DIARY

Piece Of My Heart: Friendship, Sisterhood, and The Family You Find

For years, I had this fantasy in my head: my mom would have a best friend with a daughter exactly my age, and we’d become best friends, too. We’d talk on the phone for hours, write each other letters over the summers, and one day maybe even go to the same college because we felt stronger when we were together. We’d consider each other sisters, because that’s exactly what we would be.

I never did have a friend like that. In elementary and middle school, I cycled through a series of “best friends,” with most relationships lasting a year, maybe two, before preteen dramas got in the way and alliances shifted. In high school, my best friends were a group of girls who I was never sure actually liked me very much; they’d tease me – the ditzy, silly sidekick – and I’d laugh, because I knew I was easy to make fun of and laughing along felt better. I had a constant sense of “tagging along,” of hoping one of them would choose me to like the best.

I thought maybe that was just life, that perhaps who I naturally was (a person who often said the wrong thing, who turned red at the slightest provocation, who was utterly incapable of acting cool) just wasn’t the kind of person who attracted long-lasting, deeply loving friendships. And so I decided to make my boyfriend – and then the next boyfriend, and the one after that – my best friend. I sought out relationships that weren’t just “intense”; they were all-consuming. Finally, I had a person – and then another, and another after that – with whom I felt completely and totally comfortable. Except then we’d break up, and I’d have to start all over again.

I thought my only chance to find a friendship like the one I’d dreamed of when I was a little girl – one that would weave its way into my life in such a way that it would never let go – was long gone; blown away a little more with each year that passed. And then, when I was 25 years old, my dad and I walked into a random sushi restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. I said hi to the hostess, and then turned and asked her if my back was sunburned (it was, and yes, this is a bizarre question to ask a complete stranger). And that was how I met my sister.

A reader, Grace, just sent me an email that I loved so much that I realized that I wanted to make it into a post, because it’s a topic I’ve never really delved into here. What Grace wrote:

I’m curious if you can share your thoughts on female friendship. It seems to me that the amount of material devoted to familial and romantic relationships is highly disproportionate to material reflecting on female friendships. In some ways this is strange because often, these are the relationships that are the most long standing, history making aspects of our lives.

I’m particularly interested in you and Francesca – your story, how your friendship has evolved, the aspects of your relationship that bind you, its challenges etc. I always see me and my best friends reflected back when you recount your Francesca adventures and I can’t help but wonder about you two.

I sat with this question overnight, and realized that it’s true; in our society, we are not expected to devote the same kind of energy to our female relationships as we do to the other relationships in our lives; friendships are expected to take a backseat to marriage. I’m sure of this because I’ve witnessed it myself: from time to time, when I’ve written about a trip to see Francesca, or Morgan, or Erin, I’ve gotten a comment or email to the effect of “Ugh, can you please stay home with your husband?!” I’ve been accused of being “obsessed” with my closest friends – as if loving a woman is something weird, even perverse.

Back to the story. After the restaurant’s hostess – Francesca – examined my back and told me I’d probably survive, we started talking and discovered that we were both from the Tri-State Area and had gone to nearby colleges. I told her I’d just kicked out my boyfriend after discovering that he was cheating on me with the Orbitz gum girl (really), and was looking for a roommate. It turned out that Francesca had recently discovered that her own roommate had a gun that she’d found in a stream – and decided to bring home – sitting under her bed (really), and was thinking it might be a good idea to move out. A week later, Francesca saved me from a rampaging, extremely tequilaed-up blonde Texan wearing a pirate outfit (really, and it’s a long story), and the next day she officially moved into the guest bedroom in my house. To smooth over Francesca’s sudden move, we found her old roommate a new roommate whose name was Young Sinatra, and who came to his interview with his very visibly coked-up manager (really, and yes, Francesca’s ex-roommate was the one who ultimately selected Young Sinatra to live with).

For the year that Francesca and I lived together in our little yellow house in the Valley, we functioned more like a married couple than friends. We pillaged each others’ closets and sang Tracy Chapman songs into hairbrushes until four in the morning. If I had a first date with someone, Francesca was probably going to tag along (and vice versa), because really, if they couldn’t handle both of us the relationship probably wasn’t going to last anyway. She yelled at me constantly to get the damn cat off the kitchen counter.

Eventually Francesca met a man with whom she ended up moving to New York, and I met Kendrick and commenced my own cross-country move. At some point during the move-out process we got in a fight – the biggest one we’d ever had (and we’d had plenty by then) – for reasons too personal to write about here, but that I think largely came down to the fact that each of us was feeling abandoned – physically, emotionally – by the other. We didn’t speak for the entire year leading up to my wedding. Francesca wasn’t my maid of honor; she wasn’t even a bridesmaid, because by the time we finally realized that we missed each other too much to keep the fight going, the wedding was only weeks away.

Around sunrise on the morning I got married, I was laying in my hotel bed, staring at the ceiling and panicking a little, when I got a text: you awake? So we walked together to the water to watch the waves, toting along the little notebook that Francesca was using to communicate at the time because she’d done something terrible to her vocal cords and wasn’t allowed to speak for two entire months. It was that morning, practically paralyzed by nerves – but better because Francesca was next to me – that I realized it: she’s not my friend. She is my sister. We can fight; we can scream at each other; we can live on opposite coasts for months or years at a time. It simply doesn’t matter, because there is nothing either of us can say or do that will change the fact that we’re family in a very real, very tangible way. I have no idea what my life will look like in fifty years, but one thing I know: my sister will be sitting there next to me, and we’ll be laughing so hard we can’t breathe.

So Grace, the answer to your question is that I did not understand the power of female friendships until strangely late in my life, and I think that fact has given me a unique take on the force that these friendships can be. Because until I met Francesca, I hadn’t known that someone would still love me if I chose, very simply, to be myself. I certainly couldn’t imagine that anyone would love me because of that. The truth is that I credit our friendship, and the intense friendships with other women (Morgan, Erin, the remarkable women I’ve met and become incredibly close to since arriving in California) that arose in the years that followed with the profound changes that have happened in my life since that day I walked into the sushi restaurant with a sunburned back. Because it was my female friendships that made me see that I am okay, just as I am, and started me down a path to where I was able to write openly about my life and my heart.

The strangest part of all this, for me: I went from being a person who spent the bulk of her youth feeling like she had trouble finding real friends to a person whose life feels full of them. My heart is a space that my husband must share with many women, all of whom give me strength, and support, and sisterhood.

And I think that, right there, is what our adult friendships – female or otherwise – have the potential to show us: that we don’t have to – shouldn’t, in fact – rely on a romantic partnership to be everything we need. That’s why I pour my children into the car and drive them down to Los Angeles more often than seems especially sane; why I fly them across the country just to sit on the floor and play with Erin’s daughter; why I’m driving up to Morgan’s house tomorrow night despite the fact that our overnight stays have the potential to be epic disasters: so that they can understand that friendships aren’t bonuses that you make time for when it’s convenient – they are essential. So that they know to look everywhere for their family. So they don’t take 25 years to start finding the people who might help them find themselves.

Our sisters are out there, you know, whether they’re born into our families or not. And when we find them, we have to hold onto them with everything we have, because “everything” is precisely what they are.

x

J

  • ella

    Holy hell YES. I am so fortified by the amazing women in my life (including you!) and you have so perfectly encapsulated here why I’m doing what I’m doing – to encourage sisterhood just like this. Bravo. The bond between you two is beautiful and undeniable. Here’s to an unending supply of sisters who see you and make you. ♡

    • jordanreid

      our conversations and relationship have 100% made me understand the power of female friendship more fully. Love you so much <3 <3

      • ella

        😭😭😭 that kills me it means so much. I don’t know where to put all my feelinggs. I could not agree more. 💁🏼💁🏻

  • Chantal

    Love this and can’t agree more with the powerful role female friendships have in my life. But I have to ask — was your relationship challenged much by having your children? How did you guys handle it? I have a Francesca-esq best friend and I’m sadly noticing that because are lives are so different (hers: cool, healthy, fun and mine: baby, work, more baby stuff) it’s hard to hang out…or even relate to each other.

    • jordanreid

      that’s a really good question, because the truth is that most of my friends without kids disappeared from my life immediately and completely once i had a baby. it’s is a complicated issue, because it’s due to all sorts of factors and is usually not anybody’s *fault.* there were some friends whose social lives revolved around 9PM dinners and such, and it was just really hard to connect with them. others faded away because with less time to spend on anything besides the baby, i found myself starting to prioritize certain relationships over others; if someone didn’t make me especially happy to be with, i wasn’t going to use my ten seconds of free time on grabbing lunch with them. and some of my friends were just visibly weirded out by having a baby around. which is something i empathize with, because until i had a baby of my own i was never a “baby person”; i always felt like parenthood created an invisible gulf between myself and someone else.

      francesca was different, i think, because it seemed to me that she viewed my children as additions to *our* life, rather than to just mine. she tells stories about them when we’re out at dinner with people, just like i might. when my kids visit her parents they coo over them like grandparents, because i’m pretty sure they see me (and thus my children) as family, too. and i also think there was the fact that she didn’t see “non-mom Jordan” transforming into “mom Jordan” – she just saw my life, and ours, turning in a weird/interesting/funny/insane new direction. in short: she saw me as the same person i’d always been, if perhaps a little more tired and a little less likely to shave my legs.

      also i just got off the phone with francesca and asked her to answer this one too, because i’d be super interested to hear her take.

      • Beasliee

        I’m glad someone asked this question. I have the same issues except I am the child-free one and it’s my three closest friends with the babies.
        It takes so much effort to arrange to see them, with or without the babies, – and they act keen so I don’t think they are trying to shift me! – that I just think they don’t care about maintaining friendships. And they don’t even see each other either, so it’s not that. And nor have they really made any new ‘mum friends’.
        I get the children are #1, but everyone in their lives else seem to have gone straight to the very bottom. I get that motherhood’s hard but what happens if they need a friend for support or when they come out of the other side of this insane period of motherhood?
        And in the meantime, I have ended up in the state where my boyfriend is my best friend not through intent but because no one else will have me (or so it feels)!
        For the time being I am happy to hang in there and wait for them to have time available again, but it’s frustrating that after almost 20 years of friendship I feel that if I needed them, they’d not be there and I’d be alone.
        I don’t know if I am being unreasonable. My expectations of them are low. My sympathy for what they are dealing with is high. I am happy to listen to 90% baby stories and share my updates 10% of the time.
        But I still feel quite upset and I am not sure how to resolve; you can’t replicate c.20 years of shared history with a new friend.

      • Francesca

        You NEVER shaved your legs. Not even before children. Please don’t try and pass that off as your excuse. You are lucky you are blond.

        • jordanreid

          …this is true.

      • Chantal

        Thanks Jordan! I appreciate your advice and honesty — esp. about the fact that some friendships do disappear when there is a baby around. I’ve felt it but it seems like most mom blogs/articles put the burden on the new mom to “make time for yourself” and stay in touch with friends and do something “fun”, all of which is overwhelming and same spiral inducing. I love how you seem to have maintained yourself and your true friendships, while also happening to have two small kids. Even your blog is not a “mom blog” but it is one of the first places I turn to for mom-related advice (but I can also find a recipe for a delicious piece of meat or the perfect sweater, which is all you really need in life pre or post baby).

        As I said to Francesca, you guys are lucky to have each other. I know me and my BFF will be fine. I think I’ll share this post with her so we can continue to work on our friendship/sisterhood (and so we can talk stop talking for a minute about Trump and how much anxiety he causes). xoxo

    • Francesca

      Hi Chantal!

      I have to agree with Jordan’s answer, that the main thing is we already felt like family, so her children were an extension, just like Kendrick, they all became more friends. I also happen to come from a very large family, with tons of aunts, uncles, cousins, and babies!! I love babies. So the lifestyle changes were not that uncomfortable for me. I love the morphing of people into parents – it’s a gorgeous evolution. And I really love kids. So I was all over my new ‘auntie’ role.

      But speaking of evolution, I think the thing that most saved our friendship was that Jordan really didn’t change herself. Like, AT ALL. I think the major changes that happen when you have children can sometimes be uncomfortable for the people in your lives ‘before’, because priorities shift, and many things take a back seat to the rhythms and schedules babies (and children) need. But Jordan and Kendrick make huge efforts to maintain the people they were ‘before’. They make time for fun, and friends, and freedom, and they frequently just bring the kids along for the ride. Or take turns with them, to give each other a ‘moment’.

      I don’t have children of my own (yet), but it was exciting to see my best friends maintain their core, while still creating some amazing new people. And it was so good to see that their kids are thriving in this environment. They are bright, and so smart, and love being around adults. I had a similar experience as a child, some of my best friends were fully grown adults, and I love that they are fostering an ‘ageless’ environment, where people are people, and fun is fun.

      The beginning stages of baby-hood are super confining, and there is nothing to do about it. But hopefully, as kids get older, a semblance of flexibility comes back, and allows you time to cultivate the other things in your life that truly, deeply, matter.

      Which is the last thing I want to mention. Jordan has always made me a huge priority in her life. And she has always made me feel that the time we spend together is essential. And that means everything to me, the single friend. Because while the lifestyle of being single may seem easy(er), it has its own challenges; and having a friend who cares as much about my trials and tribulations as she does about her own new challenges, bridges a lot of gaps.

      **You can also try telling your bff, in graphic detail, all of the absolutely disgusting adventures in bodily excrements that happen when you have babies. That always helped me feel ‘closer’ to Jordan…

      xxx Francesca

      • Chantal

        Thank you for your response Francesca! It is super helpful hearing from the “other side.” I think you make really good points — I know I’ve done a bad job of making my BFF feel like she is a priority, which I need to work on. Unfortunately, she falls under the “me” category, which gets about as much time in a day as she does.

        I also need to remember that things can be hard, exhausting and frustrating, even when you are not covered in baby poop or snot (we do talk a lot about bodily fluids, so we are good there). Also, I think I HAVE changed a bit, but this pre-dated baby. My BFF just recently moved back to NYC from SF a few months before I had the baby so I think a lot of our lifestyle changes had already happened but weren’t as obvious when we were on opposite coasts. But I still love her and I still am a person independent of being a mother and that person misses her BFF.

        You and Jordan are very lucky to have each other! And it sounds like you’ll make an excellent mama one day — you’re already knocking it out of the park with the auntie role. 🙂

        • Francesca

          Hi Chantal!

          Thank you so much for your very kind words! 🙂 I hope to be a mom one day, and I will regale Jordan with my own adventures in poop. Balancing being a mom and a person seems like the biggest challenge ever, but making time for things that make you happy is always a worthy cause.

          Congratulations on your little one!

  • Jen

    It’s posts like these that bring me back over and over again. Thank you Jordan. Love and light to you.

  • Jocelyn

    I absolutely love this post and love your friendship! My best friend passed away 7 years ago and I felt like a huge part of myself went with her. All of my memories from middle school until we turned 30 just two weeks apart included her. Since she passed away I fell in love, had two children and then went through a a heart breaking break up. All things I have had to navigate without her. I have my family (and thankfully a sister who is my best friend) but I sometimes feel like I will never be able to have that kind of bond with a girlfriend again. I’ve been through too much. Do I sound super negative? I’m a very optimistic person but I almost feel like I have too much baggage for a new friend to take on. We always talk about baggage in a romantic relationship, but is there such thing as too much baggage for a friendship?

    • jordanreid

      Jocelyn, that is heartbreaking. I am so, so sorry. I can’t even imagine.

      My honest, bottom-of-my-heart answer to your question is no. Here’s why I think this: over the past couple of years – since I moved out here and had a chance to essentially start anew – I’ve made a very conscious decision to be completely open with potential new friends. I don’t hide my past (even the shameful or embarrassing parts), or my beliefs (even the ones I’m pretty sure they’ll disagree with for whatever reason), or anything – and some people of course respond poorly to this. That’s fine; our connection wouldn’t have been especially real if I had been playing some clean-cut mom role anyway, and I don’t know about you, but at this point in my life I have no interest in “let’s grab lunch and catch up!”-type friendships. On the other side, this choice has paved the way for me to meet women with whom I have some of the closest relationships of my life – real friends, as opposed to the friends of convenience I had been afraid of having because I was starting all over in a new town.

      Beyond that, the truth is that I personally wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone who didn’t come with baggage…mostly because anyone who says they don’t have any is almost certainly lying. Not only is your baggage not going to keep friendships away from you – the fact that you are real and honest and open about where you’ve come from is exactly the kind of thing that will draw your real friends to you. Because, just like you, they have pasts and are searching for friends to help them through what’s next.

      • Jocelyn

        Thank you, Jordan. You have no idea how much I needed to hear these exact words. 🙂

  • Erin

    Love you, sister ❤