one of my primary objectives for spinster summer was to shore up my relationships with people other than my boyfriend, & i think it’s been quite a success. i have never wanted to be one of those people who retreats into a romantic relationship. i have also never been a person who is really concerned with having a huge circle of friends. i am happy having a handful of people that i can really count on. so it’s kind of a balancing act for me to do what i have to do to keep my main partner relationship happy & healthy, & also do the emotional work of building & maintaining important friendships. it’s no secret that i have no relationship whatsoever with my mom, & once a person cuts their own mom out of their life, it gets that much easier to just bail on everyone else when the going gets tough. i do that a lot. i know people that still have good friends from high school, or even elementary school. that’s not me. i cycle through friends like other people cycle through underpants. i subconsciously put people through their paces before i let a friendship happen. it’s never a surprise to me when people say, “when i first met you, i thought you were really intimidating & stand-offish.” it’s not intentional…it’s just what i do. letting people into my life is hard for me.
wah wah wah, right? spinster summer has been a very mixed bag, but it’s made me have a newfound appreciation for the other people in my life. so i decided august will be my own personal friend appreciation month, in which i reach out to new friends & old friends alike & let them know why they are important to me & what i value about them.
let’s start with miss jessika rae disaster, my sister from another mother. i met jessika rae in the summer of 2003. she was 20, straight edge, vegan, & wicked fucking posi. i was 24, going through a divorce, & was hobbling around in a walking cast with the assistance of a cane thanks to an arthritis-related injury. i was getting divorced because my partner was finishing up his undergrad degree & talking about wanting to enter grad school, get a doctorate, & maybe become a professor. i was just not seeing myself as the long-term partner of an academic & a professor. i know, right? fast forward eight years & that’s exactly where i am. but in 2003, i had other goals. i wanted to travel & live in punk houses & organize anarchist conferences & go to basement shows. i wanted to make zines & get d.i.y. tattoos. the dynamics at play in that relationship made our plans seem like very divergent paths. i felt like i had to choose between doing what was expected & doing what i wanted. so i chose to do what i wanted.
for the record, i still feel this weird push & pull sometimes. especially lately, looking at starting down the road of being a mom & not being able to predict how that’s going to change my life. i definitely feel like i am leaving my idealistic youth behind, which is sometimes a huge relief & sometimes a bummer. i also acknowledge that it’s probably a false dichotomy. there’s no law saying that having a kid means i can never get a tattoo or go to a show. i just know that it’s not going to be the same, & i have mixed feelings about that.
anyway, i was a mess the first time i met jessika rae. she had organized a zine fair in detroit & i was tabling my zine distro for the first time. but this was the weekend of the epic black-out that took out all the power in the eastern half of the united states for a couple of days. detroit is something of a post-apocalyptic hellscape on the best of days. this weekend was like something out of a sci-fi novel. no streetlights, no stoplights. the very few people milling around on the sidewalks were either setting off fireworks & shooting off guns. the zine fair was in the warehouse space behind trumbullplex, & it was lit with weird electric lanterns attached to generators & candles. everyone was riding bikes & playing spin the bottle & eating dumpstered snacks. i felt like i was a thousand years old with my cane. i cried a lot. jessika rae set me up in an empty room belonging to a traveling kid at trumbull. i went to bed at 8pm with a flashlight & read myself to sleep.
somehow, from this very questionable beginning, we forged a friendship. when i got home to boston, i wrote jessika rae a letter, apologizing for what a weepy, crabby mess i had been. she was totally unfazed. she wasn’t freaked out or put off at all, & we started exchanging lots of letters about feminism & mental health & bands & fucked up disappointing political shit & relationship issues. i went traveling the next summer & spent a week in detroit. i don’t remember much except for going to a soap-making workshop & thinking, “punks in the midwest wear overalls a lot. that would NEVER happen in boston.” i also remember sitting at the trumbullplex’s huge dining room table (used for collective meetings) by myself, listening to mischief brew & working on a zine based around “born to run” by bruce springsteen. then i played “stand by me” on the piano for like an hour. a few weeks later, i took a bus to bloomington for the first plan-it-x fest & jessika rae met me at the bus station & i just remember thinking, “yes. something about this moment is how i want my life to be.” i couldn’t even say exactly what it was. we spent a few scary minutes during which jessika rae couldn’t find the fest tickets for our little group of like ten weirdos, & i called her messika rae & she said, “i don’t like that.”
in the eight years since, jessika rae & i have never lived in the same town, or even the same state. but we write letters & call each other on the phone all the time. when i was in boston & she was living in maine, we visited a lot. i haven’t seen her in over three years at this point. but her presence in my life definitely helps keep me grounded. she’s gotten a lot less vegan, a lot less straight edge, & FAR less posi since we have known each other–all of which i appreciate very much. but she inspires the shit out of me & usually when i start feeling all fucked up about the choices i have made in life & getting consumed with crazy regrets, i think about jessika rae or i call her up & it makes me feel like, “yes. this is what i want my life to be.”
i encourage anyone reading this to make time to appreciate your friends. there are a million ways to let your friends know how you feel: call them up, write them postcards, sing them a song, go for a walk together. maybe your friendship has been plagued by drama & recriminations–it happens. put your shoulder into it & see what happens when you get to the other side. see if this is what you want your life to be & how your friends are showing you the way.