Squishy, Squooshy Love
Is it possible to fall in love with your friends? If so, then I'm in love with two of mine: Gina, and Matty.
I met Gina in graduate school. We were two single, single women in our mid/late thirties going to school in a small town full of married-youngs, this program stocked with talented twentysomethings. Each of us felt like an outsider. We were relatively traveled and worldly, for Americans, though I can't hold a candle in that regard. But that's not the whole story; we're both eccentric (I hear) and passionate about our writing. But in some ways we're very different; Gina is the funniest person I know. For instance, when driving she swears spontaneously, elegantly, a woman genius reincarnated from a sailor, while I only swear when I'm so angry I can't put together a sentence. Gina's driven, while I'm I guess lazy. And she's able to spontaneously and verbally articulate those things that come to me later, when I'm re-creating a conversation and wishing I'd said this and that, because in real life (and I may not give this impression, but it's true), I'm incredibly shy. Gina is a star, and I'm a dreamy idealist. Gina is brutally blunt and not afraid of conflict. I'm a smoother-over. Each of us, though, strives to say what we mean, and each of us feels deeply and passionately about the things we love. I can talk on the phone for hours with Gina, and I don't feel awkward while doing it (I'm not good on the phone, though I love getting phone calls!). If I could claim anyone for a sister, I would claim Gina.
Matty makes me see sunshine on even the cloudiest of days. Our friendship is just in its beginnings, but I feel that we've known each other for a very long time. I met him here, on Blogger, and then we met in person, and he's so beautifully honest about everything. He, too, is self-conscious (more light-heartedly than I am), sensitive, and observant. But more, here's a story: when I was maybe eight, my parents were good friends with another married couple. They were hosting a Japanese exchange student named Keiko. She was seventeen-ish, I guess, and she was cool in a way that went much deeper than language, since I didn't speak Japanese and her English was limited. Sometimes my parents would have Keiko babysit us, and while I don't think she was a babysitter, meaning she wasn't strict or parental or maternal, my brother and I always went to bed willingly when Keiko seemed weary, while with our other babysitters we'd turn into nagging, cajoling brats, pushing to stay up as late as we could. This willingness, because even though Keiko was older and in a position of "authority," she treated us with the kind of respect that children are not used to, and we loved her in ways we never loved our other babysitters. And when she went back to Japan, she wrote me weekly for two years, long letters on Hello Kitty stationery, and at the time I was so honored that someone who was like seventeen would keep in touch with me, an eight-year-old girl. I can't think of a clearer way to express this right now, but this story touches on how I feel about Matty -- it's roundabout, in other words, but it just begins to explain some things that I can't put into words because the story isn't literal; it's a feeling I have about him, a Hello Kitty feeling.
In an odd way, it's nicer to be in this kind of love than it is to be in romantic love. Because romantic love is exclusive, while friend-love wants what's in your own best interests, and it's more mutual, and it's less uneasy. It's the love that loves best. Which is not to say I wouldn't die to fall in love with someone I could sleep with, too. But if I ever meet this guy, he better understand that I'm also in love with my friends and that my feelings for him, for each of them, will be unique, and that I need to love as much as I can in order to feel complete.