We cringe about it now, but we were really onto something when we overused the terms BFFs and friends forever in middle school.
Eight months ago during Hurricane Sandy, I was holed up at the NYU-student center-turned-community-shelter. My boyfriend of three years had just broken up with me, the wounds were fresh and I was a depressed mess -- constantly crying and in absolute hysterics. And thanks to the state of emergency at the time, I didn’t even get the comfort of my apartment to mourn in.
Now I must have come off as some self-entitled drama queen. Things weren’t that bad in the East Village. Sure there was no heat and power, but our university was giving out free food, showers and we had Wi-Fi to help pass our time. Thanks, NYU, by the way.
At one point, the self-pity and sniffling came to be too much and my friend Anna got up, grabbed me by the wrists, pulled me into the largest bathroom stall and slammed the door shut.
“Stop it,” she said, taking both of my hands and not giving a shit that there was someone pissing in the stall next to us. And then she spewed out this wonderful speech I’ll never forget about how my ex was a selfish loser, that I deserved the best and how I saved her from her own depression when we met in freshman year.
“You saved me,” she said, voice cracking. “You made me feel worth it and that’s why I’m doing this. You’re worth so much more than he makes you feel.”
“You’re. Worth. It.” she repeated, emphasizing each syllable. She added, “I love you, Clarissa. I mean it.”
Flash forward a couple of months. I’m back in Los Angeles, freshly out of college and still wallowing in my misery at home.
The doorbell rings, I open the door and my two best friends sashay their way in without even asking if they could come in. I live in a gated house and they had driven across town and climbed over my gate in the middle of night just to see me.
“Your phone was off,” Lani said, shrugging. “We wanted to see if you were all right.”
We spent the next three hours curled up on the couch bantering about our lives, exactly like the way we did years ago when we were still in middle school.
Staying friends for two decades is a piece of cake. If only relationships were this easy…
Perhaps we’re missing out on cultivating the relationships that really matter. My ex was the center of my world for three years, but some of my girls have been there for me since I was two years old.
I distinctly remember holding the kitchen stool tightly while Judith played guard and Emerlyn scampered up the stool to steal the powdered ice tea that our parents hid high above the cabinets. We were five and weren’t allowed to drink caffeine. When we reached adolescence, we created a group diary that we would rotate among each other on a weekly basis and in middle school, weekends were spent at each others' houses just gossiping. Once high school and puberty really hit, boys started coming in the picture and romantic relationships began dominating our free time.
We’d still keep in touch, but our boyfriends were our priorities, not each other.
But new loves always ended up leaving and hurting us (or vice versa).
At this stage in our lives, romance is a tireless cycle and puzzle we’ve yet to figure out. We keep on talking about it because it’s so frustrating. Is happily ever after a marketing scam? How the hell do people stay married? How can you spend all that love, energy, time and money on one person, only to have them walk away and refuse to speak to you ever again?
Maybe we're just putting our focus on the wrong relationships.
So instead of flying across the country to win back an ex (doesn’t work by the way, I tried), I’m spending my money on visiting the girlfriend in Chicago who calls me up once every couple of weeks just to say hi. Instead of spending every waking moment with my boyfriend, I’m prioritizing quality time with the girls who will stay up all night with me talking if I asked them to. Instead of overanalyzing the call history of the guy I’m interested in, I’m off scheduling webcam dates with the friends I haven’t seen in months. When my friend texts me, I give her the emotional availability I would expect from my boyfriend. When she’s feeling stressed or depressed, I emphasize and follow up with her.
Best friends really are forever. I know with absolute certainty that these girls will be there at my wedding, they will meet my future kids, grandchildren and some will be next to me at my deathbed.
I’ve never been able to say that about any guy yet.
Never again will I shortchange my platonic relationships because I know that the next time my heart is shattered and I’m on the floor feeling absolutely worthless, these friends will be the ones rushing in to pick up the pieces.