i was lying in bed last friday night when that thought dropped from above and swung back and forth in front of me, like the furry black spider did this morning on the front porch. i've been my own best friend on and off, mostly on, for about 18 years. i've always had close friends, mind you, but, for reasons of proximity and/or life circumstances, the time we've spent together has been chopped up into bits and pieces. i can't remember when it started, but i know it's been somewhere around a decade since i've begun to wonder what it would be like to have that friend—the one who is a sure thing. sure-thing friend is your go-to person when you want to go out for dinner or coffee, when you want to go vintage shopping in southside pittsburgh, when you want to check out that little artsy town in the eastern panhandle of west virginia you read about, when you want to sit on a porch and dip sweet-potato tortilla chips into your famous homemade guacamole and talk about how badly you need to paint your toenails before flip-flop season is nigh.
-bobby bare, jr.she's painting her fingernails, waiting for something to happen ... listening to love songs, watching the clock on the wall ...
most people have friends who come and go. it's pretty normal. it's pretty abnormal to spend years upon years knowing that i don't have one person who's a sure thing. for a while, the blame was simple and twofold: i was a tumbleweed and prone to linger on the edges of social circles. as such, it's difficult to cultivate a sure-thing friendship. as years have streaked by, the aforementioned blame has faded into obscurity and a new culprit has come into clear focus: settling. at some point, which itself is not pointy and therefore non-specific, people settle in. all you people. maybe it's after high school or college, or when you walk down the aisle wondering how they hell you're gonna pay for all those overpriced flowers, or when you shack up with the person whose worst habits are far more tolerable than saturday nights spent watching hgtv and eating homemade popcorn (the stuff in the bag will kill you, you know). i've watched you all over the years: you've picked pick a place on your timeline of existence and you've plopped down a down payment in suburbia or scraped together first and last + security in the city and you've called it life. in your settled-dom, you have cultivated whichever relationship is the most important, which is the one with your significant other. if it's not, it's with sure-thing friend, who by default becomes the bgh-free (that's bovine growth hormone-free, y'all) cheese to your gluten-free cracker. it all makes sense. i'd do it if i were you, too.
i'm encouraged, via statements both subtle and not, by my family members to think a man is what i'm lacking. i think "a man" would cure my boredom on weekends and my awkward only-single-girl-in-the-family role on holidays, and he'd be a real gem when i can't seem to grow that third arm that being a single mom sometimes requires, and i'd definitely appreciate his manliness really late at night when i imagine every sound is someone trying to break in. sometime in this past year i remember thinking that i talk about men so much and could it be possible that i'm suppressing a desire to have a big fat wedding with some great guy who wants nothing more than to take care of me? sure, possible if tradition or suppression of desire were my style. i can barely suppress a burp, which then prompts my mother to wonder aloud if i do that in front of men, which then spirals into a debate about feminism. it's funny how among feminists i am not one but in the company of my mother i become gloria steinem.
as much as i ponder my life with and without a man, i'm painfully aware that my mantasizing (that's man fantasizing, y'all) is a world away from my real-life fears about what it means to build a life in the direction of an "us." i might be mostly unsure of what direction my life is taking, but i'm damn sure that it can go in just about any direction i want. a girl doesn't have that option when she's hitched ... or hinged ... creak, creak, creak. give that girl some grease. she's all dried up. it's okay to not want that option, if you're anyone but me. i concede this: i venture to believe that when those blasted stars align, when i'm out of this town and in my own space and place and groove again, i might concurrently or shortly thereafter become less terrified of becoming an us. i might find that sure-thing friend, too. they might be one in the same. it's all up for grabs. the overall goal is to be less of my own best friend, 'cause my son speaks only a little english and some swahili or maybe portugese, and our conversation is at best choppy. i miss conversation.
my son hasn't had a conversation with any of my long-distance friends, who all live in various increments of hundreds of miles away from me. this is because none of them have come to meet him. it's hurtful, but my bag of letdowns to overcome is already full enough. plus, i take it as part of the reality of being single with friends who are not: i am wait-listed. the wait list is why i realized, courtesy of five bedtimes ago, that a single girl's dilemma is not the lack of a man but the lack of single friends. if i had a single friend who was far away, i bet she would've burned rubber getting here to meet my boy genius. and maybe she'd have stayed an extra night or two so we could eat guacamole and paint our toenails.
meanwhile, in real life, it's saturday night and i'm drinking pure cranberry juice cut with water while typing with a heating pad on my never-not-aching neckandshoulders. around 5:30 i thought i might take my boy on a dinner date, but i decided i should conserve money for a trip to the new water park this week, so we headed to the trail instead. there are two parks i frequent. they're similar in design: both have paved walking trails that go around soccer and little-league baseball fields. there's nothing interesting to me about jogging in brief, repetitive circles around other people's world. rushing home from work to get the kids onto the field and husbands with early mid-life crises and hulking sport-utility vehicles ... that's all their world. i could fit in, because i can fit in just about anywhere. but i don't want in. i want the world where being me—sarcastic, kinda conservative/kinda liberal, part joan jett/part woody allen, god fearing, everything questioning, lost in intellectualism one minute and crankin' 80s alabama the next—feels like a sigh of relief. that world is a work in progress, both in spirit and location. being able to fit in everywhere means not fitting exactly anywhere. it's neat and it's alienating all at once, and i don't know anyone else who experiences something similar. if i did, i suspect he or she would be my sure thing.
as it stands, my one sure thing went "nigh nigh" two hours ago and is now surely snoring in sweet surrender. he's charming, handsome, and smart, and i don't have much room for anyone else, but i'd squeeze in a great friend.
she could fix a cheese sandwich but someone might ask her to dinner ... so she's painting her fingernails, waiting for someone to call ...