When you just know

In September 2010, I was three weeks into living in the city in a terrifying first-floor shoebox on the Upper East, where I could barely fit a full bed into my room and my neighbors across the way liked to walk naked in front of the window I could see from my bedroom. The only person I knew in Manhattan at that time was my brother, and I was feeling particularly lonely that Friday night after deciding to stay at home, stealing WiFi from a stranger, trying to contemplate what I’d gotten myself into. While surfing Facebook, I noticed a post from a girl I sort-of knew in college – we were in the same sorority and I knew her boyfriend pretty well, but we’d never really been friends per se. The post mentioned New York, and a quick glance at her profile told me she was somewhat new to the Big Apple as well. In a totally out-of-character courageous move, I decided to send my kind-of acquaintance a quick message to see if she’d want to grab dinner or drinks one night that next week.

My lovely friend M and I met at Balthazar because she’d been dying to try the truffle fries after they were featured on Food Network as one of the best in the city. We nervously chatted while waiting for our table to be ready and then sat down and ordered a bottle of wine, a Beaujolais if I remember correctly. The remaining details of the rest of that night have faded after almost four years, but I’ll always look back and remember two very important details: the look we gave each other when we finished the first bottle of wine, because we both wanted another but didn’t know how the other would react (as it turns out, relief and surprise and a lot of laughs); and how I somehow knew walking out of the restaurant that night that I’d found my best friend. It wasn’t that we discussed anything particularly important, or that we were both desperate for an NYC best friend (… although maybe we were), but there was something in the easy way we joked around and how very personal we were with each other from the get-go that assured me this was someone I would have in my life for a very, very long time.

Fast forward three years, and I’m newly single in the city. The only person I know who isn’t in a relationship is my partner-in-crime R, who at the time was more of a mutual friend that M and I shared. She and I had fun together, don’t get me wrong, but we hadn’t ever spent time just the two of us. Desperate to go out with someone who wouldn’t judge my awkward newly-single social non-skills, I sent her a text one weeknight to plan a single ladies night for that weekend, which she enthusiastically accepted. We started the night in her then-apartment in Murray Hill, her little pooch running around the apartment as I played dress-up in her closet and we shared a bottle of wine (I’m sensing a pattern in my friendships…). We traveled down to the village for dinner at a tiny Italian place, and despite a super-rude patron saying evil things to me for no reason, we ended up shutting the restaurant down, talking, talking, talking the whole time. As we walked into Village Tavern later that night, I was drunk on a delicious combination of the high of a new friendship, the second-ever realization that this person was going to be in my life for a long time, and yes also the amount of wine we’d taken down in a relatively short period of time.

There are people that come into our lives slowly, making cameo appearances until they’re a regular guest until they’re a regular, getting to know each other over months and years, appreciating the languid slope of the friendship because it’s exactly what it needs to be. My fashionista C and I have known each other for years, but it’s only been in the past 18 months or so that I’ve realized how important she is in my life, which is to say, insurmountably so. My work buddy S and I practically couldn’t be friends for the first few months after we met, given I was her pseudo-manager; she’s now an integral part of my life. Sometimes you need the slow build, the getting-to-know you, before realizing how much someone means to you and how much you cherish their presence in your life.

But every once in a while you meet someone and right away it feels like you’ve known them forever. Conversation is easy, moving from things you have in common, to funny anecdotes about families, to hopes and dreams and more. And conversation never stops; it’s like a wild desire to know as much as possible and then more, an earnest interest in everything about the person within a few days of the initial introduction. Those moments are rare, a shooting star on a cloudy night, but when they happen you just know: there are people that you’re supposed to know and all it takes sometimes is to find them.

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The life of a sister wife.

The next person who dates me is pretty screwed. Not only do they need to impress my family, which consists of a former state police officer, heavily-involved-in-my-personal-life mother, protective older brother who lives across town and twin sister, but they need to impress my sister wife and husband as well. Confused? I’ll explain.

sisterwives

Okay, it’s not quite like this.

In normal relationships, it’s a requirement to impress the family, but it’s convenient to impress the friends. Not that a relationship can be successful if the person’s friends actively hate you, but you can politely keep your distance at social events and choose not to hang out one-on-one to maintain a semblance of acquaintanceship. While it’s absolutely not negotiable that my family approves of anyone I date, I’ve always managed to get by if a few of my friends weren’t enthusiastic about the person. However, after leaning on friends more than usual over the past crazy year, there are a few in particular that are no longer allowed to “accept” any relationship, but will have to “approve” before I’d consider even the possibility of getting serious with someone.

My lovely friend M and I have been friends since I moved to the city, but have known each other since college. To try and describe her as my “best friend” doesn’t do all the nights in the past few years where I ugly-cried on her couch as she fed me whiskey and her incredible homemade meals, justice. She knows more about me than I know about myself sometimes, and her presence in my life has made me a stronger and more responsible (well, mostly)  person. Even better, she comes with another half. I’ve actually known N longer than I’ve known M, and have had more fun with him goading her on in the years we’ve all been in New York. It’s like a ritual, our friendship: M and I talking too quickly about too many things, N offering sage advice laced with innuendo, each of us riling the others up to the point of frustration and then collapsing on the ground in laughter, immature and carefree and wonderful.

We live within 11 blocks of each other, go to the same gym (frequently together) and have been known to experience separation anxiety after 4 days apart. I’ve never once felt like a third wheel when it’s just the three of us hanging out, largely because we’ve all grown together since college and beyond. I was there for them in their brief break up a million years ago, and their apartment was the first place I went after my break up, where N gave me something to numb the pain and let me cry on their couch until I couldn’t anymore.

M, dancing with snowflakes. N in the background drawing penises on cars.

M, dancing with snowflakes. Not shown: N in the background drawing penises on cars.

After the break up, I practically moved into their apartment, helping M with the cleaning and laundry, and helping N with his work. What started as a joking apology (“Sorry I’m turning into your sister wife”) has come to identify our bizarre but wonderful relationship. Spending time with them has given me seriously high standards in terms of what I want and deserve in a relationship – someone you can share anything with, no matter how embarrassing, or scary, or very, very personal (Aside: sometimes too personal, guys. Anecdotes about bathroom habits, while definitely funny, should probably have a line somewhere. End aside).

I was afraid that my relationship with them would change once we couldn’t double date anymore, or that I’d lose myself in single life and neglect my friend because her boyfriend should and will always come first. And sure, there have been a few adjustments to us in the past few months, but it’s all been so, so positive. Someday, maybe I’ll find someone who fits into our crazy marriage, weird anecdotes and all. In the meantime, I’m content to spend time in our (fine, their) king-sized bed, whether it’s Monday television dates or weekend laundry day.

Happy birthday hubs – I’ll leave the presents to your other wife.