Nothing compares to the feeling of having a friend with whom you can share your life, your adventures, the most intimate (and often embarrassing)details of your life, someone who is like a sister, who you genuinely love and are not afraid to show it.
In Carroll Smith-Rosenberg's essay "The Female World of Love and Ritual" she discusses precisely this type of relationship between female friends.
In this reading, we visit the lives of various women from the nineteenth century, whose friendships with other females were strong, loving, and expressed openly in their letters to each other and their diary entries about each other. These friendships stood the test of time, and remained strong even after subsequent marriages and geographic separation. We have, for instance, the story of Sarah Butler Wistar and Jeannie Field Musgrove, who met during a vacation trip when they were teenagers. Even when they were separated physically when each of them got married, emotionally they were still very close. According to Smith-Rosenberg, women in the eighteenth and nineteenth century lived in emotional proximity to one another. So much, that they sometimes took a more important and active role in a woman's life than her husband, especially when it involved sickness, childbirth, or death, among other emotional events.
These stories about friends and love, emotional support, distance, and sisterhood, made me think of my own friendships and the important women in my life. It made me think of my sisters, who I adore with my life, even if we fight once in a while. I thought of my mother, who would do anything for me, and who I love with all my heart. Now that I am away from them, I realize more and more every day how much I love and miss them, and how important their presence is for me. The reading also made me think about my friends, that sisterhood we formed during our university years, some of whom I met during my years as a graduate student, but remain in my life as if we had met decades ago. This is especially true of perhaps my closest friend, my dearest friend, who is ironically the one I've known for the shortest time. It was mostly in this sense that I was inspired by this reading and I identified with it.
Following somewhat Smith-Rosenberg's footsteps, I did a little bit of research of my own. Although keeping diaries and sending handwritten letters is not a normal practice in the twenty-first century, there are other convenient and even more accessible ways to look at correspondance between friends. There are e-mails, text messages,and Facebook posts and private messages, among other forms. Last week, I had revisited my Facebook timeline due to a message I saw stating that private messages from 2010 and previous years were now public. It wasn't the case for me, but I know other people who were victims of this. While looking through my wall posts from previous years I started reading things that my dear friend had written, such as "I miss you"; "Let's get together to eat and talk"; "We need a girly date"; or "Thank you for understanding my craziness." After reading Smith-Rosenberg's essay, I decided to look closer into these posts and some of our private messages on Facebook. It is so interesting what you can find out about a friendship or any type of relationship for that matter just by reading a conversation between the people involved. We talk about so many things, but mostly we show each other love and we express it many times.
In a funny way, this reading reminded me of my friendship with my dear friend because to an outsider, it can appear to be more than friendship, more like lovers. Although not the case, we joke about this all the time. Being usually the two single girls in our group of close girl friends, we always said that we were each other's date, that we were together, and joked about being lovers. Even when we had our respective boyfriends, we continued joking about that. So, naturally, for someone who doesn't know us, it may seem like we are indeed a couple, especially because we leave "I love you" and "I miss you" on our walls all the time. At one point, I had a friend who asked me, "Emily, is there anything you'd like to tell me? Who is that girl?," implying that I might be 'in the closet.' Of course, she and I joke about this all the time, so we don't mind it. Yet, it is curious for me to learn about these women in the nineteenth century, who had friendships as strong as ours, which have sometimes been interpreted as homosexual. In a letter written to Jeannie, Sarah tells her, "I shall be entirely alone [for this coming week]. I can give you no idea how desperately I shall want you..." These types of written exchanges between friends were common, but they are open to interpretation from a current point of view, which could view them more on the homosexual end of the spectrum. However, as the author explains, these letters "force us to place such female love in a particular historical context," one in which physical contact and freedom of emotional expression between women was more accepted than with the opposite sex.
On a more serious aspect, I identified greatly with this reading because it shows how strong the bonds of friendship can be. These women remained in contact (at a time when there was no internet, no phones, no Skype) after years of being appart from each other. I'm going through that phase with my friend now. During our years in graduate school, we spent a lot of time together, taking classes and working in the same place. Our similar personalities and sense of humor, contributed to our closeness. I could relate to another friendship presented in the essay, where two girls started working together after being friends, "We know we can amuse each other for many idle hours together and now we know that we can also work together. And that means much, don't you think so?" After I graduated, I started working at a school, so we didn't get to see each other as much; then, the following semester, we started working together again, and became even closer to one another. During that semester we also traveled together and realized we make great traveling partners. As we both started to plan our future, we knew that we were going to be away from each other, soon. We took that as an opportunity to spend time together having fun, and that's what we did. During the summer, we traveled together again, worked together, did small field trips around Puerto Rico, had sleepovers, and just spent time together. The first one to leave was me, and it was a sad good-bye, but we knew our friendship wouldn't end there. A month after, she moved to South Korea, where she will live for a year. The beautiful thing about our friendship (and technology) is that no matter how far we are from each other, we keep in touch. We write to each other and we talk over Skype. This way, we were able to see each other's apartments and our surroundings. We keep each other up to date with everything going on in our lives, just like we did when we were in PR, maybe even more now.
My friend wrote this in a picture of us a few weeks before I left: "I promise to be friends, until death do us part." I am happy we have both kept our promise, and that despite the distance, our friendship remains strong.