My mother has been quietly hoping, I think, that I would finally use this blog to write something nice. Not pressuring, she’s not that sort of person, but quietly hoping that I’d show the world that I have some nice stories to tell, and I do. It’s just been easier to tell the miserable ones lately.
I don’t have kids. I’m not married, either, and while the no-kids thing is very much by design, the no-marriage thing is starting to feel that way, too. It’s not that I’m necessarily opposed to the idea of marriage, I know plenty of people with happy marriage. In fact, I think the two women this piece is named after are among them, or at least I hope so. It seems so from what I’ve seen on Facebook, and they’re two genuinely good people, so I hope my impressions are correct. But relationships are a lot of hard work, they just are. I was in them a lot when I was younger, pretty much nonstop from the ages of 15-25. Like I have a tendency to do in my life, I burned myself on the damn thing. I get intense with what I get into. I did it with school, I did when I fell in love. I lost myself every time I fell in love, neglected my friendships, neglected my own desires and wishes. I pulled chunks out of myself and offered them to the men I dated, hoping it made me good enough to keep them, even when I didn’t really want them anymore. Maybe they weren’t the right people. Maybe society has fucked me up too much to deal with men and I should just stick to women, who I am very attracted to. Or maybe I’m just tired, which feels like the real, honest answer. The thought of being with anyone, barring Henry Cavill appearing at my doorstep without a shirt out of nowhere, just tires me out. I’m sick. Having MS feels like a full time just, and I love the freedom that comes with being single.
I sleep when I want to and wake up when I’m no longer tired. There aren’t many perks to being permanently disabled and “medically retired” at the age of 40, but this is one of them. I rest when I like, and god, when you have MS, you want a lot of it. You keep peculiar hours when you just sleep and wake whenever, and this is fine, too, if you’re single and childfree. The dog doesn’t care. I’ve always been something of a night owl, too, and I remember more than one ex whining at the fact at my sleep all day, stay up all night habits. Who needs that? I go out, I don’t have to tell anyone where I am or when I’m coming back. I don’t have to check in with anyone, I don’t have to wait and see what someone else is doing for dinner. I eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, blast Barry Manilow when I need to belt out “Weekend in New England” in the peace of my own bedroom at 3am without pants on. It’s a good life. And I hate sharing a bed with anyone who isn’t my dog for sleep purposes, so that works out for me as well. I can watch The Tudors four times and only my dog is here to judge me for it.
But what I do have in my life, and what I’ve always had in my life, are friends. Deep, close, intimate friendships that have been so meaningful to me that they have felt more painful to lose than romantic relationships when I have lost them. I always expected my boyfriends to disappointment me somehow. I always believed my friends would be there for me forever.
Most aren’t of course. Most drift into your life and leave quietly, whether they move or you move, life just makes you move down the river to a different spot, you do different things. Some friends become your closest friends, and leave through an explosive, painful breakup. I’ve had some of those, and they hurt, more than any other kind of breakup. I tear up just thinking about them. I think of the pain and betrayal and it makes me tremble and I realize that even being told of my MS diagnosis was not so thunderously traumatic as some of those times.
But this is an essay about the good friends. The ones who were good to me. It’s starts when I was a child. My mother always told me to befriend the new kids in school, as I mentioned in another essay, and Kirsten was one of those new kids in fifth grade. We became instant friends and she taught me about so much. I thought she was so cultured, she was from New Jersey and had been to New York so many times and taught me about musical theater and had gone shopping at FAO Schwarz and ice skating at Rockefeller Center! We both loved the New Kids on the Block and we saw them live in concert together at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. After the concert, I declared to Kirsten that it was the greatest night of my life. Perhaps a childish declaration, but it’s been about thirty years and I have never said it again since, so maybe I was right.
Kirsten’s name is pronounced Keer-sten. So is Kirsten Dunst’s. And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s. In fact, I’ve never known of a Kirsten who has pronounced Kerr-sten, despite the fact that many people seem to constantly mispronounce it this way. So this is my public service announcement: If you see the name Kirsten written down, chances are, her name is pronounced Keer-sten. Kirsten owned a piece of the Berlin Wall, I remembered, and was/is the most fashionable person I have ever met.
I met Megan in middle school. She was in the gifted classes with Kirsten and a bunch of other girls who were in our group of friends. When I think of Megan I think of how we used to ride the bus together in the morning and share earbuds and listen to Simon & Garfunkel. I think about how her dad looks like Scotty from Star Trek would always make jokes about Canada with me. I think about how I would ride my bike to her house and good off, and how we would sit together in drama class and draw cartoon characters we made up that had a soap opera-esque saga that made no sense and were completely ridiculous.
Sometimes I’ll see a woman rocking some audacious fashion and it will make me think of Kirsten. Or I’ll see some ridiculous infomercial and it will be the exact thing Megan and I will have laughed at.
I have so many special friends in my life. Friends who have saved me and rescued me and been there for me when I have gone through such darkness and pain. I have had my house burn down, been through break-ups, lost a father, lost jobs, lost other family members, lost dreams, lost my health, moved across the country and back, and I’ve had the support of so many friends who have been the only reason life has been okay at all as an adult and as a child. I love my family. I am so blessed, my family is fucking awesome. They continue to be fucking awesome. I am so lucky. My mom is like, inhumanly amazing and someday I’ll get around to writing about her when I am able to cry that much, because she is like, beyond heroic, honestly.
But I wouldn’t be shit in this life without my loyal friends, and Kirsten and Megan were the first friends I ever had who showed me they would always have my back.
Middle school is brutal, you guys. I hold zero grudges for anything anyone ever did to hurt me in middle school because what a fuckin’ shit show, am I right? But it was hard for me. The first two years especially. As I said, I had my friend group. I left for the summers, to spend with my cousins, aunts, and uncles in Illinois. And on the last day of school, of sixth and seventh grade, my group of friends handed me a note, telling me I was embarrassing and they no longer wanted to be my friend anymore. Dumped. Two years in a row. Signed by every single one of my friends.
With two exceptions.
Kirsten and Megan were never involved with this. They never took part. They never abandoned me. It had to be hard. The majority was very much against me. I was scared to bring it up at all, that I don’t think I ever properly thanked them for their loyalty. Most of the friendships broken by those Dear Alison letters ended up repaired, some didn’t. But Kirsten and Megan set a beautiful example to me, at a young age, of how to be good and loyal friends, and I never properly told them how glad I was for it, how much I love them for it.
In my life I’ve had so many wonderful women who have been my great friends. There’s a line from the 2009 version of Jane Austen’s Emma, and I’m too lazy to check if it’s a direct quote from the book, but the excellent Jodhi May’s Mrs. Weston sincerely declares, “I don’t think a man understands just how necessary it is for the woman to have the company of another woman.” Since Kirsten and Megan I’ve had Heather and Crystal and Michelle and Ariana and Teresa and Holly and Jacqueline, and so many other wonderful women I’m so happy I’ve had the chance to know and love.
I’m not having kids. But Kirsten and Megan are both raising daughters and you have no idea how glad this makes me. When their daughters get to middle school, I hope they find themselves with friends as wonderful as their mothers were. And I’m so excited that these two ladies are shaping the next generation of women. We’re in good hands.