Kelly and I grew up together in a leafy Midwestern suburb. We slept over at each other’s houses and stayed up late strategizing how to raise our standing in the junior high school ecosystem. We went to sleepaway camp and cried about missing our air-conditioned bedrooms. Post-college, we both moved into New York City studios on the Upper East Side. And then she met a guy. When she got married, I was a bridesmaid at the wedding. When she got pregnant with her first child, I went to her baby shower. When she moved to New Jersey near the mall, I hopped on the train to check out the new abode.
I did all of the above with a sincere smile. I was happy for Kelly. I figured I’d dance with domesticity soon enough.
I haven’t. I’m 41, currently sans beau, and I’m still living solo in an overpriced NYC apartment. I ended up bingeing Real Housewives instead of becoming one. Alas, all the vino in the world can’t dull the sad realization that Kelly and I have veered in opposite directions.
We now communicate via pithy texts about hometown gossip. We never had a spat. I almost prefer we did, because at least then there’d be a juicy reason for us drifting. The truth is that we operate in such different orbits that when I recently lost my job, I chose not to call her for a pep talk. Even a harried suburban mom can’t possibly understand the stress of being trapped in a web of job applications and interviews … right?
But it hurts that her adorable daughters don’t know me. I’m essentially acquainted with them only because of social media. She’s not a promiscuous poster, which, in my neurotic brain, means she’s too busy living in the moment to publicly document each precious childhood milestone. What is going on inside her house, I often wonder. I imagine Kelly preparing multiple organic food groups in her spacious kitchen with granite countertops and glossy mirrored tile backsplashes while I’m eating pasta topped with a jar of Ragu out of a chipped bowl on my Ikea couch. The thought of her adulting to the extreme makes me feel woefully inept.
When did we officially grow up? No, I’m not itching to hop in a DeLorean and revisit my early 20s, and yet I long for the era when we were on a level playing field. Watching Kelly tick off life boxes brings out my natural insecurities. I worry I’ll never catch up to her, and there’s something wrong with me because of it. No matter what fancy job I land, a part of me feels that it will never be as important as tending to a family.
I should call and find out what’s really going on. I miss her. As much as I love my social network, my friends will never understand the joy of popping in a Madonna cassette and dancing to “La Isla Bonita” in my purple bedroom. Kelly and I have a strong foundation. And though the grass on her lawn is most definitely greener than whatever’s growing outside my apartment building, I believe any friendship with a solid foundation is worth saving.
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
Sign up to receive our free weekly newsletter every Thursday.