08/11/2012 07:42 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Thoughts On My Friend On Her Wedding Day

A close friend is getting married today. I am happy for her, I think, in the way that you are happy for friends who you knew once upon a time. She asked me to be in her wedding. It felt important to say yes, though we no longer talk as we once did, and after this big day, odds are she will drift off into married life. I will write on her wall for her birthday and like her photos of vacations, dogs, and eventually little people.

So today I am happy to put on a purple dress and smile nicely in the photos that will dot her mantle. She describes me as the friend from life -- which is about right.

We met at age 10 as rivals on the soccer field. I remember her being the popular, loud girl on the team. I was quiet and kept to myself. By middle school, there were new rules. We went to a small private school where everyone was supposed to get along. She should have fit in. She had a loving family who could afford the tuition bills, and she was smart, social and opinionated. Yet, girls are always girls. She was teased relentlessly for her frizzy hair, braces, and a name that rhymed with Nester, Molester and Fester.

I, on the other hand, never should have belonged. My family was a disaster, and I paid for my tuition with scholarships and money from my grandparents. I was scared of my own shadow. But, I was pretty enough to pass and got a permanent seat at the right lunch table.

I liked that she didn't belong. For whatever reason, I felt like an outsider too. So we became unlikely friends. I never had the guts to fully defend her, and sometimes I would join in, but when we put dog poop in her basketball sneakers, I would go in early and clean it out.

We remained friends through high school. She drove me home from soccer practice in the old mini van that kids made fun of. I needed her because I didn't have a ride, and she needed me because she didn't have anyone else. She'd almost stopped caring about belonging, and most of the time I didn't want to have to. On Friday nights, we would hole up in her bedroom, watch "Sex and the City," eat bubble gum, and be far away from red Solo cups and whatever I'd been told was going on over lunch. I needed her to be my hideout, and she didn't have anything else to do.

It was a good enough arrangement.

As we grew up, we started not to need each other as much. I got a license, and in college she found that she wasn't as awkward or geeky as she'd been made to feel. Her intelligence was an asset. She'd grown into a hard-earned self-assurance, due to the fact that she'd never been given the opportunity to fit in. The girl who'd never been asked to prom, got a boyfriend, went abroad, and was accepted to law school.

Today she's the girl who is getting married to someone that she never thought she would. Like most of us, she had a checklist: qualities she thought she needed for whatever reason and listed off to me during our two-person slumber parties.

He had to have certain job, religion, look and background. She saw herself becoming a New York corporate attorney, and naturally he would be a power-hungry city dweller. She lives in Georgia and works for a small local law firm. The man she is marrying doesn't share much with her adolescent checklist, but she's told me he is much more to her.

And it makes sense. She never really need someone to validate her, make her feel cool, and part of the in-crowd. She was never in the in-crowd.

Instead she found someone who genuinely loves her for her -- and who she genuinely loves.

But what I will take away from her wedding is that it doesn't have to look like what you thought it would. For a long time, I wanted friends who were pretty and popular to dot my photos -- because didn't that imply that I was pretty and popular? Instead I got a true friend who drove me home in a mini van.

And as for my boyfriend: he needed to be six foot four, read Esquire, drink whiskey, have gone to a good school, love his job, and be about 27 other things that no one could really ever be. Predictably, I don't have a date to her wedding.

It takes time to find acceptance, and the strength to just be enough for you-in a way she is lucky in having been forced into it early. But knowing her, and watching her become the woman she has become, testifies to what you get when you stop doing it for others, and just do what feels right for you.

So that's what I will take away from her wedding and keep maybe not on my mantle but somewhere closer -- that and my purple dress.