It is hard work. It is lots of planning, and fittings, and discussions of necklines and colors. It is more estrogen in the atmosphere than is probably safe to take in. But you manage, because this is your best friend’s wedding.
I’ve never had a nickname. When I was little, I was known as Sarah Bunny, but that was within my family. More of a pet name.
Lately a few people have started calling me by my last name, which is awesome. Makes me feel special to them. But it still doesn’t fill my lifelong desire to have a proper nickname. Something born of shared experience and friendship.
I went to brunch at Deedee’s house on Sunday. Deedee is not her real name, it’s Edith. And, I mean, how frickin’ cool is that?
I just want the same thing. That’s all.
“You have 15 to 20 minutes before you are bombarded with friendship. Be prepared.”
Last night. I was cleaning house, listening to the Broadway Showstoppers station on Pandora, wearing striped underwear and mom’s embroidered halter top from the 70s, and baking banana bourbon chocolate chip bread.
I turned down plans with a friend, a “friend date,” to do this. “I’ve got a date with myself,” I told her.
But…turns out you can’t just text your Stephanies a picture of you in your underwear and halter top and expect them not to show up at your house. I was making guacamole, anyways.
Told them I was in the middle of cleaning/dancing/baking, that I couldn’t be a great hostess for very long…but in the end it turned out not to matter. Because I don’t need to host them. There is no courting here, just epic hanging out and talking, laughing, complete honesty…
And whiskey gingers. Lots and lots of whiskey gingers.
(I call them that even when I use bourbon. True story).
Incidentally, I started the day off with sauteed chard.
We call that detox, friends. But it was totally worth it.
National Pi(e) Day!
…was last Tuesday. How did I not know about this in advance? Anyways, now I know, because it will be every year, March 14th (3.14…). This day, however, is not to be confused with National Pie Day, which is January 23rd. I celebrated that one last year.
Which gets me to thinking about how much has changed for me in just over a year. Last year, I baked that pie at my moms’ house, where I was living in the basement, next to the coal shoot. I baked the pie by myself, because baking is one of my many coping mechanisms, and I had much to cope with–lack of friends, lack of personal space, lack of direction in life, etc. I was taking everything personally, you see, feeling that I didn’t have decent friends or quarters or plans because I didn’t deserve them.
Now, I do have those things:
AND a much-improved sense of self-worth. And guess what, Friends? It was the self-worth that came first. I had to trust that my shitty circumstances were just that–circumstances. That they did not reflect who I was or what I was capable of or what I merited. I had to trust that I could and would have a better apartment, better friends, and better, more-suitable goals. That I was not inherently flawed, but just going through a bit of a rough patch.
And now? Well, now when I bake a pie, I have many lovely ladies to share it with, friendships that continue to grow and develop and deepen all the time. Now I don’t have to use my moms’ kitchen (unless I’m house-sitting), because I have my very own. It’s small, and imperfect, but it’s all mine.
Now I don’t have to feel guilty about dropping out of school, or quitting my band, or looking for a new job, because I know that it’s okay to want better for myself, and that I deserve it. I know that my thoughts and ideas and dreams and aspirations, no matter how radical or half-baked or uncertain, are all mine. I can do what I want, like eating leftover pie for lunch.
Not that there was much left over.
It’s not every day in the First World that you wake up knowing for certain that you’re going to see a dead body. And I was thinking about that, last Friday, in the shower. While I got ready for your mother’s funeral.
I know we joked about it, made light of the situation, maybe even more than most would. It’s just that she wasn’t that type of lady, you know? Not the type for us to go into hysterics over, not a warm and compassionate person. And I didn’t know her as much more than just…your mom.
But you loved her. You love her so much, of course you do. And I should have known that. I should have said something better.
Instead I said I was really sorry, and you said “Thank you.” And you said “It’s okay.”
Anyways, I didn’t even get a good look at the body, so busy was I trying to find a place to warm up, but it’s probably for the best. See, I don’t believe in embalming. I prefer my deceased to look, well, dead. Gone, expired. But you don’t know that, because that’s not the type of thing you say to a 26-year-old planning her only parent’s funeral. You just say “Of course I’ll come, of course I’ll play the violin.” And try not to cry when you see the oldest sister’s broken, wet face.
I should have said something, when I got up to play, but instead I made some comment about…wearing heels, was it? Some silly little thing. Then, later, I thought of all the things I could have said. And what I wanted to say was:
“I didn’t know Linda very well, I only knew her as my best friend’s mom, and to tell the truth I was always a little scared of her. I think we all were. But really I was scared of most people’s parents, because they saw me as a bad influence. And I don’t think Linda ever saw me that way. She always welcomed me without much fuss, if I wanted to stay for dinner, or if I wanted to have a sleepover. I never felt out of place in her home. I’m sorry that life was so hard for Linda, especially these last few painful years, and I know that now she’s not in any pain. I dedicate this song to her.”
But I didn’t say that. I just played my violin, and nobody clapped at the end, because I guess that’s how it’s done at a funeral.
And you said so much, and so well. You made everyone laugh, and you made me bawl silently, and you told stories that I never heard, and you gave so much life and depth to your mother with your honest words. It was a side of you I’d never seen before, and all I could think of was how amazing you are, and how strong, and how lucky I am to have you as a friend.
You know, when I came back from Spain, I was plagued with anxiety and regret. I thought I’d made the wrong choice, yet again, and I almost couldn’t live with it. I kept searching for a sign, a reason that would justify my decision, where I could look and point and say “See? There. That’s why I had to come back. It was meant to happen this way.”
But instead I grew, and grew up, and I don’t think like that anymore. I don’t think that things happen for a reason, that they’re meant to be one way or another. I just try to do my best, to accept the decisions I make and deal with the way things are.
So I can’t comfort you the way the others did, can’t tell you that your mother is in heaven, because I don’t believe that. I have no Celestial Kingdom to offer you, no promises, no answers. I do not think that I was meant to come home from Spain so that I could be there for your mother’s funeral.
But for the first time since coming home, I’m glad I did.
Some nights it is all about beer, brats, spuds and ladies. While watching Newsies. Did you think those things were not compatible? Did you think that ladies’ nights had to be about wine and finger foods and girl talk and rom-coms? Well think again:
This is real life, Friends. This plus, you know, complaining about things (work, life, boys, etc.), looking up hot boys’ pictures on the internet, giggling over silly and/or perverted jokes, and just…enjoying each others’ company. Mutual love. And Boozies.
That’s when you turn Newsies into a drinking game, Friends.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
You don’t have to worry about me seeing you cry, Friend, even though I know that must suck. I’ve been learning lately that it’s much more comfortable to be the comforter than the comfortee.
But I’ve been the comforted one, friend. I’ve needed. I’ve doubted. I’ve been afraid and ashamed for others–even loved ones–to see me cry. I see now that they did not judge me.
And you don’t have to worry, friend, about me seeing you cry, because I love you even when you cry. Even when you wipe tears and snot onto your pretty scarf and then later forget and wear it out shopping. I love you even when you are pretending to be interested in finding new boots and making chit-chat, but really you are a churning torrent of shitty emotions inside and it’s hard to focus on much else. Even then. Even then I love you. Even then you are my friend.
* * *
I want to tell you: You did not make a mistake, Friend. You made a decision. Decisions suck bad, but they’ve gotta be made. So you made one, and maybe it wasn’t the best choice, after all. So make another. And another. Keep making decisions until you get to where you want to be. Do not wait for the approval of others! Do not worry about what people will think or how they will judge you! It is your life, and you have every right to fuck it up as you see fit.
(…though you won’t fuck it up, and I think we both know that)
This is not about black and white, right and wrong, good and bad choices. It’s about growing and learning. It’s about becoming strong. It’s about wearing bad-ass boots and a leather jacket and a pretty dress. And red hair–don’t forget the red hair. But you already know about being a bad-ass.
You are, after all, the girl who lived in a tent on Maui.
* * *
Think of how much you’ve changed since then, how far you’ve come. And think of how much you’d changed BEFORE that, from who you were in high school, for example. And then know that this, right now, this very shitty, snotty scarf-wearing, half-assed shopping, crying on a friend’s couch time of your life…well, it’s just another part. It’s just the ugly cocoon-y, wriggling larva part. Which means your transformation is not yet complete, and you are free to cry on my couch all you want. And I will still love you, Friend.
Because I know that you will be happy, though it might not be any time soon. I will be here, in the meantime, with tissues, and hugs, and food.
Once, Twice, Three Times a Ladies Night
I’m just really stoked on friendships right now, guys. Remember how I was so excited about a platonic Valentine’s Day? And that was BEFORE I knew that there would be chocolate-dipped strawberries. These are good times, Friends.
I guess it’s extra-special for me because I haven’t ever really had a close-knit group of girlfriends. Hell, I’ve only ever been part of a friend group once, and that didn’t pan out. For most of my life I’ve had individual, free-range friends, all members of their own, separate groups. This always made birthdays hell. WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. Very stressful.
But this birthday was a smooth integration of different friends, old and new, male and female, everyone just getting along, NBD.
Which led to Buttercheese (Stephanie Classic) hosting the platonic V-Day/Lady Pedofyle meeting. With chocolate-dipped strawberries, why not? And salad–she made salad–and mac and cheese. We all sat down to a nice meal together at the big wooden table, then we gave each other chocolate. Then we watched a movie and talked about EVERYTHING. How fucking cool is that?
I’d been feeling for a long time that it was so difficult to make close friends as an adult, because everything had to be an outing, a luncheon. But lately I’ve stumbled into a group of amazing guys and girls who are down to just hang out like there is no tomorrow. Field trip to the liquor store? Thanks, Adam! Wanna go for a run, or a walk, or feed me dinner? Thanks, Eric! Wanna come over tonight because I’m house-sitting for my Moms and just get drunk and talk about relationship troubles like everyone assumes we do? Thanks, Stephanie P. and Kristin and Nicole!
* * *
I think it’s easy to get caught up in being a grown-up and depending so much on your significant other or your family, then friendships are reserved for maybe just going out for coffee, or drinks, for a quick and dirty update of each other’s lives, all gossip and drama and anecdotes, before retreating back into the comfort of your small world.
And I think that’s sad. I’ve felt for a long time that quality, low-maintenance, close friendships were crucial to a happy, well-rounded life.
It’s just that now…now I have some of those. And I could not be more grateful. Giddy, really. And isn’t that what this is about? A space to be silly, keep it simple. I think that has been the best birthday gift of all–no easy feat, when you consider the incredible material treasures brought to me from far and wide:
I am feeling much loved lately, is what I’m trying to say.
Also: Thank you.