We were so bohemian and so wise. She was my best friend, and we lived together during my first year in Brooklyn. Our tiny single beds sat next to each other in the room we shared, making it feel like we were forgotten Von Trapp children left in a European boarding school. She was the girl I took baths with because we had watched the British miniseries “Coming Home” far too many times and thought all girls should share baths and cigarettes. There were no secrets, and there was no individualism. Hell, I could pick out her last boyfriend's dick in a line up because she had described it to me in so much detail. If she had a problem, she would call me from work and say, “I wish you were here so we could figure it out together.” Often, I would find myself snuggling in her bed during the winter because our windows weren't properly insulated. We would face each other with our arms wrapped around each other's backs, tickling each other, and I would say, “I wish you were a boy.”
We went out to parties with her NYU friends—the cool video boys with Heidegger sticking out of their JanSport backpacks. I would feel so proud when she introduced me as her best friend, like no one ever had a best friend before. Her successes were my successes and vice versa. I rationalized that with so much charm between us, our failings cancelled each other out. I didn't see this as a relationship symptomatic of our immaturity. I thought it meant that I was an emotionally healthy individual who was special enough that this person loved me. I mean, not everyone gets a best friend, right?
We met when we were sixteen but then went to different colleges. That didn't stop us from always being in each other's lives. I ducked out of post-modern literary theory to hear her whisper over the phone in a panicked voice about how she'd made out with her boyfriend's roommate. A few years later, I cheated on my fiancé by drunkenly kissing a stranger at a rooftop party. Her mom paid for me to fly to Maine so she could sit me down and tell me not to marry this guy. Not only did I get a best friend, but I got a whole other family. Though many twenty-somethings would hate this idea, I longed for more magical adult characters who would tell me what to do with my life. I was a drifter, hoping a mentor would pop up around every corner I turned, and every internship I applied for.
My fiancé was long distance, which gave me enough romantic clout that I could say I had a boyfriend, but also enough independence that I could flirt with everyone and also devote myself to my utterly platonic best friend. When I finally broke up with him he called her continually to find out what had happened. She never called him back.
Then she left me.
First she moved into the McKibbin Lofts with a group of radical fairies from college. This was back when the lofts were still cool. Then she moved into a derelict apartment in Williamsburg that came complete with a basement, a backyard, and a live-in boyfriend.
I felt like I had nowhere to go.
I had thought we would always be moving forward together. When I told her how I felt left out, she said, “I can't always solve your problems for you. It sounds like you want me to act like your boyfriend or something.” I wanted to strangle her for saying this because, for the longest time, she had been my boyfriend. She had been my sister and my mother too. She had been everything for the last 8 years.
She disappeared into this guy's life. She took him to fancy dinners at restaurants we both loved. I felt like a jealous ex, and would pout when she told me about their night outs at places that had once been ours. Also, I openly hated him. He ignored me most of the time, moving into the bedroom from the living room with a grunt when I would come over. I wanted to scream at him, “Dude, you would not be able to share a bed with her without me. I taught her about duvets versus top sheets and how not to clip your toenails in bed.” It's not like I wanted her to choose. Except, well, let's face it, I wanted her to choose.
Something happens when a person couples up. You aren't able to deal with him or her as an individual and, instead, you start dealing with a team. She stopped being vulnerable and started acting smug. Somehow she had all the answers now. When she started lecturing me, I secretly dubbed those times ”life coach moments.” If the two of us went out to a party—“a much needed girls night,” she would call it—she would bring up her boyfriend in the first couple of minutes of every conversation. How had she become the girl that both of us hated—the girl whose whole identity was about having a boyfriend?
That's when I realized I was looking in a mirror.
We all come to New York straight out of college and with our best friends in tow. We form these co-dependent obsessed relationships because we think we're changing the idea of a nuclear family or, better yet, liberating ourselves from the constraints of monogamy. But really we just go from best friend to boyfriend. Maybe someday I'll even find myself falling into that particular rabbit hole. Though I'm painting my former best friend as some kind of nightmare, I know I'm not let off the hook either. I know there's something that's keeping me from being in a romance.
We think we're creating new models for relationships with every platonic or romantic partner we make in our Brooklyn-era twenties, but really we're replaying old clichés. There was nothing new about our girl-love, nothing new about her all encompassing romance, and nothing new about my singledom woe. I don't want to end up like the women in my mother's generation who gave up all their friendships for husbands and families, and then got divorced and had no one. I want to cross the line with my best friend where we recognize that no one single person can emotionally fulfill us—be it BFF or BF. There is room in my life for all my different partners, as long as I don't put an expectation on any individual to be responsible for my entire well being.
Follow Lacy Warner on twitter @laceoface