The space was dark and we were sitting tightly packed together, legs tucked snuggly under the bar when she asked me, “has it been lonely for you? I mean, having a kid before any of our friends have? It must be hard.” I had just celebrated my 31st birthday, and your 3rd. Still, I sit now on the eve of my best friend’s due date, with not one of my similarly-aged (and local) girlfriends yet sharing the title of “mother” with me. And in most cases it’s because they don’t want to share it. Not yet, anyway. And for three years now this fact has been remolding friendships, carving a perception that I never thought I’d see. But the way that I see my friends, well, it says so much more about how I see me. So I started taking a hard look at each of them, every last one of my female friendships.
I’ve always thought that each of our friends represent something different about the way we see ourselves. And for me, that’s complicated. This weekend, I’ll be catching up with my 66 year-old, diabetic buddy who was born, bred, and will most likely die in Crown Heights. Within an hour of meeting her she told me (and I quote), “if you ever call me by my mother%^ing first name again, I’ll make sure you forget yo’ momma’s name.” Apparently, she preferred her middle name. I knew right then we’d be friends till the end.
Last weekend looked different. It was drinks with two of my best buds. One, an Ivy League grad in the midst of building an entrepreneurial empire. If she were to enter the Miss America Pageant (which she would never, ever do by the way), I’m sure she’d slaughter her competition. Because that’s what she does best. As COO aside two male cohorts, you’d think she was the one with the biggest balls. The other, a lawyer at a top NYC law firm, is so good at lawyering she has lawyered her way into what seems like 40 vacations each year. Don’t follow her on Instagram. Unless, of course, you’re some self-loathing creature hoping to feel terrible about your life (or at the very least, mourn the fact that your life simply doesn’t exist in Thailand or Australia).
There’s the tattooed breast cancer warrior who, literally, takes my breath away with her raw love of life. She has more bravery, zeal and intuition in her pinky than most people I know combined. You know that age-old question: what’s the meaning of life? Spend one afternoon with her and you’ll figure it out.
The neuroscience major who always told me I was lame because I didn’t do enough drugs. And throughout the years she’s gotten fairly close to convincing me of that. After all, it’s impossible to not feel alive around her. She is genuinely insane- in the most lovable and intoxicating of ways. I get the feeling that a lot of people in my life think they’re “doing it all.” But this chick is really the only person I know who is doing that. If I decided to give birth in Bangladesh, she’d be there to throw me a shower with the locals she’s never met, but only after throwing a rager in New York the night before. She’s happy. She makes me happy. And she just doesn’t give a fuck. In short, she’s got it all figured out.
Each one of them seems so different, but really they’re all the same. From Park Avenue to Co-op City, they represent a broad range of qualities, quirks and strengths. But there is one defining quality that each and every one of them has in strides: they amaze me. To the friend that works 14 hour days and parties like a rock star every night: cheers to your energy, can I have some? To the hospice patient that spends afternoons making me laugh, smacking smiles all over my face: I will carry your unforgettable spirit with me each day, only hoping to become a smidgen of the woman you are. To the mama-to-be working full-time on the eve of giving birth: you fucking go girl- wearing that enviable white coat while having that pregnant belly is basically my life dream, and you’re living it for me quite well. To the Harvard grad who left her man and chased her dreams all the way across the country: you put Hillary to shame and fill my heart with pride. To my girl working three jobs while going to school and still managing to be my full-time best friend: I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do because I don’t know how I’d do me without you doing you.
So, to answer your question old friend, yes, I’m lonely. I look at each of you and it reminds me of all these little pieces of myself that have largely been left behind. While you have been working on your careers and aspirations, I was making a human. And it can be the loneliest task in the world. Sometimes I get a little lost in that loneliness, but that’s where you all come in. While I take this time-out from solo bathroom breaks and wild vacations, I have each of you pulling on me. Reminding me that my daughter can’t be my only project. Because there’s just as big of a work-in-progress sitting right in my own skin; every time I lose sight of her I’m lucky to have you guys right there to smack me in the face. In time, I hope I can become all of the things that leave me awestruck about every single one of you. And as I work on her, I’m just goddamn thankful that Eva and I both have so many incredible women to look up to. But would I trade in my loneliness and relive my late twenties? Not for 3 million cocktails on a beach in Tahiti.