Who’s the Most Important Person in Your Life?
When I was tossing around ideas for this month’s question, Haley sent me a quote from Rachel Syme’s fantastic Broad City profile that had been stuck in her brain for a while. In it, Abbi and Ilana prove they’re more than simply best friends, connected at the heart, or business partners, connected at the brain: they’re just connected all over, and get each other on a level that is so special and rare and fulfilling: “We are so used to just talking to each other. We do it all day long, all night long. I’m on Skype with Ilana when I go to bed and then again when I wake up. It’s not like we never have disagreements, but we also just really like talking to each other the most.”
Do you ever get that feeling, of fire and newness and energy and faith, that follows after a conversation with a person? It always surprises me, sneaking up after drinks or during a particularly confessional g-chat, and I wonder how I existed before it. I start in one place and end completely in another, feeling fresh and cleansed and most of all, understood. So I asked this month: “Who is the most important person in your life? Who gives you your power? Who is the Abbi to your Ilana?”
The most important person in your life isn’t meant to mean your “best friend,” a declaration both too limiting and too vast, and any choosing in adulthood is often cleverly avoided by the obvious “oh, my boyfriend/girlfriend/whomever” option (but, I mean, my boyfriend is my best friend HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY BOO shout-out to love). But I can’t choose: this question made me realize that there are so many women — — and yes, they are all women — — who have made me feel closer to being my true self, all with the tap of a key or a nod of the head. For that, I consider them all sisters, family, the most important, and for that, I am so lucky. I don’t have a singular most important person in my life. I have dozens.
Please do not send the men in white coats for me (← LOL, why do they have to be MEN, huh?) when I tell you that the most important person in my life is ME. Hear me out: I am not, as far as I can tell, a narcissist, but I have read enough Ask Polly columns (just kidding, you can never read enough of those, especially this one) to know by now: if I don’t learn how to live with myself, listen to myself, be kind to myself, and love myself, then I’m no good to anyone else. This is my theme for 2015, and you can call it whatever cheesy thing you want — Living My Best Life, Being My Best Self — but it feels great, like going to the gym five days a week. And just like going to the gym five days a week, it definitely won’t last, so I’m going to embrace it while it does. Look at me, I’m amazing!
My best friends Emily and Hali live around the corner from my house — not exactly around the corner, but under three Taylor Swift songs away on foot. Knowing that they’re there has reset my resting chill levels. I can get at the best women I know any time I want! Hanging out with E & H makes me feel all kinds of exciting things like empowered and impressive and cared for, but mostly, they just make me feel like I’m okay and everything’s okay and we’re having fun so who cares what else is going on. Emily invented the phrase “Friends are the new husbands” and I would group marry these two whenever. The other day we saged each other’s buttholes to keep bad-dick ghosts away. These women give me life.
I met Aude* the summer after we both finished college, when we were taking a publishing course and she informed our entire résumé workshop that she was “a pretty good stilt-walker.” I didn’t quite know what to make of her but I did know I wanted her in my zone.
Here are some other things I didn’t know before Aude:
– That you can learn how to fight well, without worrying that the other person will harden and stop loving you.
— That fun, gentle activities like embroidery can turn certain humans into swearing lunatics.
— That off-the-record gchats are the most important natural resource this planet has.
— That you can make a best friend as a (not quite) adult.
I would not be in New York, working where I do or leading the life I’ve built, if it weren’t for her: she invited me to stay at her house, weeks after we’d met, during a long sticky month when neither of us had jobs. Now, we push each other and catch each other. We bear witness at every turn, trading bits of advice that really we should listen to ourselves but oh well, maybe next time. And sometimes, we take a break from yelling at movies or unearthing our soulmates and take the measure of how far we’ve come since we first found each other.
*”Hi-I’m-Aude-like-Ode-to-Joy” is how she introduces herself. She tells baristas that her name is Charlotte.
My friend Andrea inspires me because she gives me permission to exist in this Universe where it is perfectly okay to discuss the following topics in equal measure: the benefits of laser-hair removal, the pursuit of art as an alternative to motherhood and effective tinder strategies. Our friendship keeps me accountable, because it pushes me to become an interesting (and interested) person. It makes me feel like there is something at stake — like the idea of self-improvement involves more than just me, it has an audience and that audience is Andrea.
Andrea and I met years ago when we were both working for a non profit in San Diego and living this romanticized cult-y lifestyle in a house with 60 people. She was living in a closet underneath the stairs and we bonded over our mutual disdain for everyone around us. This is how all true friendships are born. We spent a big part of our friendship online (where again, friendships flourish) while I was living in Toronto and she was in LA. She convinced me to move back to LA and made every effort to make that happen. I’ve lived a somewhat self-absorbed existence where I’m basically nice to people but I spend most of my energy just trying to get myself through the day. Andrea, on the other hand, actively helped me get a job and adopted me into her friend group because she is a saint among women.
Besides changing my life, we also work on an art project together and it’s more important to me to impress her than anyone else which just makes me a better person. She also has homeopathic remedies for every ailment so before I google ‘what is this rash?!’ I always ask her first.
Years ago, my friend Nicholas said to me, “When I come across something that I love but can’t think of who else in my life would understand exactly why I love it, the answer is always you.” It perfectly sums up our friendship, and why it is the best.
Our shared obsessions include fern bars, Faye Resnick, abandoned buildings/towns/cities, Cold War-era Eastern Europe, Bill Clinton and that wallpaper that looks like it’s made from olde timey newspapers. We even invented a game in which we collect current headlines that we would incorporate into our own version of said wallpaper. (Recent example: “Drunk Fox News Anchor Arrested at Airport Eatery”) That’s just how we are, all the time. While he was on holiday in Italy, I got the following email from him, “First off, I feel like I understand you completely now. The sandals, the ceramics, the interior design motifs, the salumeria, the everything. It all makes sense.” Sometimes in the summer when I’m wearing my sandals, I think of that email and just laugh and laugh and laugh. I recently posited, “I feel like I’m the Rinna to your Eileen, right?” That sent him into a snit, as I knew it would, and so we agreed that we fluctuate between the two. There’s something so comforting and absolutely absurd about having someone on the other side of the world who doesn’t bat an eyelash at an email with the subject line, “Don’t even ask, I fell down a Carnegie/Rockefeller hole.”
Sonia Saraiya, hands down. We e-met while writing for the AV Club — which is a place where you need strong woman support because commenters can be terrifying — and now we talk 24/7. She is a brilliant writer and thinker, a beautiful human being, and possesses the near-impossible talent of being able to calm me down when I’m panicking and crying about everything from deadlines to partner squabbles to misplacing something. She’s essentially my Xanax. Writing for the internet is terrifying, and the NYC media circle-jerk can be alienating and dude-centric so it’s so fucking important to have a support system of fly ladies whether you need to brainstorm at 1 AM or a PR contact or a spontaneous editor. Libby Hill and Genevieve Valentine are my other anchors; the three of us group chat every day and though our beats overlap, we’re never in competition but instead celebrate the FUCK out of each others successes. If one of us wins, we all win.
My girl Kim is simply the best. We became friends because she was envious of my beanie baby collection and stayed friends because we are soulmates. Plus, I just took a facebook quiz that tells you who you should move in with and she was the result so that has to mean something right? We have plans for when our husbands die and we’ll live together and own many cavalier king charles spaniels, it will be glorious.
My dad is my road dog. He’s a talented guitarist (I will never not plug this song) whose parents didn’t support him when he was younger, so the way he emotionally boosts his three artistic daughters is really inspiring to me. When I quit my first soul-sucking job to pursue writing, my dad assured me my boss would “spit blood” when she saw what I did next — even though I left with minimal savings and zero job prospects. He just trusts the hell out of my career choices. He’s never like, “Hey, you sure you wanna tell the entire internet you had HPV?”
My dad sometimes says he had creative kids to make up for the premature death of his own pursuits, but he’s still an artist in my eyes. He’s in his 60s and hits up open mics regularly. One day, his lyrical Twitter bio got stuck in my head like it was a song. The fact that he’s still in the game, that his passions are as important now as they were when he was 16… it tells me I’m rightfully prioritizing my own interests. It’s very cool to have a dad who not only believes in you, but gives you a blueprint for living a life that makes room for art despite the obstacles.
My three sisters are the most irritating and most lovable people in my life. Often they are simultaneously shitty and awesome, and I am sure once(if) they read this, they will kill me, but it doesn’t matter. We’re not big on emotionality in my family, especially the way that we were raised. So, our communications for just about everything are contained in one sprawling group-text. It is the one thing on my phone that I will never, ever delete. It is the sum of our friendship, our relationnship, our sisterhood. We don’t get goopy, we don’t get mushy, and we try our best to avoid sentimentality at all costs, because that’s not how our mama raised us, but we are each other’s fiercest protectors. I’m pretty sure that 56% of the things that come out of my mouth about any of my sisters is #rude, but If i hear anyone else say anything sideways about them, you better believe I will come for you. The fact that I am a sister, one out of four, the eldest, the self-described boss of the group, is something I cant shake, no matter how hard I sometimes try. I have close friends, too, ones that I’d throw down for, but there is nothing like my sisters. We even got matching tattoos, because what is anything even, if it’s not permanently marked on your body?
Jolie Kerr and AJ Daulerio, hands down. Neither is my best friend (fun fact: I actually don’t have a best friend, because I was very unlikable for a large portion of my life that still extends into the present day), but they’re both really good friends who are invaluable for another reason: they’re mentors to me in a new career path, at an age where I’m significantly less precocious for needing a mentor — and as someone who fucks up personally and professionally a lot, they are in-fucking-valuable. My text message history with Jolie is 85% her just saying “Beej, don’t” when I do things like contemplate making out with the deli guy who looks like my ex, or sending me tips on how to clean stains (it’s always white vinegar), but it’s also a running chain of the innumerable times she’s had me sit my ass down at Marshall Stack, while plying me with wine and letting me word vomit out every feeling I have: about writing, about dating, about growing up and accidentally becoming a dick instead of a decent human. Plus, free wine! AJ is slightly more intense insofar as mentors go, but in the way where you know everyone else is too nice to tell you that you’re fucking up, and you really need someone to tell you that you’re fucking up, without worrying that they’ll stop being on your team. He’s JK Simmons from Whiplash meets Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, which is both pants-crappingly terrifying, and also really lovely and wonderful. I know this was supposed to be about our best friends, but friends change a lot (often for good reason). Great mentors? Really, really hard to come by.
Most of my friends are writers. Some of them I’ve met because I was a fan of their work and reached out to them, or because they read mine. Some I met at parties or through friends, because all the parties I go to are attended by writers and all my writer friends hang out with other writers, and I seek their work out after. We don’t always talking about work, but writing is the undercurrent to all our relationships.
Caitlin is not a writer, and I love her for it. That doesn’t mean she is not smart, or not well-read, or that she couldn’t be a writer if she wanted. She even cowrote a Hairpin piece with me, once! But I like that she inhabits a completely different world than me. I like that she makes me funnier and more creative, but is so far removed from my work. Hanging out with her is like going on vacation.
We don’t share interests so much as go through phases together, which was made especially easy when we lived together for nearly six years (three in a dorm, three in a shared apartment). There was that summer I took out stacks of foreign horror movies from the campus library, and made her watch them with me because I was too scared to watch them alone. There was that autumn when she was committed to beating all of Super Mario 64, a mere fifteen years after it came out, and I was committed to sitting on the couch next to her watching every step of the way. We don’t see each other as much now that we no longer live together, but when we do I feel like, “Oh right, the world is not an entire black hole of suck.”
Oh jeez, I’m absolutely bananas over my Mom. She’s the great love of my life and I would die on a battlefield for her, and I have never told her this because I’m always sixteen and sullen when it comes to her. Mostly, she’ll call and nag me about putting on deoderant or calling this relative, and I’ll be nodding along, tears streaming down my face, because she’s my North Star. Like, the only other people who inspire this depth of feeling are rare because I have no enemies and I do the people-pleasing thing of making most conversations about the other person. 90% of the time it works and people forget I’m there. The only ride-or-die friends I’ve made have noticed this, and have got me on lock. They check in all the time from different area codes and modes, making sure I’m present. Hey, I noticed you pinned this slow cooker recipe today, are you okay? I’m on gchat if you want to talk about your gpoy Tumblr post. I’m inspired when I know that there’s a small group of people who have seen the core of me and have not looked away. They remind me of who I am when I forget. In the slo-mo explosions of my life, I have closed my eyes and imagined them in the room making faces at me, and I’m able to get through the day. I don’t do inspiration boards, but I do line my ride-or-dies up in photos on my wall and in selfies everywhere, so I can look and take in their faces, ready for battle, just like I am for them.
My first thought was one that I hear inside my head all the time: don’t make me choose! I am an impatient, indecisive, stubborn monster of a person — I want the people I want when I want them and I want them under exactly my terms, a really #chill and #fun and #sexy way to be, I’m sure.
But the result of this particular form of psychological weirdness has actually played out entirely in my favour. I have a best friend, of course, but please don’t make me talk about it because it’s too embarrassing (hi lol it’s my husband lol I love him so much oh god I’m blushing ok BYE), and he is the singular person in my life who makes, I think, me possible — we support each other in both the most practical and emotional ways — but he is not the single most important person in my life.
The honest truth is that I don’t have a single most important person in my life! I have, probably, too many people who are all equally the most important people I know and all in entirely different ways. There are my sisters, two girls I have known for as long as I’ve been alive, the smartest and strongest people who fill me with more pride than I ever thought possible. There are the friends I’ve kept in touch with since high school, who met me when I was a brunette with glasses and wore pink crop tops that said “Angel/Princess/Sweetheart/All of the Above” and yet they still want to hang out with me, still never fail to tell me how proud they are of how far I’ve come, still never hesitate to tell me when I’m being annoying or when I need to get over myself.
There’s the group of women that I know who I’ve met since I started working as a writer, women who I love and trust more than anything, women who inspire and energize me to write harder, funnier, smarter, better. There’s Emily, of course, the person who always tells me when I need to cool it and who is the only person who can say “No, that’s stupid,” and it makes me feel as though she has blessed me with the kiss of an angel, as though I’ve been absolved of my sins and can start over better than ever. There’s Anna, who I can trust with my most evil and mean feelings, who will always tell me when something is funny and when something is just not “ha ha” funny. There’s “watching” The Bachelor with Laura and Zoe which is really code for drinking beer and talking shit. There’s the text message group with Sara and Fariha and Ayesha and Lauren where we share inspiring things we’ve found on Kanye West’s Twitter or Kim Kardashian’s Instagram, screenshots that always make me feel like I’ve harnessed some sort of secret energy source and that, yes, after getting that image I can live. There’s Jazmine and her g-chats which really do make me lol all the time, despite her repeated insistences that I never laugh out loud!! There’s Lola and the page I keep in my journal that is just a collection of wise things I’ve been lucky enough to hear her say to me. There’s Alex and a shot of tequila or whiskey and a real conversation about our work, our goals, the things that annoy us and the things that we love, often the same things. There’s Monica, someone who I truly believe I share one brain with split between two bodies. Having dinner with Silvia last month made me feel like I could move to New York and have a friend who would make me laugh all the fucking time right when I was the most scared about leaving. There’s someone I won’t name but I feel compelled to say that in the short time I’ve known them they have consistently called me out on playing dumb when I am playing dumb, and it makes me nervous in the best possible way.
So, I mean, who is the most important person in my life? Do not make me choose. I am a modern woman and I will have it all!!! I am just a millennial trying to disrupt the relationship sphere!!!!
Yesterday I was having exactly this conversation with one of the above-named people and we just agreed that there is no one person for any of us. I don’t believe in soul mates, I don’t believe in your one and only, I don’t believe that any person could ever find someone who just entirely and totally completes them in every way you need to feel like the best version of yourself because, I mean, how can you have one best version of yourself?!? The person I am at work is so different from the person I am at home from the person I am after a whiskey shot from the person I am having a work date at a coffee shop etc etc you get it. I need all these different people to feel the most like myself. I need them all in entirely different, equal, crucial ways, or I run the risk of falling into a million little Haley-sized pieces. At different times I’ve asked all of them for different reasons if I can live and they have, in their words and actions, always responded with the loudest “yes.”