If you follow any sort of gossip or have signed into Facebook in the last few weeks, you’ve seen the posts floating around about Taylor Swift and the is-she-isn’t-she gay or bisexual or dating her BFF Karlie rumors, or how she asked, as a birthday gift, for the media to stop accusing her girlfriends of dating her after any photographed expression of intimacy perceived to be . . . beyond. More than. Greater than whatever it is that is acceptable for two female best friends to express towards each other.
The last time the clickbait circulated, I thought immediately of Grey’s Anatomy. Because Karlie is probably Taylor’s person and I recognize that because I used to have a person who understood what “you are my person” meant.
I spent about 40 minutes watching clips to pick this one, thinking about how Meredith and Cristina just feel too old to be dancing it out to Tegan & Sara, like I’ve felt too old every time I’ve danced it out to them in the last three years.
I’m just going to leave that there for a minute. This is one of those with all the moving parts that I’m not sure fit together just yet.
I subscribed to eBay alerts about ten months ago for an obscure item I wanted to give a friend for her birthday, and I never got an alert until recently. The timing was imperfectly bittersweet: 3 weeks before her birthday but about 7.5 months since we last spoke to each other. I left the alert emails in my inbox, I let them pile up until they were topped by the email reminders for her birthday that I’d set in my own calendar and never deleted.
I’d dropped the rope – in the game of tug of war of the argument we had, I dropped the rope and stopped responding, because that’s what I do and that’s how I handle confrontation too often. BirthdayFriend had said things like “whatever it is you’re really mad about” and “the person you should really be angry with is” and I’d heard “let me tell you what you really meant to say” and “your feelings are invalid and I know better than you”. I might have been right, but I don’t really know because in a conversation where I pointed out my boundaries and said “hey you crossed this one”, I couldn’t handle being told even one more time that I wasn’t supposed to feel the way I felt, that I wasn’t even self-aware enough to be mad about the right thing or at the correct person. I couldn’t handle the discovery that my person, the one who knew what “you are my person” meant, could discount my autonomy and my agency. So I just stopped saying anything and thought I’d find the words later and never did. And that’s a common theme for me, for better or worse. I drop the rope a lot.
For whatever reason, I let those eBay alert emails pile up and I cried on her birthday because it was sad enough to me to miss it that I had to keep looking at the reminders, but not enough to buy the thing, and not enough even to say happy birthday.
How do you know when to let go?
I sat down at a booth in the diner and DinerFriend and I exchanged what felt like maybe three sentences of small talk and then she started a story, stopped herself, and said “Before I get to that, I have to start with this: I’m sorry I was an asshole.” She was talking about 2006 and I knew that immediately, and it was a little bit out of the blue and not the first time we’ve spoken of it. This was not a rehashing or even the first apology. It wasn’t even an issue on the surface for us, but she felt it needed to be said again and I have always appreciated hearing it, and offering my own apology for the thing that happened that kept us from speaking for about a year, in 2006.
A little further into the story about a lost friendship she’s been processing lately, I told her how I understood. Because of her and me, the pair of assholes, but also because of my own person, whose birthday I just missed, and then I had to explain you’re my person. Though DinerFriend didn’t get the Meredith and Cristina reference, she got it. She said “For awhile, you were my person” and I concurred, she was mine too, back then. That’s why the thing hurt so much, why it still feels so good to look across a table and say “I’m sorry”. We have done toddler birthday parties and we have done trips to psychics on the west side. We have stood shoulder to shoulder, drunk, staring at “The First T. Hanksgiving” and we have also sobbed to each other through divorces. I don’t even need her to understand Meredith and Cristina, because she understands dark and twisty.
Something struck me about both of these people today, the way they caused me to feel the confusing pain of that romantic breakup I never quite got over and the fluttering butterfly eyelash feelings of new love, renewed love, of being gotten. The excitement of getting that text after a date that says “That was great, thank you”. Or the compliment that you circle back around to over and over, the way that flirting makes you marinate, baste yourself in feeling good every time you forget you’re awesome for a few days. But also that five minutes you spend every 18 months thinking about that person you were with 10 years ago and goddamnit, it’s still his fault, what a jerk, how can that still hurt so much? That. But in relation to two women that I’ve never had romantic feelings for at all.
Not to fall too far into the rabbit hole of relationships, but isn’t it odd how our society protects and defends monogamy so very very much but yet with so little acknowledgement of the intimacy of friendships like this? Or when the intimacy is acknowledged, it must mean that Taylor Swift is gay now? It can’t be just me, who has these friends, so close, the keepers of all your secrets, for longer than you’ve known your partner, often through darker twistier times? Who come and go occasionally because sometimes people are assholes and sometimes people are too tired to tug the rope one more time? It can’t be just me who has enough leftover from my relationship to form these bonds elsewhere, to feel them ebb and flow from new to nearly forgotten and back again a few times over the course of a decade?
This perspective makes me wonder how I’ll feel, the next time I have the urge to drop the rope. Will I feel more committed or less, knowing there’s always a corner booth in a diner somewhere reserved for all our variations of personhood, all of the leftovers we bring to the table.