The Gals You Just Need

I’ve talked about “just knowing” in terms of love and how I’m not sure of its validity. Though I’m far from pessimistic, the tiny dose of realism I indulge it makes me believe taking the wedded plunge is a lot like diving into dark waters, you hope you won’t hit rock bottom, but you could.

Maybe I’m wrong – there are some things I do just know. I just know I feel sexy when I lay around on a Saturday afternoon, air-drying my hair, and applying lotion to every crevasse of my body. I just know New York City is the place for me, right now, in this moment of my life. I just know nothing can comfort or soothe me the way a nice long shower feels or the smell of my mother’s Oscar de la Renta perfume, or how my dad’s arms do.

And I just know when someone is going to be a great friend of mine.

There’s no way to describe it, really – which is the same excuse those blissfully happy folks use when you ask them “how they knew” it was the right time to get married. But really, it hits you during a fluid conversation full of giggles and shared interests. Or when time passes quickly, along with workdays, and heartbreaks, when you’re around them.

For a long time, I felt very alone in New York. I had moved here, I had done what I set out to do, and I was proud. I had the apartment, the byline, and the confidence to keep pushing for more, but I was missing a critical ingredient to my happiness: friends. I remember calling my mom on a Saturday night, sobbing that I missed her and the girls I’d know my entire life, and wanted to know how to meet people I could be close to. People I could share my dating trials that I actually knew, instead of thousands of viewers who read my words, but will never see me face-to-face. I wanted someone to call after a tremendously awful date, from outside the restaurant in tears, who would meet me at a puppy store around the block with ice cream, and remind me that the reason New York is called Manhattan is partly because of all the men to pick from.

As mothers do, she told me to just wait. She said I’d find them when I least expected it, just in the way that love finds you when you’re not looking. And she was right – after I mastered my city, treated myself to great sex, – the sex and the city came together in the form of women who are so much more than replicas of the show’s characters. It wasn’t until I finally formed some friendships – some quite unexpected, some ignited years later than they could have, and some based on a certain obsession with publishing – that I finally felt like I belonged here.

Men are great and they dominate our minds and conversations more than any of us would like, regardless if we ever make an effort to correct it. Careers are challenging, changing universes we all get lost in, but if we’re lucky, make us into little stars that light up the path for someone else to follow. Cities are homes, homes are cities, but nothing is ever home-sweet-home unless you have someone to share the adventure with.

I’m not convinced a relationship is necessary to complete us and I tend to think women are total packages, independent of being in love with any man at all – but I do believe full heartedly that friendships are absolutely essential.

I can do without love. I could survive outside of New York City. I could not write anything for a year. But if I had no love, no city, no pen, and no friends – what would I be? I’d still be me, but not the best me that I can be when my ladies are by my side. And maybe you just know when someone will become a great friend, maybe you don’t. But I think you just know that you just need friends to make the journey…a journey.

I Wanna Be Made

In my sorority, I was known as the girl who was going to New York, who interned at Cosmo and was forced to stand in the back of the rows at recruitment because I couldn’t (and can’t) clap on the off beat. At the college newspaper, I was the bubbly intern turned reporter turned lifestyles editor turned associate editor for content that was never taken as seriously as I wanted to be – mainly because I never projected myself seriously – a lesson I’ve come to cherish in my professional career. In my family, I was the oddball cousin who went against the norms of the rest, who went to college, achieved a degree and headed to chase a dream instead of racing down the aisle and into labor.

And in my circle of friends, from the start of college until right up until…um, now – I was the ambitious, fearless, friendly, and confident gal who could do anything. Anything that is except keep a man. Or as my best friend A’s said after a particularly rough breakup: “Why can’t you ever just make it work with someone? Where do you find these guys?”

I tried, I really did. With each of them – Mr. Fire, Mr. Rebound, Mr. Idea, Mr. Fling, Mr. Smother and the rest – to make it work. I logged overtime in baking, cleaning, sporting sexy lingerie and being readily available to pet or to sex-away worries and stress. And then I was too available. I’d attempt at playing the game I was so good at, the book that I could write now on how to attract a man (and perhaps I will write it) and how to get him to approach you. I’d lure one in, hold him captive in my mystery until the subtlety gave away to reality, and there I was exposed, naked in all forms reasonable (and unreasonable), waiting for him to accept or reject my affections. But I was always something – too good for them, not good enough. Too much to handle or far too needy. Swimingly sweet or a wannabe-New York-bitch with an agenda. I told them what they wanted to hear and then all of the things they didn’t. I was this and that, that and this, over and over again, up until I graduated from college, fled the mountaintops to rooftops, ended things with Mr. Idea, and decided New York would be different.

I could make it work in New York. I would make it work in New York. This was where I was supposed to be – the rest of those dudes, stuck in North Carolina, stuck in finance jobs they consider big money and big deals in Charlotte – they just weren’t for me. They may had walked all over me resentlessly and maybe I had let them on numerous occasions – but not anymore. I was in New York and if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere.

And so dating turned into a challenge. It became a sport I played throughout the week, developing new tricks and tactics along the way. I had a strategy, I figured out my best angle, my best feature. I found ways to cover up flaws and discovered sentences that all men like to hear, regardless if they’re Jewish, Italian, single, married, straight, flamboyant, consistently hard or hard-of-hearing. I mastered The Look, I signed up for free online dates for the weeks when I ran low on a free dinner evenings, and when it all became too much, I’d take a night off with Chinese and Merlot, watching Hulu in my panties.

But then I would start to like one of the many bachelors. I’d grow a little attached, I’d find some element of them attractive and irresistible, and then atlas, I’d have hope that I could make it work with one of them. I could be the woman they wanted me to be, I could be all of those perfect, dreamy qualities they always imagined a woman would be. If they’d let me, I’d take my sweet Southern grandmother’s advice to be a lady in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a well, you fill in the blank, in the bedroom. I’d find a way to keep them close to me, to make them fall in love with me and then I’d actually make it. I’d have one of those relationships that works and I wouldn’t be that girl anymore. I wouldn’t be the one of my friends who was scarily always single, yet never lacking a date.

That was all fine and dandy until the men would resist. Until they’d have excuses or let me know they only wanted to sleep with me and if I wasn’t looking for something casual, I should look elsewhere. And so I would, but I always found myself in the same situation again and again, until I had a moment of realization. I tend to have the best of these when I’m walking the streets sans iPod or when I’m in the shower, left to only the device of my rambling thoughts. And that’s where I was, curled up in an old Victorian tub that needed to be scrubbed, my arms wrapped around my legs, crying and wishing I could just make it work. Just once, I begged to some unnamed wise character of the universe. If I could just make it one time, I wouldn’t need a second chance. I’d get it right and that’d be that. I wouldn’t have to feel so disposable, so unwanted and undesirable if I could just make it work. Just once!

Looking up at the running water turning cold, it occurred to me that I wasn’t working. I was functioning, sure. I had a small pool of friends, a job in the industry I adored, a pseudo-studio in the pseudo-Upper West Side.  On paper, my jagged pieces didn’t seem so rough around the edges. I seemed like any semi-adjusted girl who was somewhat new to the city, discovering what she liked and didn’t like, and making the rest up as she goes.

But did I want to make it up? Did I want to have to make something work with someone? Did I want to wear makeup to cover up the dark circles left from late night fights, not late night romps? Did I want to have to work so diligently, so intensely, so patiently to make a relationship last through the beginning stages? Is this what love is made of? If it is – why do I want it so badly?

Or could it be that what I wanted -what I still want – is to make myself? Not go looking for myself in the beds, the eyes and the empty promises of men who are saved and then deleted from my phone? Could I not make anything work with a man because I wasn’t working? Because I wasn’t a whole person, I wasn’t made up into the woman I wanted to be, into the me I knew I was meant to become? Had I allowed love to race to the forefront of my priorities and lost myself somewhere in the laps in between?

I had. And so, without knowing what else to do, I did the one thing that brought me comfort: I wrote. I wrote and wrote, I thought and thought, I chatted with my best friends and I picked the brains of the mentors I trusted the most. And I came up with this blog, a program of freeing myself from love addiction. A gradual way to detox myself…from myself. So that I could start anew, clean and unbothered by my tireless pursuit to make something out of nothing with men who should have never meant anything.

Nine months, nine steps, a new boyfriend (yes, I said it. Let’s move on, now), a well-read blog, a new apartment, a new sense of self, a new group of friends, a few freelancing gigs, one failed attempt at learning Italian, one deceased Beta fish (RIP in Giorgio), and a few lovely trips later – here I am. Not trying to make anything work. Not praying for things to work out perfectly and ideally. Not imagining my life or my love life as detrimental or possible to be classified into classified sections of “dateable” and “non-dateable.” Not hearing A’s words ringing continuously in my head when Mr. Possibility and I have a disagreement.

Nope. I’m just making myself into me. Into the me I want to be at any point, on any given day, without any notice or prerequistices. Because the thing I’d most like to be made into is the best version of me that I can be.

A Toast to My Ladies

Much like when I moved to New York, when I went away to college – I didn’t really know anyone. Sure, I stayed in-state, so I knew of a handful of classmates who attended the same university, but no one who was in my core group of friends. I was probably more afraid of traveling two hours away from home than I was about moving 12 hours to the city.

As an overachiever, I landed myself on the Leadership & Service floor, where I was surrounded by others who went above-and-beyond in college (or those who just knew it was a nice dorm to stay in and somehow were accepted). The 40 or so of us called ourselves “L3” (for the residence hall name and floor number) and traveled in packs…everywhere. To the gym, to the parties, to the quad, and to the classes we all had together – and within those dozens, out of luck (and a bit of fate) – I met the two women who would define, shape, and share my college tenure.

A, was my first roommate. I’m an only child (technically I have a half-brother, but I don’t really know him), so going away for school was the first time I ever had to share my space. Fortunately, A was quite easy to live with, we shared the same sleeping/eating routines, and well – we became the very best of friends right from the get-go. My first memory of her is linking arms, skipping down the main strip in our college town, and giggling about how we were going to our first fraternity party. It wouldn’t be our last time frolicking about campus like we ruled the world–she’d go on to be an ambassador for our school, while I’d be high-up in the school newspaper and eventually, join a sorority, and attend more Greek parties than I’d like to admit.

Four rooms down from A and I, lived L – a girl who when I initially saw her, was instantly jealous. To this day, I still think she is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever laid eyes on. Her skin is flawless, her body has always been in tip-top shape (even when she doesn’t try), and she knows how to dress. Truth be told, before meeting L – I didn’t even wear “real bras”, but rather, sports bras because I was rather uncomfortable with my bigger beauties. While they’ve shrunk since then (I lost the freshman 15 instead of gaining it), I’ve remained a loyal customer at Victoria’s Secret ever since, thanks to L. Together, we went through some of the most difficult periods anyone can experience: my father’s illness, the passing of her mother, countless boyfriends (and lovers), and maintaining a long-distance friendship when we’d both go other places.

These women, while vastly different, gave me most of what I needed in the three-and-a-half years I attended college. When they met me, I was overly indulged in my love-addiction-ness, and they both said: “Linds, why are you so worried about this? We’re so young; we have all the time in the world. Ya know, I don’t even know if I want to get married!” A and L are very independent, like me, and had such large dreams for themselves, such high ambitions for where’d they be and what they wanted to do that relationships were completely off of their mind. This was a far-fetched idea for someone like me, who lived, breathed, and obsessed about love.

At the time, I was dumbfounded that anyone could ever truly not have the desire to get married (I’ve since changed my mind), but what’s more ironic is that A and L had more boyfriends and longer relationships than I did in college. They didn’t freak out too badly about them, but if you count up my time flying solo and their time – mine is much higher.

And now, L is in the army and engaged (I’ll be the MOH!), and A is on a four-month all-around-the-world vacation with the man I’m convinced she’ll marry. As for me, I’m single. Scratch that – happily single.

Isn’t it funny how the tables turn?

When senior year rolled around and I couldn’t stop talking about moving to New York, breaking up with Mr. Idea, and starting my writing career – they were in love with their boyfriends and wondering when they’d finally get that ring. When A came to visit me for fashion week in September, we even spent a few hours on Diamond Way, where I took notes about what size, style, and cut she’d like. And when L was given one phone call during boot camp, we spent the majority of the time discussing whether or not the “feeling” that her boyfriend would propose over Christmas meant anything. Well, since he’s her fiancée now, her gut was psychic. (Isn’t it always?)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for both of them and I actually like the guys they’ve picked as life partners – which if you know either of my friendships with these ladies, is quite the miracle. Us girls are pickier about the men our friends date, then we are about the ones we partner up with, right?

But with A and L being currently unreachable by text or phone call, I’ve realized how true it is that like life and love, friendships are in stages and cycles, too. Instead of being the one who is overly concerned with the man in her life, I’ve now become the bouncing board for my friends who are. Instead of crying and getting all sorts of upset about the Guy-of-Friday, I’m trying to help my friends get into the dating scene. And maybe even stranger, I’m growing closer and closer to other gals (the single ones), and further away from A and L.

Like any relationship that is meant to be – I’m sure when we actually get to spend some time together again, it will be like no time passed at all and our banter will flow the same, but there will be a major difference. And that’s me.

Sometimes I worry about the fact that this journey is literally changing me. The way I approach things, the way I respond, the way I think, and perhaps even the way I feel towards certain areas of my life, primarily love, continues to transform. I can’t help but wonder, what if those who have known me forever, start to wonder who the hell they’re talking to and don’t even recognize the Lindsay they once knew?

I’d like to think that even with my growth and maturity, I’m still the hopeful woman who believes there is a Mr. Right out there for me – it’s just now, he isn’t my primary concern. While I may not be able to relate to having the feeling of ‘just knowing’ or really crave it, I’m thrilled for those who have. And when L (and soon, A, I’m sure) transcends down to ‘I do’ with a man – I trust she knows ‘I am’ here for her, just as much as he is, if not more.

So, here’s to my ladies: to L and to A and my new friends (on and offline), regardless if you’re single or taken, married, widowed, or engaged, old or young, bitter or hopeful, addicted or uninterested in love – let’s stand by each other, hand and hand or click by click, through thick and thin, the princes and the frogs – and know that regardless of where this crazy journey takes us or where we end up, that we have one constant that never changes: the power of friendship. Let’s accept each other for where we are in our lives, where we’re going, and what we’re doing – even if we’ve never experienced or chosen it for ourselves. After all, we are each other’s soulmates more so than any man could be, anyways.

And with this toast, I hope L and A see that instead of sailing around the dance floor in a big white dress in front of a fleet of bachelorettes, I’d rather dance on tables during fleet week with some lonely sailors.

I hope they’ll understand. And something tells me…they will.