Here’s Charlotte, Donna, Luca and I in Milan a few years ago. Four girls to a camera. We’re not drunk, we’re happy. Intoxicated maybe just by finally being together in Charlotte’s house for the very first time. And we haven’t been together again since. Miles separate us - time separates us, too, work and life, all the necessary evils – and it just makes me ache a little bit. All the phone calls and email and twittering (not really, not ever) can’t quite close the gap of not having the ones you need in front of you. And today I finally realized something obvious: friendships are marriages.
The good ones, anyway.
The compromise. The forgiveness. The expectations and the letting go of them. The necessary sharing of each other with the outside world. The wishing you could crawl inside someone’s head, see out, Malkovichian-like, from their eyes. Ending each other's sentences. Getting the joke. Not telling the room you've heard the joke ten thousand times before. The temporary insanity that comes when you feel you’re not understood, appreciated, beloved. Respecting boundaries (friends have boundaries? Get out.) Believing each other when one of us says No, honestly, it doesn’t make your ass look any bigger than usual. Having some sort of mutual respect that doesn't deflate as time goes by. Amy Bloom said 'Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.' And that's true of friendship, too.
Because once you know most of the ins and outs of someone, once you know their buttons and insecurities, their needs and their demons, you have to be very careful not to abuse them. Once you know you’re in – you’re important, you’re unique – you have to try to balance your own self with theirs. Some of my greatest friends have been there for 45, 35, 25, 10 years. Others for merely a year and yet we’re just as close. In turn we’ve all been so wonderful with each other. And so bitchy. Needy. Gentle. Voracious. Caustic. We’ve dropped everything to take a plane for a birthday or funeral. We’ve given money. We’ve taken it. We’ve lost each other. We’ve given in and given up and walked out of rooms and slammed doors and come back, apologized. We’ve been very very good. And just utterly terrible.
And now I think I put up walls not to keep someone out, but to see who cares enough to knock them down.
Like marriage some of these will end in divorce. Some will just run their course. Some will last forever, the nursing home, the reading of the will, the porch and the rocking chair. Some prove quite constantly that love is, thank god, truly blind. Is it rare to love so many people you don’t see every day, every month, even every five years? Is it normal? A few weeks ago a good friend told me I have the widest group of friends she’s ever seen, the most diverse. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know how fortunate, crazy-lucky really, it is to have so many strong loud kind generous life-supplying unafraid-to-be-bitchy unafraid to wrap their arms around me and hold on tight friends, male and female both. How fortunate to know at the end of the phone are a few people who will pick up, be there, not fade away, not judge, shut up, listen. My best friend? My husband, by leaps and bounds, far and away. Charlotte and I have that in common, too. But all these other marriages are sweet as well. Polygamy, you're so hard to resist.