Recently, I reconnected with an old friend: a girl with whom I was extremely close–vacations together, all confidences (and some experimental drug use) shared–as teenagers. During and after college, both of us proved poor at maintaining contact across distance–we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in at least eight years.
I don’t know another way to say that ubiquitous cliche: “It felt like no time had passed.” But it did. Also: we giggled the way we had in high school. We raised our voices, the way we did then, in heated discussion of important books and films; we gushed, as we did then, about the latest indie bands we’d found. We glided quickly across Manhattan avenues, as we did then, both of us a bit perplexed about our place and precise destination.
All to express: neither of us had much changed. Also: certain friendships endure.
And, perhaps most significantly, for me, right now: friendships mean something different, now, than they used to. Throughout my life, they’ve taken shape in different ways:
In high school, like this: seeing each other during the day–passing (impressively prolific) notes to each other in physics class, sneaking out for cigarettes during gym, huddling together at diners during lunch and Upper West Side apartments after school–when apart, talking, endlessly, on the phone.
In college: preening, crashing, crying in each other’s dorm rooms, discovering sex together, and independence, and postmodern theoretical frameworks that none of us understood but made us feel significantly elevated; cycling through each other like seasons until we found ourselves, finally, nestled in families, fallen together.
After college: skeptically, slowly, we joined–at work, at parties around town; we navigated our newfound adulthood, catering it with dinner parties and solstice fetes and crowded concerts and sloppy happy hours. Slowly, we came to trust one another, until trust became love, and love a kind of mutual, grown-up dependence.
For me, that dependance is still there. And what scares me, now, is not being single. What scares me is being single, alone.
One day last week, I met A for a work date in the afternoon; I had come from lunch with another close girlfriend (another whose initial is A–an issue I’ve yet to resolve); the night before I’d been with a new guy–emotions were seeping, raw and confused, from my pores–and I breathed deeply because of these wise, worldly women, right there to receive them.
“We have got to meet husbands at the exact same moment,” I said to A.
“Exact same moment,” she repeated.
It’s a tricky thing: we want to urge each other on. We love each other fiercely, and we want to want the things you want for people you love that much–namely, happiness. We know that many of us want, and may be happier finding romantic love–something our friendships can approach, but not, quite, replace.
(I don’t mean to suggest there’s a hierarchy in which romantic relationships surpass friendships–they’re just different. You know, sex. Anyway.)
And yet, our livelihoods, our day-to-day sanity, our strength to resist the external pressures constantly bearing down–telling us we’re freakishly flawed because we don’t have perfectly toned triceps or hairless breasts or faithful boyfriends who look like Mark Ruffalo–depend on none of us finding it before another.
(One more sidenote: it’s recently come to my attention that many women think they are the only ones in the world with hairs on their nipples–I hereby venture the risk of never getting laid again for the sake of one less Inane Female Anxiety. You’re welcome.)
But back to jealousy, which isn’t cute. When a dear girlfriend tells you she’s into someone new, it is not polite to reply with, But what if you fall in love with him and then have to spend Saturday nights making dinner at his house instead of hopping around the Lower East Side with me? Or, Who will I have to commiserate with about condoms and OKCupid and impossibly cryptic flirtatious texts if you have a fucking boyfriend?
We are all known to sometimes think impolite things.
But most of us are well trained to avoid speaking them. We say, instead: That’s so great! and Tell me everything! and I’m so happy for you!
And, those aren’t lies: we do (mostly) think it’s great, we do (usually) want to know every minute detail, we do, (pretty much) genuinely, feel happy when our friends find love.
But we also can’t help but feel a little bit sad, and a little bit fearful, for ourselves–because being alone is a lot more fun when you’re not, really.