What is friendship?
Holy hell, it’s Autumn.
Last time I wrote to you it was summer and I was having A Bad Time. To be fair I am still not having A Great Time, but I am doing A Little Better. Thank you for your patience while I just stopped writing here — I decided no one would mind if I was just a little bit quiet for a while. Sometimes it’s good to be quiet. Quiet can be where peace lives, if you’re lucky.
But now I’m done being quiet, because I have to ask you something urgently! I’m writing to you today because I have a specific question, and also because if we’re being honest I’m on deadline for the first draft of my novel, so what better thing to do on a day when I should be writing 7,000 words toward a huge slow project that will not see the light of day for years than to write a quick missive into the void that will yield instant gratification for us all?! You can tell Virgo season is O V E R because this is some real Libra shit. If you hate astrology I’m sorry, but not that sorry.
So okay, here’s my question:
WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?!
You might think I am joking but I assure you, I am not joking at all.
The thing is, sometimes you’re working on a project — let’s call it a novel — and you’ve written a huge amount of words — let’s say 60,000 — and you’re staring down the homestretch because in your mind you’ve decided on an approximate word count for the whole thing — let’s say 75,000 — and the central theme of your book is very obvious — let’s call it friendship — and suddenly you’re like, holy fucking shit, I just wrote more than 75% of a book about friendship and I am not convinced I have done a good job at all in this book depicting real friendship because I’m not sure if my characters know what it is because I’m not sure if I know what it is, fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK.
That’s a cute hypothetical that happens, in your brain, sometimes. Life! A rich tapestry, a mortifying ordeal, etc.
As many of you who signed up for this newsletter (with the promise of more formal and less chaotic writing than what you’re currently receiving, again I am sorry but not that sorry) know, friendship is my everything. I love my friends, I say all the time. It’s in my Twitter bio! It’s a whole paragraph in the very first newsletter I sent out, because HEY BABE is literally born from how much I love my friends:
This newsletter is supposed to be about friendship. I’m in love with my friends, I tell everyone I know. Friendship is my north star, I say frequently, so frequently I wanted to title this newsletter FRIENDSHIP IS MY NORTH STAR until I googled the phrase and learned that Beanie Feldstein said it to Harper’s Bazaar in May 2020, so I picked a new phrase with the help of my smart and patient friend Rachel, who brainstormed on the phone with me for more than an hour to pick a title for this project that would be just right. Hey babe is the way I greet my friends, whether it’s text or phone or Zoom or in person, I am always so excited and happy to see a friend, I really really love my friends.
So what do I mean, what is friendship?
I guess I’m wondering how to distill the magic that I feel in the connections I’ve forged with the humans I call my friends. I’m thinking about the difference between a casual acquaintance, a forever friend, a BFF, a party pal, a former date, a life partner. My mind is tracing the friendships I’ve had over the years and wondering how they started, how we maintained them, why some of them have flourished and some of them have died and why we still don’t really have a great cultural reference point to talk about the deeply vulnerable and emotional work we put into people we do not necessarily share romantic bonds with but who create the landscapes of our lives just as much, if not more, than the people we fuck and date and marry and romantically love. I’m thinking about the overlaps of dating and fucking and romantically loving your friends. I’m curious about the people we meet as dates and then transition into friends, I’m curious about the people we admire from afar and then become close with, I’m curious about all the ways to connect and what it means when two people really truly consider each other friends.
Being a writer is being someone who is allowed to indulge in her obsessions (thank goddess) and I guess I’m obsessed with what we mean to each other and why, what we owe each other and when, and how we stay attached to people that society generally has no interest in supporting and honoring as major forces in our lives.
I asked the question on Twitter and I’m getting some interesting answers:
But I’d love to hear from you, too. Even if you’ve never responded to this newsletter before, even if we’re not close, even if you’re not sure your answer is “right” — it would feel really good to me to hear from you. Please take this as a sincere request to share your thoughts: What is friendship?
If you signed up for this newsletter mostly for the reflections on grief and you’re somehow still here, first of all thank you for sticking with this and reading all the way through, and second of all you might enjoy the series I’ve been writing for Autostraddle this month: BLANK With My Grief, which is about intentionally sitting with my grief. The last installment publishes this Saturday. I also wrote a stand alone essay for Autostraddle, I Spent the Summer Screaming in My Car, What About You? that is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about, and I think you might like that, too.
My last note before I return to the novel about friendship that requires my attention today that may or may not actually include any honest depictions of friendship (not to belabor my panic but let me say again, fuck!) is that I am teaching writing again this fall and winter and I would so love to read, write, and learn with you.
I’ve got a few offerings coming together that I can’t talk about yet, but one class I can tell you about is my You Are The Expert generative writing and craft class with a focus on memoir and telling your story that I teach with the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute. My fall class is full, but I still have a few spots open in the winter class. Click here to learn more and sign up!
Okay, off I go to answer my own question and meet my October 1 deadline for the first draft of this novel! Thanks for being with me at this moment in the process — I am, as always, very grateful that you are here. xo, V