During my many years of singledom in New York City, I was very hard on my female friends for falling victim to what I coined "boyfriend syndrome" (I'm guessing there's an equivalent "girlfriend syndrome for women who date women) -- otherwise known as what happens to a woman when she meets someone, falls head over heels for him (or her) and becomes completely unavailable to all of her closest friends.
You know how it goes; one week you and your friend are huddled together in the corner of a dark bar together talking about life, dreams and the trip to Costa Rica you'll take together this spring. Then the next week, your friend's 993rd Match.com date finally clicks and you're left stripped of your best wing woman. All of a sudden, text messages from her take a day to get a response and phone calls go unreturned completely. What gives?
This used to irk me deeply, and I would judge my friends for forgetting who their real friends were, secretly telling myself that her and her new flame were definitely co-dependently enmeshing themselves already, and it would never work out. I'd count down to the day until I could have my friend back.
You see, I was doing a little projecting. I had been involved in a whirlwind relationship in my early 20's that left me reeling for years. I forgot about my friends and family and just let him sweep me right off my feet. Reality was a far-off place in the distance for about a year after I met him. Coming back to earth proved to be a bumpy landing; I had few friends left and hardly any career because I had missed so many days of my job so we could jet off to yet another paradise island or so I could spend time supporting him in his career. I abruptly left paradise island when I walked in on my ex with a prostitute while vacationing off of Panama.
As I moved out of his house and started to build my life over again, I declared that I would never, ever make the mistake of putting my life and friends second to a boyfriend. I consciously surrounded myself with friend and work relationships that nurtured the healthy emotional lifestyle I so desired. I spent many years keeping a good arm's length between myself and men, but if my friends didn't do the same, I would roll my eyes.
And then a few years later I met someone. Just like they say, it was where and when I least expected it, but I was head over heels. The small details of his lips and his baby blue eyes occupied space in my mind for most of the day, and when we spoke for hours at night on the phone, I forgot about all of my worries in the world. I became slower than usual to respond to texts, emails and phone calls from my friends and family because the time I allotted in my day for social communication were mostly going to him. I was also in the process of moving and had gone back to school, so my time was limited to begin with.
I made a conscious effort to keep my own life and he did the same, but we couldn't get enough of each other. Hours and weekends together would slip by without me calling any of my friends back. But it was in those hours and days that a new piece of me was opened up, a part of my heart that I thought was locked and sealed away forever. It had been many years since I had made myself vulnerable with a man. I didn't realize how much of me was shut down until I met someone I wanted to open up to.
During those months we spent day in and day out together, I realized that I was someone who could love deeply. It gave me a new sense of confidence. He saw me through all of the uncomfortable moments, the tears and resistance I had to opening up to love again, and I experienced intimacy on a level I never knew I was capable of. Every day I made myself more vulnerable and surrendered to the feelings of love in our relationship, the more I was able to do the same in the rest of my life -- and also love myself. Getting comfortable and open with these feelings has made me a better friend, sister and daughter.
I'm starting to come up for air, and I am grateful to my friends and family, who gave me the space to enjoy falling in love. But I really don't feel like I'm falling, I feel like I'm growing in my capacity to love.
I'm not making any excuses for being unavailable almost every night for the last seven months, but I know my best friends understand something that I didn't before this. They knew all along that being in a relationship could be a beautiful thing, that I was blissfully basking in that heart-fluttery feeling that only new love can bring and that I would be back. My real friends were happy for me.
I'm more forgiving if one of my friends needs a hall pass to go out and enjoy the same thing now. In fact, I hope they all do, and I will be there when they're ready to tell me all about it.