I sent out Christmas cards this year. Like, actual cards that were made of paper, which I wrote upon with an actual pen.
I wrote hand-written notes on these cards with flourish, humor and lots of “remember whens.” I wrote six of these suckers over two hours and one pot of tea.
Then I mailed them from Toronto off to New York, Maine, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii and Singapore because those are the places where my best girlfriends live. Because sitting down to write old-timey letters until your hand cramps is what you do for your best girlfriends when you don’t see them very often.
It wasn’t always like this.
I met most of these ladies when I lived in Manhattan. I went to NYU with Singapore and Maine. A few years later, Hawaii and I were scene partners at Lee Strasberg. Soon after, I met New York when we waitressed at the same shitty West Village Italian restaurant.
Rhode Island and California are a little different. I met both of them through a message board belonging to a favorite author of ours and we became instant friends.
My best gals actually don’t know each other, so I’m kind of like the Kevin Bacon of the group. But I’m not the only thing they have in common: These women are top-of-the-line quality human beings. They’re smart and creative and funny and intuitive and kind and inspiring. I know everyone thinks that their friends are the best, but seriously, my globe-scattered friends are truly awesome.
I’m a little weird when it comes to making friends, to be honest. I’d like to think of myself as a velvet-clad VIP club within which there’s a brawny, skeptical, cautious yet kind bouncer standing outside vigilantly inspecting every potential entry and ensuring only quality ones actually make it inside. (And when I say “club,” I obviously mean one of those fancy joints with good ambiance and smooth tunes, not the tacky kind with bad lighting and expensive shitty drinks.)
I’m not snobby, I’m picky. Because once you get inside Club Brianne, you don’t ever leave.
OK, that sounds creepy, and the last thing I want is creepiness going down in my club (that, and grinding—whatever that is). What I mean is that I’m a friend for life*—I take my friendships very seriously. When I let you past my velvet ropes, I’m committed to making it rain with love, support, loyalty and good vibes on a regular basis. And I’m so blessed that I let the hottest girls into my club because they shower me with the same. These girls are my family.
So when the family split apart due to growing pains (career, love, green card issues), it hit me hard. What would happen to us? To our memories? To our future? To Friday nights of peanut butter jars and bad rom-coms? To bad hangovers eased with piles of greasy lo mein?!
What was going to happen to our connection?
Thankfully, there’s an app for that. Actually, there are like 40 of them. I have downloaded WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and Facebook Messenger to stay connected with my girls. We also use what I believe the kids call social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to keep in touch in real-time as much as humanly possible.
For the most part . . . our online connection has worked out pretty well for us—minus the time differences, and dreaded rainbow wheel buffering. I can send a “Should I cut my hair like Taylor Swift?” text and receive honest feedback before I’m in my hairdresser’s seat. “How’s your day going?” and “I’m on my way to a job interview! Wish me luck!” are also common exchanges. Voice notes are often sent out in times of crises (“I’m feeling lonely!” or “I just had an allergic reaction to my medicine and I feel like complete shit”) when we just can’t get to a phone or Skype in time. And I knew I could count on them to send me boatloads of sympathetic and “fuck ‘em!” e-mails when I broke up with my boyfriend this summer.
But here’s the thing. They're just messages. Or jumpy footage of their faces. Not nights out with tequila shots and short skirts. Not nights in with nachos and Netflix. Not hugs and hang-outs. Don’t get me wrong: The love is definitely still there, but it’s different. There’s something to be said for the “I’ll be there in five minutes!” message rather than the “I can schedule a phone call in five days.”
Sometimes I wonder if we’re as close as I would like to think we are. We don’t talk/email/text everyday. There are weeks, even months, before I touch base with some of them. It’s been years since we’ve celebrated birthdays, or any other milestone, together. And then, of course, since our separation, we’ve moved onto other best friends, which is very natural and normal, but nevertheless, heartbreaking. I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy and pain when I see my best friends photographed with their other “friends” on Instagram or Facebook feeds. I want to be the one surfing with Maine. I want to be the one exploring Napa Valley with California. Or hiking with Hawaii.
I have moments when I wonder if we are still really friends. After all, it’s been a while since we’ve been in the same country, let alone the same room together. This unsettling feeling usually strikes when I haven’t connected with one of them in a while, or I see from their Facebook feeds that they did something particularly awesome— like landing a major client or appearing in a national commercial . . . and I didn’t hear anything about it. These are the ladies who I not only let through my velvet ropes, but who know me intricately and intimately, and vice versa. They are my shoulders to lean on, my sounding board, my cheer squad and my devil’s advocates (and likewise).
Without them, I am a sad and lonely empty shell journaling her feelings in a bitch book, surrounded by her cats and a space heater; a joke, a GIF, one of those strangers who tells you their life story on the subway.
Then I wonder if the memories shared are enough to sustain the miles and years apart. Without building new experiences together, I worry we’re solely surviving on nostalgia and what we think we were “back then.”
But I have to believe that’s not entirely true. We may have only shared text messages and short visits together, but we’ve proven to each other that we have grown and evolved over the years. Through the exploration of life, the unrelenting-but-necessary thing that initially severed us, my treasured friends have transformed from innocent and indecisive girls into self-assured and capable women, and I’m proud to still know them.
So I have faith in us. I believe if we can remain intact throughout our '30s, with its many incarnations of career and relationship challenges, distractions and freak-outs, chances are we’ll remain friends until we’re little old ladies . . . happily surrounded by cats and space heaters.
In the meantime, I write my Christmas cards to my best friends who live so far away. And all the while I'm thinking, "what wouldn't I give for an endless supply of frequent flyer miles."
(*There have been extreme instances where this hasn’t been the case and all for perfectly legit “I totally get the reason” reasons.)