TAKE ME TO CHURCH

Alternative title: That Moment When You Realize—Over Steak Fries and Beer—That You’re Not Totally Over That Time Your Best Friend Stabbed You in the Heart Three Years Ago.

Subtitled: More Proof as to Why I Am Skeptical of People Who Dye Their Hair Natural Colors That Are Not Their Natural Colors.

So, yes. That was a real moment that happened. Just now (-ish enough for literary land, anyway). That moment wherein I realized that I very well may not be over the major heartbreak in my life that involved a guy but was not exclusively caused by said guy. It was caused mostly by my best friend (at the time).

And by very well may not be over I obviously mean definitively not over mostly at all. Because when you’re over something you don’t almost cry about it in a bar full of locals on a Friday night right? Or do you? Because if you do, then I’m totally off the hook here. And I’m Totally Over It. But if not, this story still has a purpose. And I think it does. So on we go.

Let’s start at the beginning. I first met…what’s a good code name? Let’s go with the one he used for her when they were trying to keep their relationship a capital s secret. What was it again? S.C. Johnson. Right.

I first met S.C. Johnson at the ballroom dance studio where we were both students. She was wearing a floral skirt. I remember this only because I liked the skirt. As in, I wished I owned it myself and therefore that was a cue that this was a friend I should have. But her hair was clearly dyed and she had friends there so the small and afraid and previously bullied 7th grader (and college junior…and 22-year-old) inside of me categorized her as a Potential Mean Girl and decided to not proceed. That is, until she commented on my outfit one day and the rest was history.

We went from chatting all the time at dance to chatting in real life to grabbing drinks and dinner to one day realizing our lives were eerily similar and therefore, over the course of many hours and many conversations, we realized it all made sense and so we became best friends. Fast friends, I believe they call it.

So we were best friends. That was the beginning and end of it. We shared thoughts and hopes and fears and dreams like most best friends do. Theoretically we shared mostly everything. Then we ended up sharing everything literally. But not on purpose. It was on accident, supposedly.

On accident she ended up dating him. And on accident their star-crossed romance happened to kickstart the same week I needed both of them the most. The most because my sister—my estranged for six-and-a-half-years by my own very necessary doing sister—was coming into town with my niece. Both of them knew the whole messy story. And they both, apparently, did not give a damn.

Even still I gave them both too much credit to hold to their individual promises of solace and kept a bag of clothes in my car for a solid 3 days hoping I would wake up to find it was all a big cosmic joke. Newsflash: it wasn’t.

Sometimes when life makes my bones ache in a certain way, I wonder what my life would be like now if he hadn’t kissed her in the kitchen while I took a moment outside to collect myself that evening. Collect myself because they had been flirting all. day. in front of my too calm face and I just could. not. around either of them any longer without ruining something—the innocent pizza, their not innocent giggling, the innocent glassware, their not innocent bouts of obnoxiously romantic but not at all off-key Moulin Rouge karaoke, the innocent bottle of Veuve Clicquot, etc.

So I took my moment outside. And everything changed seemingly in that minute. It wasn’t actually in a minute. It was over the weeks I trusted her with my emotions, with the text message threads I was too happy to share, with the guy I was excited about, with the go-ahead I wanted to hear from her that this time it felt right to see me with a person, to see that I was happy in the way I wanted to feel happy. I wasn’t happy in the way I wanted to feel happy, of course this proved that. But I still wanted to be.

So my moment outside led to their kiss inside which led to her bra in his hand in front of my face the morning after said kiss which led to about four months worth of lying which led to the downfall of all three relationships. That last one took longer than it probably should have. Mostly it led to the downfall of me; which was great in the long run. But at that moment? God, that moment. That moment it just fucking hurt.

The months of silence, where my best friend hid in every way possible. The months of clinging to my previously estranged for six-and-a-half-years sister because I needed someone, anyone, to help me make sense of why my best friend would kiss this guy, and then follow this guy into the dark and leave me alone in the dust. The months of catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and simultaneously not recognizing my reflection and feeling a sick desire to laugh at the pitifulness of it all. Oh, the months. And then the years of undoing of those months. And here we are.

You should know that I’m no stranger to losing friends. I find it a very straightforward fact of life. But some losses hurt more than others. This happens to be one of them, apparently.

And when those losses hurt again, because of the weather or the tequila, you write as if it is still new. And when your hands stop moving, and the cursor blinks back at you, you know you’re good to go. For now at least.

For now.

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RAINY DAYS

Maybe I will just blame it on Ed Sheeran. Or James Bay. Yeah, let’s go with James Bay.

Damn that guy.

Some note, some lyric of his just struck me in the heart and broke it clear in half.

It’s totally James Bay’s fault, and not the years of hard work that I’ve been doing to clean up the mess and clear space…

It’s totally James Bay’s fault, and not the ferociousness for positivity and goodness that has encased itself around my heart for myself, primarily, and those that I love…

It’s totally James Bay’s fault, and not the methodical way in which I’ve prioritized learning to become a safe place for myself to reside, for my friends to reside, for my family to reside…

That my hands are tingling at the thought of someone holding them.

That my name is now willing to slide over and add another one to it.

That my heart, my broken clear in half heart, has done so not out of pain but out of pure willingness to widen and grow to accommodate another human being.

That everything in my body is pushing out a “I’m ready for this. I can do this. I’m not afraid of it anymore.”

So yes, damn you, James Bay.

Damn you, but thank you.

I’D RATHER BE A WILD ONE, INSTEAD

A wild one, wild woman, what does wild even mean?

Yes please, thank you, but no sir, quite frankly I don’t give a damn.

I don’t want you to open doors for me I want the world to. Burst, wide, open.

Doors.

Slam them in your face if I must, but I probably wouldn’t. But if I had to, I could, so don’t forget it.

Pretty.

Wild, sweaty, dirty, messy. Too bold to sit still and be pretty.

But I am though.

That’s the funny part.

The puzzling part.

The you don’t own me but we can play together for a little while part.

Oh honey, yes please, thank you, quite frankly I do give a damn part.

Make you feel big because I feel even bigger part.

There’s room for you and me at the top part.

I’ll wear my crown if you bring your A-game to the throne room part.

Amen, hallelujah, all of the yeses but only some of the noes part.

Yeses.

Bold emphatic yeses. I can say yes just as lusciously as I can say no. And I will. Say no. So don’t you forget it.

The honey yes on my mouth is not an everlasting promise to you sir, play date, play mate.

A wild one, woman, what does it even mean?

Free to be. Me. That’s what.

In all of the contradictions, convictions.

Free to be. You. That too.

You’re welcome, baby. You’re welcome.

EX-EMPLARY BEHAVIOR

“I think if you were music, you’d be jazz,” he said.

He being the English teaching, bee keeping ex I met on Bumble. He, an ex after a month. A month, just long enough to develop a mutual fondness for one another but short enough that, after the prescribed period of frustration, you accept—nay, need—them back in your life as a friend.

And then one day after you see his smiling face next to her smiling face—her, the love that was both before you and after you—you message him to say that they are adorable. And you converse for a time, because mutual fondness, and then the conversation makes this statement bubble forward, “I think if you were music, you’d be jazz,” and you feel known and you agree and you smile because of that feeling and you awaken to God in the room teaching you about a different kind of life partner and a bigger kind of love. The kind of life partner that is on the periphery, the kind of life partner that is a comfortable friend. The kind of love that you can’t own, the kind of love that you can’t control.

And at that moment you vow that you will speak of yourself as kindly and think of yourself as fondly and see yourself as lovely as does your ex-after-a-month who had been communicating to you, just now, from a mystical land called Scotland.

THOUGHTS ONE HAS WHILE DRIVING TO THE HAMPTONS

SPEEDING, COPS, BAD SANTA

83 on the dash feels delicious–I’m clocking one lusty MPH over for every (impending) year of life. But I pull it back because I distrust authority, and because my instinct for self-preservation is too strong, and because I’m a law-abiding citizen (apparently).

LANA, LOVE, LOST

I’m singing out loud, not my words but hers, and I find myself both lost in thought and thoughtfully lost. Rerouting.

HORSES, MARRIAGE, COMMITMENTS

You can’t own a wild thing unless you break its will and bend it to your own. I do not want to be owned, broken or made by anyone but myself (and God, of course God). And so I trot and gallop and run like hell away from anything that feels like captivity.

NOON SUN (AKA: MY INNER STRUGGLE WITH LETTING PEOPLE MAKE THEIR OWN MISTAKES)

“Are you sure? You’re sure you didn’t do anything wrong…seriously?” – Me, in a booth in a restaurant after work with friends chatting about life

If you took a quick poll of the people who know me well exactly zero of them would say that I shy away from confrontation. In fact, depending on the situation, I relish it. That sounds harsh. What I relish is the responsibility and high level of concern that I feel to the people I love to keep them honest and living authentically. And we all know that one of the biggest killers of authenticity is lying (to yourself and to others).

So as I was dunking artichoke leaves and sipping rosé in the seat across from my dear friend in that booth and heard her say, “I don’t really think I did anything wrong,” fire crackled behind my eyes and flushed my cheeks. This Leo pulled all of the heat and searing light from the sun and pointed it at her friend until she relented into the truth. Because I viscerally couldn’t tolerate hearing those words because I knew she didn’t believe them.

It’s been days since that confrontation and I still can’t fully explain why I felt so personally offended at my friend’s choices—aside from the fact that she (and others) teasingly call me mom for a reason—but I knew couldn’t break eye contact until I felt her slide out of the defenses she had built around herself. I couldn’t allow any sort of cloud to diffuse the heat of that sun until I knew she faced her truth. And immediately then, when I felt it all slide away and my friend—my real friend and not the facade friend I had been facing just a minute earlier—returned, I softened my harsh noon sun and let it fade like a sunset as I listened, encouraged, and strengthened her post-confessional self alongside our far more earthly friend who is cool and soft like a forest after rain.

AUDACIOUS, FICKLE, AND ALL THE FRIENDS IN BETWEEN

This is one of those posts where a bold title came to me before anything else. I’ve since forgotten the exact event that made me muse on friendships, as this had been a draft for quite some time now, but I’m sure it was an occasion where I read a situation to have way more a precarious nuance that most people would dismiss or not catch alltogether. 

Regardless, I still find value here so let’s chat about those we allow closer to us than most others: our friends.

I don’t know about you but I happen to be an audacious friend. I hold no qualms about calling out those I love, questioning their intentions, and challenging them to grow through their periods of stagnation. I’m not a warm fuzzy blanket of complacency and I’m certainly not the friend cheering on your bad decisions from the sidelines. I dig even deeper when it starts getting messy and I still stay through the inevitable cleanup. I love hard and intensely, and though my delivery is characterized by the flowery languages of love and respect, the intention behind it is strong and fierce.

But even I have fickle friends. The ones that are around because of habit, because of comfort or because you don’t want to be mean or dismissive for “no real reason alltogether.” The ones you can’t help but agree to do things for because they’re lovely but your heart isn’t all there. It feels wrong, surely, but it’s hard to stop something like that. 

The fickle friend offers a levity to the audacious friend. It’s a space where it’s strangely okay to care a little less. But as that’s the nature of the audacious friend, surely it’s damaging to engage in such a relationship. Right?

I don’t know. But as soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

It’s slightly after midnight.

I’m sitting at a sturdy kitchen table in a relatively new house in a relatively affluent suburb. As we speak, I’m tapping relatively advanced words into a relatively advanced web-based blogging platform on a relatively new laptop.

I don’t know what the outside air feels like, because I’m cozily tucked away from it, thanks to the relatively new roof above my head. I’d guess that it’s beautiful outside because of the relatively nice climate that I live in now that it’s nearly spring.

I’m warm, and fed, and clothed in relatively new business casual-style clothing. There’s a relatively new Michael Kors watch on my left wrist and there are relatively new silver bead earrings from Tiffany & Co. pierced through my ears.

By this description, you’d guess that I’m relatively affluent. And that would be a relatively accurate guess. I live in a safe neighborhood in a good state in what most would consider one of the best countries in the world. I was raised by two hard-working parents—more on that later—who afforded me every possible opportunity I wanted to pursue. With the exception of one biggie—more on that later.

I am educated far past most but less than some. And so I am affluent (on the surface).

Let’s address the more on that later’s. College was one thing that my hard-working parents never had the opportunity for. And college was the one opportunity that my hard-working parents couldn’t actually afford to give me, even though on the surface it seemed they could. Not attending wasn’t an option. Because it was unattainable to them, its importance and status was elevated—far beyond its actual merit—for me. So this nerdling researched, and hunted, and visited, and pro/conned until her heart was content.

There was a private college that caught my eye. Of course, right? It felt like home. It felt as though it was the hub of every possible opportunity I could ever want and I could have all of them if I just went there. My parents agreed. My high school guidance counselor agreed. The college itself agreed. Heck, even the banking institutions agreed. And so I went.

Chase and Sallie Mae became my best friends because FAFSA was my worst enemy. Like an ox, I piled years worth of tuition upon my debt-free, credit-virgin shoulders. I had a blissful experience—deferment is a beautiful thing—until reality set in. End grace.

That reality brings us back here, to the current scenario of just past midnight at the kitchen table in my parents’ relatively new house in our relatively affluent suburb where I will live for the next God knows how many years because I can’t afford to live on my own. Before we go any further, you should know that I feel like an ass. So it’s okay with me if you think I sound like one.

I was raised to be a strong, independent woman. I was raised to value education and hard work. I was raised to be successful, to be more affluent than my relatively affluent parents. So now, I want things I can’t have. I want the things I was raised to want.

But I made a choice at 17-years-young that took away what I value above all else: freedom. And it is that choice, and that subsequent lack of freedom and independence, that led me to strike up a conversation bemoaning my privilege to a man (my father) who still to this day, most likely, wants what I had. What I got. What I now regret.

So I feel like an ass. Because I regret going to college. Because I can’t be on my own. Because I need help from people (namely my parents). Because I struggle to experience more than what is currently around me because I can’t travel or afford much of anything that isn’t a necessity. Because I’m jealous of my peers whose parents set aside money for their college educations. Because no matter how hard or how many hours I work, I’m still financially behind. Because people have it worse off than me and I’m sitting here bemoaning my privilege. Because I sound insensitive, out-of-touch, and unconscionably bratty even though I’m not. Because last week I snapped at my mother for inferring that starting young adult life out at zero and alone was worse than starting out surrounded by loved ones and educated but thousands of dollars in the red. Because I have moments like this. Because people justify moments like this. Because young Allison didn’t have a more solid understanding of interest rates. Because bitter, jaded, financially strapped and stifled, clipped wings Allison just wants to be more legitimately on her own two feet already. Because I should be. Because I’m 26 and a half years old. Because…because…because.

And so my father—my hard-working father who is incredibly proud of me because he, as a parent, is validated through my successes despite not having the same opportunities as me because my relatively affluent life is relatively better off than his relatively humble one was—upon hearing me say those unconscionably bratty words that felt gross coming out of my mouth stood up from his relatively new chair across our sturdy kitchen table in our relatively new house in our relatively affluent suburban neighborhood and said, “Goodnight Allison.”

And it sunk my heart.