Sure, this counts as a Little Victory!
I got this text on Thanksgiving from a woman I haven’t really talked to in at least a year: Friend, today I am thankful for you. Hope your day is filled with gratitude and warmed by people who love you.
She’s busy, in a writing program down south. I’m busy, here in NYC. We never really got the chance to get really close, but I’ve always liked her.
I thought there was some mistake. She’d probably meant the message for someone else. Or she’d sent it to a lot of people, and I was accidentally included. I felt awkward, responding, because what if I was too personal in return, and she was embarrassed for me and it was weird?
I am always waiting for women to leave me. Like the guy who doesn’t call back after what seemed like a perfect second date, like the breakup that never makes sense even though the other person seems to be trying to explain, I am never sure of the reasons, even though I dig through my memories, unearthing things that look like they might be clues. Things that have been broken a long time and are probably better off left there, underground.
(sorry, that was morbid. source)
I have fought passionately with boyfriends. I’ve yelled and stormed and stomped out and slammed the door and disappeared into the night for a while until I realize I’m just wandering around a parking lot and someone is probably going to rape and murder me and the fantastically successful dramatic exit is probably not worth all that. I have a flair for the dramatic with men. But with women, I am gentle. Since I was twelve or even sooner, I had best friends—girls I dressed up with in endless rounds of play acting, and had sleepovers with and wrote letters to and illustrated the envelopes. And they have tended to get mysteriously hurt or bored or something else and leave over the years, without telling me why. Or they’ve abruptly betrayed me in some teenaged, heartbreaking manner. The girl who I worshipped who was abruptly dating my boyfriend, just after I’d broken up with him. But she didn’t tell me—instead she showed up with him one day, just like that, and then she left the room while he berated me from his towering height of six foot four inches, telling me that I was stupid, ridiculous, pathetic– a little girl– that I didn’t know anything about the world. He was obviously in love with me, furious at me, and she was obviously letting him loom over me and tell me what a little fool I was. I couldn’t believe she’d chosen him over the stories I’d written with her about our shared future, where we had little farm houses down the road from each other in New Hampshire, and I came over for Christmas even though I am Jewish, and our kids played together and eventually married each other.
I was best friends with my roommate in college, until she stopped taking her medication, and then she hated me for everything. Just before she hated me, she used to crawl into my bed at night, crying, and I didn’t know what to do. When we separated, she kept my best underwear. The red lace ones. The only really sexy underwear I’ve ever owned.
(better than these. source)
And then in grad school, there was my brilliant blond friend who left my life without a word, after she signed my wedding contract, just below my own signature. I think it was because I asked her if she wanted foie gras when I took her out for her birthday, and a split second later I remembered that of course she was a vegetarian. Was that disgust in her face? It seems more apparent every time I play back the scene.
I think I’ve learned to close myself off. Not from being friendly or having lunch or having long talks or lounging on the couch with a woman I care about. Not from having friends—I find I have many of them now. But from believing innately in them. From automatically trusting them to be there when I am lonely, or when I am afraid but not the right kind of afraid to immediately tell Bear. From counting on them to text back, or text in the first place. I have exonerated them from all responsibility– I don’t expect them to check in on me. If they do, it’s a pleasant surprise, they really didn’t have to.
I let myself share plenty. I care about the people in my life, and I want to be there for them. I write their birthdays on my calendar, I buy them flowers sometimes, when they succeed at something they’ve been trying for. I listen. I am not joking around, it’s for real. I invest in them. It’s just that I am not holding my breath. There’s a leap of faith I haven’t taken in a long time. The chasm looks wider now. As a kid I had boundless confidence. I used to climb out my window onto the roof, and then I’d climb to the peak, and I never thought about falling.
I have decided I don’t miss her. The woman I sometimes find myself abstractly missing.
I don’t miss any of them.
I haven’t met her yet, I tell myself. I will meet someone and trust her implicitly and it will be better.
I have a friend now who is too cool and too different from me to be my friend. She is also so gorgeous that she looks unreal. Where I am boring and the thought of a party makes me cringe and my idea of a good time is to come up with a twist for the plot of the fantasy novel I am perpetually working on, she breaks crazy sexy stories for a living, gets recognized at the parties she attends, and always has a wild story that you wouldn’t believe from last night. I don’t really know why she likes me. Really, I don’t.
But sometimes she would say, “I love you!”
And I would smile. Or send her an emoticon back. A smiling one. I couldn’t say it.
“I don’t know why she’s my friend,” I told my therapist.
“Describe your ideal best friend,” my therapist said.
I did, laughing a little because I’d never really thought about it.
“She sounds just like you,” she said. “I think you’re describing yourself.”
I thought about it. She was maybe a little bit right. If I was best friends with someone exactly like me, it’d be safe.
When I met Bear, he was open and I was open, and on our fourth date we were lying in bed together, singing into each other’s faces “Oh, what you do to me” and laughing at ourselves even though we were actually totally serious and we both knew it.
It was so easy!
I’ve become friends with a girl I met on the internet. She’s actually a brilliant editor, and if you write, you should read her blog about writing. She was helping me with my fantasy novel and we started talking about our lives and it turns out that she is cocky and dorky at the same time—combined with self-awareness, vulnerability, and intelligence that is pretty much my favorite thing in the world.
We’ve never met in person, and a couple weeks ago she said that maybe we should get together. She lives near Chicago. The same day, we made travel plans for her to come visit, with both of us paying for it.
“How long should I stay?” she asked.
“A week,” I said.
And just like that, I made myself available.
“Are you sure?” she said.
She’s getting here tonight.
Yesterday it was very cold. I opened the front closet and reached for a coat. It’s been a year since I wore one of the winter ones. And there was the enormous, ridiculous fuzzy blue coat that Melanie, a woman who reads this blog and who I’ve never met in person, sent me. She sent it to me just because she wanted to share (she wrote this post about it). It feels like a big soft hug just when you need a hug. I wore it over my somber, wintry outfit, and when it began to snow I was glad.
Brooklyn seemed like it might stretch forever. Like if I kept walking I’d hit mountains eventually.
Last week I told my gorgeous, too-cool friend that I love her back. In an email. Maybe one day I’ll say it aloud.
I have decided to believe that the Thanksgiving text message was true, that it was meant for me. That even if she sent to a lot of people, she meant it for me, too. I was not an accident.
I feel like all of my posts about friendship end on hopeful notes. That’s when I want to write about friendship, when there’s hope. But I also think it’s true that there’s more hope all the time. That eventually, I will let myself be vulnerable and it will be impressive because everyone will have come to see me as this hard-hearted but totally sexy warrior with a single elegant scar on one cheekbone who kills before she asks questions and wields a mighty battle sword and wears armor that seemed imposing before we learned it was once her darling dead father’s and actually she’s a big softie. OK, I’m kidding. But it will be different, and I won’t have to be so automatically, intimately protective of myself. I think it’ll feel better.
(it’s me! source)
Of course, I’m still nervous.
“Calm down,” said Bear, “She’ll like our sushi place,” when I began agonizing over where to take my visiting friend to dinner. Will she? What if she can get better sushi at home? What if she is bored? What if she gets annoyed by that weird throat-clearing tic I have? Once a guy asked me if I had Tourette syndrome. But he said it was cute. I don’t know.
That’s the thing about making yourself available– it’s pretty clear that you care. It’s pretty clear that you want to trust this other person. This other woman who might make you feel like shedding all your secrets or like retreating into them.
Maybe we’ll get even closer. You never know.
And in honor of friendship and warmth, I’d like to pass the fuzzy blue coat along to someone who needs a hug, to remind her that friendship is waiting everywhere. Melanie thinks it’s time for the coat to continue its journey, too. So if you’d like to have a turn with it, please let me know in the comments or email me at email@example.com and I’ll pick a person to send it to. Because there is something magical about sending a friendly coat to someone you’ve never met before.
(actually, THIS is me. no sword.)
* * *
Do you rely on your friends? Was there a time when you didn’t?
Unroast: Today I love the way I feel when I come inside from the cold. Like everything is so cozy!
ALSO, here’s a discount for ETDC readers from Blue Nile for the holidays! Use the code Special20%Off and get 20% off silver, gemstone, or pearl jewelry. It’s valid from today at 8:00 am ET to November 29 at 8:00 am ET. Enjoy!
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