I’m sitting on an airplane, inhaling recycled air and hoping the six ibuprofen I took before the flight don’t clot my blood. In case the latter does happen and I perish upon NSAID overdose, I don’t want the last thing I ever wrote to be a twitter draft I saved about the “rashes” album on my iPhone, referring to, you guessed it, all of my rashes. Now, where is she jetting off to now, you may ask! Rome? Spain? Tulum, even? What if I told you… I’m going back to Chicago for the 6th time this year. Are you surprised, shocked, depressed for me?
This time it’s different, because I’m not going to a Robyn concert or partaking in my toxic trait of “running from my problems even if it means jumping on a plane and hiding in the midwest until I’ve successfully distracted myself.” No, this trip is because I’m celebrating the engagement (bare with me) of my best friend (I promise.… bare with me). Me, personally? I pride myself on falling in love with everyone and committing to no one. But that won’t stop me from falling head over heels for the monogamous victories of those I love.
And so, enter Katie. Or Genevieve, if you’re looking at her birth certificate. Genevieve has grown to believe that she comes from French heritage, as her literal name would have her believe. Until famously in the year 2019 she took a DNA test and found out she’s 100% Not That French Bitch. This has just become customary for how I introduce Katie, much to her dismay.
She is my best and first friend to get engaged. This whole “thing” (“commitment to marriage”) makes me think about the dynamics of friendships and how they evolve as we get older. People say that all relationships reach their crux by eventually growing together or growing apart. But I think that by limiting ourselves to the idea that intimacy—platonic or not— requires a similar sense of personhood, we’re denying ourselves from experiencing connections with people who exist outside of our sphere of hobbies and careers and dietary restrictions (gluten free being the only exception, that can go to hell).
When I was in pre-k I had a best friend named Phyllis. If she said jump I said how high. She was my crutch. I once cried on the swing set when she didn’t show up for school because I thought maybe… just maybe… she was dead OR moved to Texas. I wasn’t sure which, but I presumed it was one of the two and my life was ending as I knew it. Without Phyllis, I ceased to exist. Turns out Phyllis only had a fever and recess resumed as normal the following day, but little did I know graduation was looming. Yes, “graduation” because we’re millennials and we get to graduate EVERY grade. We would go to different elementary schools and learn different hand shakes on different jungle gyms. I was barely five, and how do you keep in touch with your literal better half if your mom decides one morning over microwave pancakes that it’s too much work? If my mother is reading this, me losing touch with my first friend is in no way a direct attack on your parenting. Indirect, maybe. I remember thinking that if Phyllis wasn’t with me in kindergarten, then maybe kindergarten just wasn’t for me (okay, you go girl)!
Then I made a new best friend named Maddy. She picked up where Phyllis left off, and we were inseparable from kindergarten through eighth grade. Maddy was my doubles partner in tennis and also my entire backbone. Like Phyllis (wherever she may be), without Maddy I ceased to exist. My nightmares became reality; we turned 13, she got her period and I didn’t, and we put the nail in the coffin by going to different high schools. She became the all girls private school overachiever and I was the average public school girl who would later go on to cheat her entire way through every science class ever. Again, I grew codependent on a friendship and then had to kiss it goodbye, citing “irreconcilable differences,” as mature, old people do. Fast forward to high school graduation, my boyfriend and also steadfast emotional crutch decided to pursue a medical degree. I decided on being a journalism major for two weeks, so it became blatantly obvious to me that we were just never going to work out. 18 years passed me by and I had maintained not one friendship.
Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to have kept friends for your entire life. And for that I’m seething with jealousy. But it’s taken me a long time to figure out who I am in this dumb little life and because of that I’ve funneled little effort into maintaining my relationships; instead frantically embarking on what was a fruitless and noncommittal hunt for “myself.” I built a life on codependency in friendships and relationships so I never had to actually commit to finding out what I wanted to be. And then, when I inevitably became aware of the parts of people I couldn’t see in myself I would come to the conclusion we’d grown too far apart. Whether it was my best friend going to private school and getting her period or my boyfriend deciding to randomly be smart (rude), if I couldn’t become it I couldn’t associate with it.
I was 18 when I moved to Chicago. A lonely freshman, desperate to figure out who to be in a city I knew about as well as myself, I met Katie. I was confused about a lot, but I knew off the bat that Katie and I didn’t have a whole lot in common. Staunch republican voting, paisley wearing, monogamy wanting, casserole cooking Katie. I fell in love with her.
I’d never had a friendship like Katie’s before—one that didn’t result in me hiding from my fears of finding my own personhood by defaulting into that of someone else. From the jump, Katie welcomed our differences. Not in an outward “go find yourself!” way, but rather in a “I think you should definitely wear that solid black leather dress to a sorority recruitment event!” way. When I dipped my toe in the water of “not being an insecure little rat” Katie would push me all the way in because she knew I could swim. When I accidentally developed a crush on the asexual kid with Asberger’s (unavailable is….dare I say… my type) we laughed and there was not even a brief pause of judgement. He was ABC’s the Bachelor levels of hot though, so really anyone could have found themselves in my shoes. When a fraternity scumbag lifted up my skirt at a bar Katie didn’t even attempt to keep up a “chill, cool girl” facade, and instead we both equally lost our shit!
Over the course of our seven year friendship, these consistent moments of support have blessed me with the confidence to finally figure out what I’m all about. Katie has been along every step of the way— even when I put hot pink glitter in her cat’s litter box after one too many a joint (still think the idea of a cat shitting glitter is comedic gold). I’ve never worried that if I steered too far off from who Katie was that I’d lose her. I could trust that even if I didn’t make her my entire backbone— the very fibers of my being— that she’d still be right next to me icing me after surgeries and cooking me pasta from scratch blackout drunk.
Because of that trust, Katie and I have continued to evolve into undeniably different women. She likes going to brunch and I would pay you to not make me drink a mimosa. She grappled with quitting her job for 2 years, and I decided to be unemployed in a span of 4 days. We dress different, listen to different music, and if you ever see me at a bar in River North just know that I am not okay. If you stripped away our existences until they become just words on a page, you would deduct that since we met at 19 years old we’ve “grown apart.” And if you want to neatly fit every relationship into a “grew together” or “grew apart” box, go for it, but you’d be denying yourself the joy of having relationships that are built on more than what’s written out for you on paper.
Now, as I fly from LA to Chicago to visit Katie and celebrate her healthy relationship and eternal, government sanctioned bond to another person, I’m feeling increasingly lucky that I found someone who so altruistically wanted the best for me that she unknowingly pushed me right into committing to myself— for better or for worse.