Today I bring you another fantastic HERE Year guest post about Friendship. While Jamie raised important questions about the integrity of self and self-worth in our @ Age, Kate Wheeler's view strikes me as more sun-blanched. I know that you will read along and smile as I did. Another thing that makes me smile? Kate, a writer and lawyer and mom whom I've *met* only recently was my year at Yale and we have several friends in common. I really love how this odd ether of blogging can bring people together. Perhaps we will hang at our 15th Reunion in New Haven this spring, Kate?
I Met My Best Friends on the Internet
by Kate Wheeler
I met my best friends on the internet.
Nowadays, in the era of Facebook and Blog conferences and Meetup and Tinder, that wouldn't be so shocking, but back around the turn of this century we had to keep the origins of our friendship sub -rosa.
We met on the message boards of the weddingchannel.com, where stressed brides-to-be virtually gathered to pick each other's brains about the best grades of tulle for a veil, whether to use engraving or hand calligraphy for invitations, and what flavors of cake were most tempting. We kept "journals" of our wedding plans - ideas for jewelry, for shoes, for lemonade bars and save the dates. And we started following other journals - truth, who was planning the English countryside wedding of my distant dreams, pupsgirl, whose save the dates (cute magnets with black and white engagement photos) I shamelessly copied, classical, who had a sense of style that did not quit. We commiserated about late RSVP's, about mothers-in-law (always a popular topic), about cash bars and flaky florists. I had literally nothing in common with most of these women except that we were in the same (virtual) place at the same time (in our lives).
And yet, after the gifts were unwrapped and the dresses were cleaned, we kept coming back. Nobody else in our life knew what newlywed life was really like - the highs and the disappointments. We moved from the wedding channel to more private forums, that were password protected and safe(r) from prying eyes. Choosing flowers and buying tiaras became choosing baby names and buying houses. We kept up the chronicling of our daily lives, the commentary, the advice-seeking. We took the relationships offline. I had a local group of WC girls in New York - what started out as late nights at Manhattan bars fueled by too many glasses of red wine and secrets became baby showers and Saturday afternoon playdates in a park in Brooklyn. When I moved to Los Angeles, I had a built-in group of girlfriends who became my beloved book club. We've planned trips together - weekends in Colorado, in Austin, in Charleston, in San Francisco - babies on our hips or in our bellies. But we kept up the online relationships, too, giving and seeking advice on clothing, exercise routines, school choice, disciplinary strategies, marital relations.
Through the years, we have been through it all. Babies and kindergarteners, house buying and company building, anniversaries and date nights, but also infertility, miscarriage, wars, divorce, hurricanes, job loss, illness, cancer. These women have accompanied me through my highest highs and my lowest lows. They are the first people I turn to when my daughter doesn't eat, when my boss doesn't respect me, when my husband works too many late nights.
What I've gained from these friendships goes far beyond support, though. I've gained perspective and empathy. Knowing the struggles and challenges my friends have faced have allowed me to enter the circus of parenting young children with less panic and more grace and humor. Seeing insight into the marriages (and sometimes divorces) of others has made me more tolerant of my husband's flaws and appreciative of his many good qualities. Seeing other women scale summits and do about-faces in their careers has made me braver in approaching my own.
These women have extended my circle beyond what's typical for an urban, coastal professional living in her hometown. I am friends with Texas Republicans, with Alabama hunters, with Iowa farmers, with Midwestern moms and with Israeli artists. I have some understanding of what it's really like to have a child (or children) on the autism spectrum, to live on the edge of a war zone, to live with an unfaithful spouse.
It turns out, I fell in love twice during my engagement so long ago. With my husband, yes, and I am lucky that I am still in love with him today. But also with my girlfriends, who have become a great love of my life.