Archive for the 'friendship' Category

the contract

I finally had my ketubah framed. That’s the Jewish wedding contract.

It was the first time I have ever had something framed. It was a bigger deal than I thought it would be. In the frame shop, this little man with round glasses like Harry Potter kept tugging open another drawer full of colorful samples. Every manner of delicately, elegantly aged. It made me want to frame everything, until he told me the prices.

I read the ketubah, since it was lying there on the work table. I forget already what it says. Something about commitment and love, I’m sure.

My eyes went immediately to the signatures on the bottom, and I remembered signing my name, there in the basement of the place where only minutes later I would barely make it down the aisle without tripping over the front of my enormous dress. My name is unbalanced, hesitant. Not because I am hesitant about marriage, but because I have never learned how to properly sign. Bear’s is more graceful. And then the witnesses, his friend, who has since moved to the suburbs to live in a house so big that I can’t keep track of the number of bathrooms, and my closest friend at the time, a woman I met almost the first day I arrived in this city.

She was sitting across the conference table from me at our departmental orientation, wearing a big necklace that she toyed absently with. She was very thin and had read more than everyone else combined, and I was intimidated by her.

For some reason (it might have had something to do with the fact that we were the only women there), we became friends, and then good friends, and then we were together constantly. She would sleep at my apartment after we’d talked into the night. Do you know the kind of friend who there is always more to say to? It’s something about the way they listen. She would tilt her head thoughtfully. She was so smart that she could find meaning in anything. So little topics could be stretched to become big topics and big topics could lie lightly across the top of whole months, years, even.

Her signature at the bottom of my wedding contract is so fine and small that it is almost invisible. It sits directly beneath my unruly, clumsy one. We are bound together here, her and me and Bear and the friend in the suburbs. 

In the framing shop, I tried to pull my eyes up from it, because she is gone.

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Kate on August 9th 2012 in friendship, life, marriage

what happens when you turn thirty

This is a guest post from one of my favorite writers. Her name is Erica. I met her in a class that actually changed my life. In that class, I thought, “I want to be like Erica.” Later, she was in my tiny writing group. The entire time I’ve known her, she has worn the most unassuming clothing. Like she really just likes to be comfortable. In this city, I had never seen someone do that. She struck me immediately and continuously as a person who likes being herself. Who can just sit there being herself for as long as you need to sit there with her, figuring yourself out. I was thrilled when she wrote to me yesterday and said she needed to write this post. Then she wrote it. 

I turned thirty yesterday. I was in my twenties for a long time—a whole decade. I turned twenty in Maine, where I was living in staff housing behind a luxury resort, paying $35 a week in rent and saving money for a trip to Europe. How’d I get to Maine? My car broke down and I found a job. It was adventurous, I was young, and my life was yawning open like a carpet unfurling.

In Maine, I learned how to hear complaints from guests at the hotel without rolling my eyes. I learned all the wrong ways to be a customer. I learned that having a compassionate boss makes a big difference. I met a man in his sixties named Legs, who told me that losing his girl had been his Auschwitz. And I said, “Everyone has their Auschwitz,” but I didn’t know, then, what mine was, what it might be. In fact, ten years on, I think it’s a little dramatic. But still, I understand my point—that everyone suffers more than they think they can suffer. Everyone has to face what once seemed untenable.

 When I was twenty, I didn’t ever expect to turn thirty.

Thirty felt like something I’d experience during the trip to Europe I had yet to take: seeing a distant shoreline—no, the faint suggestion of a shoreline—from a ferry and thinking I’d never actually make it to that new country. When I was twenty, most of my friends were older than me. Throughout my twenties, actually, most of my friends were older than me. Their lives became a little more stable a little sooner than mine. A lot of them got married. Now, a lot of them are having children, or are at least thinking about it. A lot of them already finished graduate school before I decided to go.

I lived in Vermont from the time I was twenty-one to twenty-three, after six months in Europe where I learned how to open my mind (only sometimes with, ahem, help), how to speak quietly in a cathedral, how to communicate love to the non-English speaking parents of friends you met in America. In Vermont, I learned how to live with people of all ages, and how to love people who were older than I was by more than a few years. I learned that when a man asks for or gives a massage, that’s definitely code. I learned that in Vermont, it’s not called soft-serve—it’s called a creamee.

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Kate on June 20th 2012 in friendship, guest post

the girls in the clique. and how I (accidentally) flashed them.

I didn’t know girls still did cliques at this age. I mean, I guess I could’ve figured it out, but I didn’t really give it much thought.

I was homeschooled, so I missed a lot of that stuff, which I’ve always felt lucky for. But no one can miss all of it.

(they made us watch “Mean Girls” at freshman orientation in college. it cut a little close to home for me)

It takes about two seconds of remembering to whip me back in time to the girls’ bathroom at the synagogue, where I am engaged in that most classic and venerable of traditions: crying helplessly, locked in a stall. It is my first day of Hebrew High School. I’m thirteen, and none of the other girls will talk to me. It’s not just implied, it’s outright. They cross the room to avoid me and then cluster together, whispering.

They are the same girls who I was in class with for the past few years. It’s Lauren and Elise, and then their friends. Lauren is the pretty girl with the amazing black hair who told me I don’t know how to dress. Elise is always following her around, at her heels like an eager puppy, practically panting, her blond hair bouncing. Hebrew school was OK, because I had David, and also Shana, and also Andrew, who was really smart. And I avoided the others, the way you learn to do. But at the beginning of Hebrew High, I am alone with all the wrong people. And I thought that things would be different, for some reason, because we have all had our bar and bat mitzvahs. Because we are supposed to be adults now. And adults are supposed to all get along with each other.


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Kate on June 6th 2012 in being different, friendship

a wife, a husband, and a roommate

There are lots of rules about marriage. Some are big and self-explanatory, like don’t cheat, don’t keep destructive secrets, and don’t always eat the last bite of the buffalo chicken salad. That stuff is amazing, but marriage is about sharing.

It’s not about sharing your house with your friend who needs a place to stay, though.

That’s one of the smaller rules.

Along with remind your partner to call their mom and don’t constantly mix up their friends and then crack yourself up trying to sort them out.

My friend from college needed a place to stay for about a month, in between apartments. Automatically, I said she should stay with us. There’s enough space, so it felt weird not to offer. I mentioned it to Bear. “Of course,” he said. Which was what I expected. I thought it would be weird if he said no.

My friend moved in.

And then everyone else was like, “Oh my god! Are you okay with that?! What about Bear? It’s his home! He must be so upset! Are you guys okay?”

Everyone said that at the same time. They hadn’t even met my friend. Or they had, and they liked her, but they couldn’t believe that this was happening. That I’d allowed this whole other person to move into my home, while I was in it. With my husband. All of us. Together.

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guy friends: i would like to have them

For the longest time, I have only had one guy friend. And I used to date him, in college. Which complicates things. It makes Bear uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, too. Not the him being my friend part. That’s fine. It happened naturally. We’re horrible gossips together.  But I wish I could erase our dating past. I shouldn’t have dated him. Even while I was dating him, I was hazily aware of that.

I am bad at guy friends. I have only had a few. Which makes me totally uncool, I know.

Once, I had more than a few, very briefly, and then, when I met Bear, they all vanished. Which was too bad, because I like hanging out with guys.

The problem is, they always try to kiss me. Some of them try to kiss me right away. Some of them do it sneakily, much later. Some of them wait years and year, but then, predictably, they try to kiss me.

The guy I already dated—he will never try to kiss me again. If you mentioned the idea to him, he would look immediately ill. We went through that, we came out of it, and now we’re safe. Thank god.

I know that men and women can be friends. There are lots of movies and books about how, actually, they can’t. How it’s this big mystery that we probably need more books and movies about. The Man/Woman Friendship Conundrum: An Attempt At Solving the Unsolvable Mystery About Whether Or Not Men and Women Can Actually Be Friends Without Eventually Making Out (By someone with a PhD).

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Kate on May 14th 2012 in friendship, marriage, relationships

the toe hair story

I was eleven. I was at a slumber party. Remember those? It was for my friend Amy’s birthday. She’d invited a bunch of girls over, and there were going to be games and punch and cookies and sleeping bags.

She lived in the biggest house of anyone I knew—with bricks on the front and fancy things like porcelain figurines and sculptures of horses inside. I thought her mom was fancy, too. She was very, very thin, with an air of sadness about her, and she always had her hair up, with a few wisps escaping. She had a long, elegant neck, and she wore slim, matching clothes. Amy’s dad had left her mom for one of his college students. I thought the student would be terrible—an empty-eyed girl with round breasts popping out of her pink lacey shirt. I imagined her as a sort of ill-intentioned Barbie. But once they dropped Amy off at my house together and she was confusingly earthy and friendly, wearing cargo pants and Birkenstocks, with a gap-toothed smile. And Amy’s dad was chubby and bashful. I thought he looked ashamed, standing in front of my parents with his girl, who was only nineteen.

I was already nervous in Amy’s house, because I had seen her dad with the girl. And because I felt sorry for her elegant mother, who I imagined was British, even though she didn’t have a British accent, just because I thought that British people were all elegant and liked sculptures of horses. I felt awkward, feeling sorry for someone’s mom. I knew it wasn’t my place.


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Little Victories: how am I not jealous right now?

I have a history of being jealous. It’s not the sort of thing that’s cool to admit. Because jealousy is really petty and everyone knows it. Also, everyone knows it means you’re insecure. People who are secure do not feel jealous. They feel supportive and happy. Their neighbor wins the $389,000,000 lottery? Good for them! We’re planting a new garden!

That was based on my mom. She is the least jealous person ever, and she loves to garden.


Clearly, I am not very secure. I mean, clearly.

I’m working on it.

For a while, whenever I went to my writing group, I got jealous. We’d all show up, being fabulous and wearing interesting shoes, preening a little. And we’d report on our two weeks apart. Who was pitching where, getting accepted where, who had this amazing new opportunity, who had gotten this crazy gig. Quick, I thought frantically, think of something impressive you’ve done! I was deathly afraid that nothing would come to mind.

And sometimes I am so jealous I feel my smile get stuck on my face and I can hear my own voice, surprisingly squeaky, as though from a great distance, saying, “That’s great! That’s really great!” and in a second I think I might laugh like the laugh track on a bad sitcom. “Oh my god! I’m so happy for you! That’s really great! Oops! I tripped over my feet!” *laughter*

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