you want, it seems that it is everywhere.
But I realized that moment after the wedding in the pub as Nicole dabbed her eyes with a Kleenex, that something in my own head shifted, and I don’t know when. I have gone from being single, to feeling single. Painfully, conspicuously single.
I am a hairy Bridget Jones. Everywhere I go I seem to be the token single guy who everyone thinks is straight. No wonder I’m single, I should wear more pink.
Single readers, I don’t think that I’m alone here when I say that I have noticed that people look at a thirtysomething singleton differently. They see a guy who seems to have his shit together, who’s funny, good-looking, talented and oh, you’re single? Yes, I am. Really? And then you watch as their mind drifts to ideas that you must be the author of a cookbook of surprising ways to boil bunnies. No one’s dating him, clearly there’s something wrong with him.
It’s like being that great leather jacket on a hanger that a shopper sees, feels the purchasing rush coming on like an 90s era ecstasy tab, when they pull up the pricetag, hands quivering. Hang on, is that all it costs? Is it on sale?….No… wow, that’s weird. Must be something wrong with it.
It’s been four years since I left my ex-partner, and I guess I always thought that something was going to have happened by now. Something core shaking, soul rattling, lightning strikingly amazing. But it hasn’t. There have been moments for sure. I dated a lovely guy in Tokyo, but I was leaving to go to Sydney, so it had a time limit on it.
And there was a wonderful man from Texas who rocked my world before I left Sydney for LA two years ago. But we quickly worked out that we were destined to be great mates.
To be honest, I don’t think I was ready for anything the last four years. I opened the door to my internal basement and it was packed full of junk. I spent four years clearing it out with long talks in the mirror and a few boxes of Kleenex myself.
But somehow, I don’t know, I guess I just thought it would work out without thinking how it would. I’m almost 37 years old, which is like 52 in gay years. And I have this horrible feeling these days that does me no help at all, that somehow I’m owed.
Isn’t that ridiculous? Universe, you’ve seen me pull the hard yards here. Where is he? Cos I am fucking sick and tired of waiting.
And yet, that’s exactly how I feel. Always the best man, never the groom.
And as the whole of the extended family gather at my parent’s place to watch the fireworks on the Harbor Bridge, we countdown to New Years Eve, raise champagne glasses and cheer. Then all the couples kiss. Which basically leaves the kids saying yuck and me saying you’ll understand when you’re older. And right there in the thick of my melancholic funk I think, when was the last time I had someone to kiss on New Years Eve?
Melbourne, 2005/6. Scott and Emma, Nick and I are standing on the packed balcony of the Casino in Melbourne looking over Southgate and the Yarra…. 3, 2, 1 ! YAY!!!!!! Scott and Emma kiss, everyone around us kisses, the whole of Melbourne kiss. Except me. And Nick.
Nick and I go way back to Singapore days. We’ve been in Bangkok, LA and Sydney together at various times. Scott and I were the best men at Nick’s wedding the last time I came to Sydney. But at that moment on the Casino balcony, we were the only two people in the state of Victoria not locking lips.
We look at each other. A moment. A smile. And we lean in for one as Nick says, “No tongues, alright?”
Thank God for your friends, or this life wouldn’t be anything at all.
And while it would be easy to hide under your doona and never come out again because there’s no one under there with you, and boy, do I have the doona days, I find I value the love of my friends more and more each year.
And when you see them marry off two by two, it reminds you that by some miracle, two people who spun in totally different orbits suddenly collide, stand before each other, take off all their armor and become better people simply by loving this other person and allowing themselves to be loved in return. And that it seems to happen to everyone you know, it will happen to you too. And me.
And maybe even soon.