I don’t keep in touch with many friends from my youth. People change, right? Or maybe we don’t change, but we become more comfortable with who we really are. That is probably what makes life long friendships hard to maintain.
I have exactly one Ride-or-Die, Letty-and-Dom friend who has stood by me through the thick and thin of my messy adult life. We’ve been friends for a decade and she is, without a doubt, my soulmate. We speak several times a day (often comical because we live in different time zones), and she is my go-to person about everything in my life. We often joke about how we can’t wait to get old so we can sit in rocking chairs and drink whiskey on the porch in the house we’ll buy together. Of course, when we met, I didn’t have a porch. Or a house. Or much of anything.
I met her at my literal rock bottom. My ex-husband had thrown me out because I had zero desire to be married any longer, and when I say that he threw me out, I mean that he literally changed the locks on the house and left all my belongings on the front yard. I came home from work to a stranger standing outside the house waiting for me to turn over my car keys because my husband had sold him the very car I was driving . After the guy leaves in my beloved Acura, I get a text message from my husband saying that he had removed my name from all our bank accounts and cancelled all of my credit cards. I was 28 years old and had ten dollars in my pocket. And nothing else. Including friends. Well, that’s not exactly true. More on that in a bit.
Of course, I deserved all of it. The whole episode took place almost exactly a year after we had gotten married – I dated him during the last year of grad school, and like most privileged white girls nowadays who are terrified about being forced to leave the womb of the campus, I had no clue what direction I wanted to go in life. I was great at teaching kids how to swim, I excelled at dissecting and discussing literature, and I was fairly good at hustling my parents to get what I needed at the time. But, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. He at least knew that he wanted to get married, and I knew that I liked a good party. Over fifty thousand dollars later, I was married to this guy and living in the hell hole known as Syracuse, New York.
I hated it. And I let him know it. Looking back, I’m not sure he wanted to be married to me either – we had absolutely zero in common other than the fact that we had graduated from the same school and we both liked to play Scrabble. I think that’s how we managed to stay married for a year. We would drink cheap red wine and play Scrabble every single night when he got home from work. I haven’t played Scrabble since—guess I didn’t really like it as much as I thought.
It’s no wonder that I was bored. I found a job doing one of the things that I’m good at—coaching high school swimmers. A local high school had fired their coach mid-season and put an ad in the paper. I had previously been a very successful coach at a high school in Ohio, and because Ohio is strangely a mecca for United States Swimming, I did one phone interview and had the job. So, I went to work, and I went at it 100%. Rediscovering my passion for coaching made me realize that I didn’t care about being married at all, and I sure as hell didn’t value monogamy.
So I slept with the 21 year old head lifeguard. And I got pregnant. Oops. So when my husband kicked me out, I was staring at everything I owned on a wet lawn and I was 8 weeks pregnant. That’s what I believe most people refer to as “rock bottom.”
In New York, in cases of infidelity, you are required to wait a year before a judge would sign off on a dissolution of marriage. And you’re also required to live in the state the whole time. And you’re also required to legally determine paternity. This is all loads of fun. It’s especially fun being pregnant on a couch in a really awful apartment in a city you already hate with 21 year old college drop outs. But, I mean, where else could I go?
My parents weren’t speaking to me because my ex had so kindly filled them in on my escapades, and I didn’t know anyone else. And, I was suddenly responsible for another human. I couldn’t hustle myself out of that situation. And I was alone. Desperately, painfully alone. Keeping people “on the fringe” had backfired in a very, very ugly way, and for the first time in life I was facing a scenario where I wasn’t exactly sure how I would be able to recover.
I had to take a job at a local law firm editing legal briefs. This was the seventh circle of hell in terms of jobs, but it had benefits and it paid well enough that I could at least support myself. By the third day, I was staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, wondering how I’d gotten there and how I’d ever get out. Miranda walked into the bathroom, took one look at me, and said, “You’re tall and tan, and I’m not sure I really even like you because you appear to be dating the boy who moves the file boxes around, but it’s clear that you need a cheeseburger, so come with me.”
There’s a lot that’s happened between that cheeseburger lunch and now. Too much for me to dive into here, and frankly, a lot that’s still kind of hard to talk about. I do view my life in a “Pre-Miranda” and “Post-Miranda” way. Our friendship changed my life. I feel the need to be the best version of myself with her, and she challenges me to get there. But, she also can slug liquor with me and watch Magic Mike on tv thousands of miles away while we solve the world’s problems via text messages. I would go to the ends of the earth for her and I know she would for me. We have completely different lives, and on the surface there isn’t much that ties us together. But, it’s the respect we have for each other and where we’ve been in life that drives our entire relationship. I am not a sentimental person, but I am grateful that my twisted path brought us together.
I moved cross-country a couple of years ago. The 21 year old lifeguard? I married him. He grew up (somewhat) and became an attorney, and he took a new job out west. It was hard to leave her – she was the person I felt I had grown up with; the fact that she was often my lifeline made leaving somewhat scary. I’m legally married to my husband, but I learned the value of monogamy through my friendship with her. I don’t know if I’ll be married to my husband forever. I really don’t. I value our marriage because it produced three amazing kids, but I’m also quietly reflective on the fact that marriage gets harder as I continue to fall deeper into who I really am as a person and a mother and a friend.
But what I do know is that Miranda and I will be together in exactly 23 days in Las Vegas on what will be the (almost) anniversary of a decade of friendship. And the very first thing we’ll do is get a cheeseburger.