Faith or Doubt: What Happens When You Have to Choose

I held her tight and breathed. She smelled just like I remembered.

“I’m here alone,” I said.

I stood on the dance floor with my ex-girlfriend from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in years—not since I came out. My twin brother married that weekend, and by chance, she attended with one of his college friends. We were chatting during the reception when she asked if I was there on a date.

I paused before answering. Drunk young men and women danced around us.

Then I told what we convince ourselves is the most innocent lie, the one of omission. It’s true, I was there alone. What I left out is my boyfriend, Alex was back in New York where we lived. My brother had asked me not to bring him.

That weekend often comes to mind. Our polarized nation right now is rife with the mischaracterization of those we don’t know and even those we do. I find myself reflecting on which could be worse: Going on faith that a person will surpass our expectations and then being let down? It happens. Or confining ourselves to a headspace of doubt that never yields?


I woke up early on the morning of my brother’s wedding, sprawled across a King-sized bed in a hotel room. It was a blue-skied Saturday in October. The best man speech, not-yet-written, buzzed around my head like a fly. I lay there a long time, staring blankly at the ceiling. The wedding would soon be taking place not far from where we grew up, in Ft. Worth, Texas, a town I hadn’t been to in years. I flew in the day before, ambivalent about my presence. And I already missed Alex.

My role in the wedding felt performative. My brother and I have never been particularly close. Still, when he called one afternoon the winter before and asked me to serve as best man I said yes. Siblings kinda have to be in on the wedding party mix.

I was sitting in Alex’s apartment a couple of months later when my brother and I had another conversation. “We don’t really have a problem with it,” he said. “Some of my friends and co-workers might.” His deep voice seemed to echo over the whir of the window air conditioner. It is the distasteful idea of seeing a gay couple. I didn’t argue with him. For a few long minutes, I said nothing at all.

A part of me wished he said, “Hell, bring him anyway.” It didn’t surprise me that he didn’t. I well remembered the culture there as homophobic. His suspicion didn’t seem like a stretch.

When I tell friends about this, they usually get angry or shake their heads, disappointed. I admit I felt neither. The truth is, I believed what he did. There probably would have been people who had a problem with me showing up with a man as a date.

I agreed I would go alone. For his part, Alex didn’t care about staying home. He hadn’t met my brother yet anyway. It was for the best. His brash, forthright, British sensibility would have clashed with any prejudice we encountered, an idea I found both hilarious and horrifying.

We’ll never know, of course. It doesn’t matter. What matters is I got caught up in something playing out all too frequently these days.

Suspicion breeds suspicion.

I don’t blame my brother. Still, his lack of faith in the character of some of these folks triggered my lack of faith in all of them, including someone I knew better than he did. The only person, in the end, who mattered.


At the afternoon wedding ceremony, I heard nothing the priest said. It was a Catholic service in a vast downtown church and seemed interminable. Her sister—the maid of honor—and I knelt at the altar with the bride and groom the whole time. I hadn’t set foot in a Catholic church since a funeral years before. I felt happy for my brother but in a detached way. I didn’t hear the couple’s vows either.

The wedding reception immediately followed. For dinner, I sat at a table with my family and hers. At one point, I caught a glimpse of my brother and his new wife laughing. I watched people at other tables spread across an overly-decorated banquet room. Couples of all ages—all of them a man and a woman—laughed too. Wine glasses clinked.

I started to wonder if I made the right decision to go alone that weekend. Being at a wedding by yourself begs for self-pity under any circumstance. When your own love is missing, it feels worse. I hardly said a word while we ate.

As I danced with my ex later, I thought of how Alex would have gotten along well with her. They have the same biting sense of humor that attracted me to each. In those moments with her, I felt more alone than at any other time that weekend.

Had I been in an environment less laden with suspicion, I might have reacted differently with her. Instead, I wallowed in regret as I walked back to the hotel alone after the reception—not for who I am, but for what I didn’t say.

The day after the wedding, I was back at the airport. By the time I got to the gate, a load started to lift from my shoulders. It was heavier than I realized until that moment. I called Alex. He told me about the neighbor’s baby shower I missed. “I can’t wait to see you,” we each said to one another before hanging up for my departure.


When we assume the worst in people, it brings out the worst in us. By withholding our faith in a person, we rob them of the opportunity to exhibit their humanity while also diminishing our own.

Faith may sometimes let us down. Unlike doubt, faith can also lift us. If only we give it the chance.

The following year, I was back in Texas visiting family. One night, my brother and I met a few of his friends at a bar. Among them was my ex-girlfriend.

She and I were talking at one point. I was a few beers in when I said something like, “Can we go somewhere with cuter boys?” She pulled away, looked at me for a second, head sideways, and smiled. The group watched her drag me by the hand out the door.

We went to a popular gay bar, where apparently she was a regular. We drank and talked about everything but our failed courtship. Both of us seemed to understand that, now, it was beside the point. We danced until closing time.

I never felt so close to her.

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