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Altar-ed Friendships

How Marriage and Kids Changed My Relationships with My Single Friends

Once upon a time (about five years ago) in a land called Los Angeles, there was a thirtysomething single chick (me) who, by most accounts, lived a pretty cool and glamorous lifestyle, albeit in a low-grade kind of way. We're talking frequent parties, weekends in Manhattan, late-night clubs, the quasi-fame of book tours and radio interviews. A few D-list celebrities on speed dial even.

Through it all there was my confidante, comadre, proverbial partner-in-crime and gal for all seasons, a regular in any VIP room, a stunning and brilliant glamazon of the highest order whom I will call “Minerva” because she is just that kind of goddess. We got each other through miserable boyfriends and being broke and health crises and all the things gal pals do for each other — what I call 4 a.m. friends, the kind who know that no matter the hour, the other will be around to help.

I ended up falling in love with someone who was also in love with me. We married, had a baby and moved to the wilds of northern California (more or less in that order). My life story has become not so much Sex and the City but more Shrek, complete with a backwoods-loving husband (who, while not being an actual ogre, is a Republican, which to my Democrat friends and family makes him almost as scary), a barnyard full of critters that includes a cat who seems to think he is Antonio Banderas and, yes, an actual donkey (no joke — I can see him out there in the field as I type). And in truth, I'm better at being a Princess Fiona than I ever was a Carrie Bradshaw. ...Read More

Minerva, meanwhile, is being Minerva: attending the events, jetting around the country, getting hair and makeup done for her TV appearances, generally being the fabulous goddess Minerva was born to be. It struck me just how far our paths had diverged when I became feverish with a bad case of mastitis and had boobs the size of the Hindenburg, the baby was colicky and the puppy had peed on the leather couch. In the midst of all this I received a frantic call from Minerva, truly distraught: The photos had just come back from a recent red carpet event and would I please review them and tell her honestly ... did that dress make her look bovine and frumpy?

It was exactly the kind of oh-my-God-girl-how-bad-is-it? request we had once routinely asked of each other, but now she might as well have been asking what I thought of the air on Mars. It seemed to me that this was more than catching each other in a bad moment; maybe we had lost that common ground from which friendship grows.

It's not that I thought her request was trivial — OK, so yeah it was, but I understand the world she lives in. In that world appearances aren't just a matter of vanity, they're often the difference between getting work and not getting work. (A bad hair day there is the equivalent of a gazelle in the Serengeti breaking a leg: It's a question of survival, or at least feels that way.)

But the call brought up for me a tangle of feelings. I was the one who really was bovine and frumpy in my oversized sweatshirt and nursing bra. I felt like I couldn't tell her about my own troubles because I knew she'd think they were so mundane and, well, kinda gross. And yet somehow I also couldn't have articulated to her why I didn't want to be anywhere else, doing anything else.

From then on, whenever I wanted to pick up the phone and chat, I started calling other friends I hadn't been as close to in the past but who also had children and were married — women who knew what it meant to love your husband with all your heart while simultaneously wanting to kill him for not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper, women whose big-time career brains were frequently occupied with the problem of misplaced sippy cup lids. Minerva and I still talked from time to time, sure, and I kept track of her online. Her life seemed so full and fabulous that I was certain she hadn't noticed I had faded into the background.

So I was more than surprised when I opened a recent e-mail from her and read the words scrolling down my screen. They told me how hurt she felt that I no longer seemed to need her in my life, how lonely she was, how she worried that she would forever be on the outside looking in on the lives of those she loved most. Like me.

I had to ask myself why I had just assumed she wouldn't think my current life was worth knowing about. I've never believed that friendships are meant to be disposable, so what had really motivated me to turn away from Minerva? I had to look at my own fears about the radical change in my sense of identity now that I was not only “writer” but equally “mother” and “wife.” I had to think about why I silently judged my own life and had been somehow embarrassed by the joy I find in the mess of it.

By withholding the details of my ups and down, I had not given Minerva the opportunity to grow with me.

I'll skip the part after the e-mail where we had dinner and reconnected and I hugged her and told her she will always be the crazy-cool sister I never had. I will also avoid giving you the detailed analysis of “Elmo's Potty Time” that I gave her yesterday over the phone, but trust me, she agrees that it's genius.

  • A true friend will stick by you even when your life changes and begins to dramatically differ from hers.

    Cheyenne Ellis
Altar-ed Friendships
How Marriage and Kids Changed My Relationships with My Single Friends
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