As I stand outside the hotel room where one of my best friends is getting ready for her wedding, I feel just as bubbly as the room-service bottles of Prosecco sitting next to the door. A friend opens up into the door the suite, and I practically burst.
In this moment, she looks beautiful, ethereal, perfect. The eager feelings felt by all of those around us permeate the room. I’m present as Federica, or “Freddie,” and Jeremy sign the certificate making their marriage official before the ceremony, and I feel humbled to be welcomed into the circle of parents, best friends and family standing around them as they cap their pens.
Plenty of other women have been in this same position, and even though it never feels any less magical, it’s typical to be elated at the union of a good friends. What most young women, have not been through, however, is being present for this kind of intimacy when at one point in your life, you were puppy-dog in love with your friend’s future husband.
Let’s take it back, oh, three years ago.
When I was 21 and finally able to hit the bars in small town Virginia, I took a few steps in and turned around immediately. Nobody present in Fredericksburg was of any interest to me whatsoever, and my position as neither a college student or a long-time “townie” made it an awkward place to live and date.
With the help of OKCupid (which I will defend to the death — I’ve been on worse websites), I began a correspondence with a few folks who lived in DC. One guy in particular was intriguing to me, and so I got in my car and drove up to meet him in person.
Jeremy was lanky and quietly brilliant. He had tattoos of characters from Scott Pilgrim and a reference to the Voyager, but joked about being in his 30s and still hiding his tattoos from his parents, whom he loved dearly and spoke often about.
Being with Jeremy was fun. He took a city that we usually see as a bunch of old dudes and monuments and turned it into a place with a pulse and personality. It was a short relationship, but he saw me for everything that I was, dispensing bits of wisdom as we went along about loving with one’s whole heart and how dangerous it is to settle for anything less.
If there is one thing that’s obvious to anyone who knows him very well, it’s that he takes those beliefs seriously. I wasn’t surprised the night he came to my place and told me he wanted a forever love and children and a future with someone — but that someone wasn’t me.
It was grueling to hear and talk through, and I cried bitterly. The next afternoon, Jeremy brought me a box full of T-shirts and underwear that I had left behind at his found.
“It’s like sad Christmas,” I said glumly, flinging a thong across the living room at him.
I’m sure you could imagine the absolute dread I felt when I saw that only a month later via a mutual friend’s Facebook post he was dating someone else. Was it just anyone else, though? Nope! Freddie was tall and fashionable, with thick, perfect brown hair down to her ass. She was from Milan. My only ties to Italian heritage came from South Jersey.
Excellent! My five-foot-two, pasty, acne-prone self had just been one-upped by a girl who looked like she had come straight out of an Italian editorial. Was I mature about it? Did I stare at myself in the mirror, giving my reflection the pep talk of its life? No way!
I immediately found the YouTube karaoke version of my favorite Taylor Swift breakup song and sent it to my Google Chromecast, not really giving a shit as to how many housemates I might wake up in the process.
There was a (Perfectly normal? Maybe?) stage of Facebook stalking and griping to my friends for the next six months, and I can only guess how annoying I was. Somehow, by the time spring rolled around and I had started up a tentative friendship with Jeremy again, I was ready to meet this power-babe in the flesh.
We made plans with a group of friends to meet up at DC’s annual geek convention, and I felt like I was going into battle.
The moments after we met, I kept my arms crossed and tried not to be too obvious about the fact that I thought Freddie was cool as shit — this lasted all of five minutes. She and I hit it off almost immediately, falling into natural conversations about her tattoos, and the celebrities she wanted to see at the convention, and the work she had done editing a comic book represented at the con.
It was weird how sisterly we were right off the bat, and when she left the group to go grab some coffee, I looked right at Jeremy and told him not to fuck it up.
“She’s fantastic!” I exclaimed.
From that moment on, it wasn’t uncommon at all to find me and Freddie palling around together in DC bars, sharing bottles of bubbly wine as eagerly as we shared our stories with each other. We had a lot in common, perhaps most importantly, our vulnerability and experiences with profound sadness and tragedy. We were never cautious about our friendship.
Freddie and I would text and talk all day about absolutely everything, and were always plugged into each other’s moods. We mercilessly teased Jeremy about a few of our similarities — nose rings, Miyazaki obsessions, and, uh, how do I say, killer racks — but it was obvious from the get-go that we were both lovely, strange, and different in our own ways.
Most folks were less than receptive when it came to our friendship.
“Do you guys have threesomes?” asked some of my nosier acquaintances, (the answer is no, for all of y’all who asked) while my close friends expressed concern about the time we spent together. People were super invasive, and I wasn’t always prepared for how excited some of them would become when they told me how strange they thought our friendship was.
I still get this reaction more often than not when new friends find out how me and Freddie met (“dick sisters,” Freddie once answered, without pause) but by this point, I’m more than prepared to brush it off.
Freddie is one of my closest friends in the entire world, and I feel proud of the both of us that we took a potentially awkward situation, recognized the beauty in each other’s spirits, and ran with it. If it’s a strange situation, so be it. Stranger things have happened.
In case you were wondering how the wedding was, it went beautifully. I wept like the big baby that I am, all while standing next to the own love of my life while they made their vows under the chuppah.
Jeremy and I are extraordinarily happy to have found our “people” in this world, and I am unafraid to admit I took the lessons he taught me to heart. Freddie looked unreal, and one of the happiest moments I’ve ever had was with her, her mother, and our female friends as we headed out of the hotel room and through the streets of downtown DC to get to the ceremony.
I’ve joked that most people would consider the wedding of an ex to be a nightmarish experience, but here I was, laughing loudly with the bride’s entourage.
If there’s one big takeaway I’ve learned from my friendship with Freddie, it’s that social norms can be stupid and pointless, and if you feel a connection with someone who cares deeply for you in return, it’s a worthwhile friendship.
I’ve learned from Jeremy that love isn’t always expressed in all capital letters, and that someone can still give you support and tenderness long after the end of a romantic relationship. Above all else, I’ve learned how to be open with my heart, even when it’s frightening. Especially when it’s frightening.
Plenty of women watch their friends marry, confident that the partner is a good and kind person. My experience was a little unique; I know that Freddie married a good and kind person, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
Sisterhood comes in a lot of forms, and if you’re faced with a once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendship, take it, even if the circumstances are a little bizarre, even if your friendship is questioned and talked about unkindly — even if she calls you her “dick sister” in polite company.