And here’s why that’s important:
- New friends change you, because when you invite someone new into your life, their perspective and experience opens doorways not open to you previously, and also because their perspective of you is different. They only know you now. Today. They don’t know that you crushed your father once by rejecting his taste in music and that you only did so because you were in a shitty mood and needed to spread the wealth. They don’t know that you took a bus to Boston for a boy not because you loved him but because you needed a dramatic reason to drop out of college. Again. They only know what you’ve chosen to share with them, and even if you do share those stories, which have been shaped by time and reflection, they are just stories. You get to start fresh in a way, and that room to grow without preconceived expectation is liberating.
- Old friends know you and love you anyway. You’ve disappointed them. You’ve let too much time pass. You’ve shown up hung-over. You’ve shown up drunk. They’ve seen you cry that ugly cry that only happens when you need that particular friend more than you need your vanity. They know all of your stories, and played pivotal roles in many. You know which stories you are allowed to tell and which you’d better shut the fuck up about. You’ve been there for each other and the bond built is almost indestructible. And you’ve laughed. You’ve learned. You’ve grown together through equal measure of loving and shoving each other along. Thankfully the freshness has worn off – you can show up in a jogging suit and old friends will clear their schedule and their couch for you. You get to be you – really you – and that’s also liberating.
And then there is the magic when old friends and new friends combine. This is my story of Sue and Pete. Sue is an old friend, a great friend. Sue is someone who I have come to rely on for honest advice and a kick in the pants when I need it. Sue has taught me that being true to yourself is a series of small focused steps, and if you fuck up, well, it’s only a couple steps so just keep walking – hold your head up high; be you. Sue questions me in a way that makes me reflect and she hugs me in a way that makes me feel loved. I can ugly cry in jogging pants with Sue. That, and her ability to make me feel like a professional comedian over a couple glasses of wine will always warm my heart.
Pete is a new friend, a great friend. Pete has a better vocabulary than me, and I envy him for it, but he’s also extremely easy to be around. Where some folks wear their hearts on their sleeves, Pete wears his everything on his face – shock, glee, disappointment, admiration, tenderness, conviction. Pete’s facial reactions remind me that life is worthy of awe. When he expects that I will do something because he has none of the insecurities for me that I have for me, and I haven’t done said thing, he looks at me incredulous and says: Why not? And I immediately wonder that myself. Pete loves people exactly as they are and still manages to encourage them to be better. He makes me want to write a kids book called Pete Mocks Because Pete Loves.
Together they are iconoclastic. The best friends to have. The best of friends to each other. Passionate romantics. Serious adventurers. Cat lovers. And I’m so glad they got married.
It was a privilege to meet their friends and family at the wedding. It’s boring to call people smart, funny and nice, so I’m glad I don’t have to. As Pete’s best man, Knut said, the caliber of people in that room was outstanding. They were edgy, surprising, welcoming, prolific, astute, generous, witty, subversive, boozy and fucking fun. People came from afar and celebrated not just the wedding, not just the couple, but seemingly, friendship itself. There was palpable joy. Unmistakable mirth. There was an undertone of, well, as Sally Fields exclaimed when she won the Oscar in 1984: “You like me!” The meaning of friendship was running rampant. Birds of a feather, I guess. It was magic. It was art.
Dear Sue and Pete: Thanks for letting me play with you. I will always challenge myself to stay welcome in that sweet spot of your light, love, laughter and friendship. Love Shannon.