The morning after I met J, I told my best friend Gail “I met the man I’m going to marry.” I believed this but – as the above entry makes clear – J hadn’t reached the same conclusion. Because it was a done deal in my own mind, I needed J and Gail to get along.
It’s a problem when your best friend loathes your significant other. Usually, I’m the one who detests my friend’s beloved. The friendship suffers when my friend chooses the love of her life over me, her jealous, bitchy buddy. Go figure.
I didn’t want to choose. Choosing means giving up an option, possibly forever. I avoid it when I can. Luckily, J and Gail clicked. Despite many miles and years since that night, we remain close today.
For the record, I did not get more aggressive and gregarious around Law House although J did get more irritable (and irritating) as finals approached. It didn’t matter. My premonition was correct. I’d met the man I would marry.
Neil Sedaka was right – breaking up is hard to do, especially when you live in the same dorm. Luke and I ran into each other in the dining hall, the lounge, the mailboxes, the path to north campus. I wanted to talk to him and at the same time, I never wanted to see him again. He broke my heart and I missed him.
I didn’t see it coming, probably because I’d threatened to leave Luke so often. How ironic that he pulled the trigger every time we split. It took us at least half a dozen tries to master the art of leaving each other.
According to my friend Monica, a divorce attorney, our dance was the rule, not the exception. By the time the average couple follows through with a divorce, they separate a minimum of three times. While by no means scientific, her theory rings true. It’s hard to break the habit of another person, especially when it feels like they’re part of you.
My friendship with Natalie didn’t die but it changed – because I changed when I left Santa Clara. I thought my departure was temporary. I was sick with longing for my city. The landscape ached with melancholy as it receded in the rear-view mirror. I would’ve done anything to return to the life I’d known, the person I’d been. But, of course, all of that was already gone and there was no going back.
In high school, JoAnn was beautiful, vibrant and sunny. She was taller than I was – such a treat to feel short for a change! She was a fearless tomboy, endlessly curious, generous and optimistic. I could’ve learned a lot from her, if I’d paid more attention.
JoAnn moved to Los Angeles shortly after I did and we stayed close friends for at least twenty years. At some point, for no particular reason, our paths diverged and we lost touch. After google became a thing, I tried to find her. While I could track down a great many people from my past, JoAnn’s last name was one of the most popular surnames in the USA. Knowing where she graduated from high school as well as her birthday didn’t help.
Then, out of the blue, earlier this year, my landline rang and caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number. Usually, I let it go to voice mail, but for some reason I picked up – and heard JoAnn’s voice. Incredibly, I still have the same home phone number I had forty years ago. Even more incredibly, JoAnn had that phone number written down somewhere and dialed it.
A lot changed for both of us in the intervening years. We both lost our parents and she lost one of her brothers. My children turned into adults. She moved back to San Jose and began raising borzoi dogs. As usual, our lives didn’t unfold exactly as we expected but our lives are good. We haven’t met in person again, yet, but I know we will. I can’t wait.
I don’t have any photos from Sandy’s slumber birthday (if digital film had been a thing, we’d have billions) so I’m running one of my own birthday party photos from around the same era.
I was a textbook “dork” (spazz, feeb, or brain.) For a female in 1965, “brain” was a major cut (chop, put down, shut down, slam.) I have no recollection about the game “Starlight, Starbright.” I suspect it was something Sandy and I invented.
I wish I’d recorded the revelations that emerged from our game of “Truth.” I’m pretty sure they were silly and tame. As close as we were, it’s unlikely we shared deeper secrets; it never occurred to me anybody carried any.
I was naïve. The older I get, the more certain I am that everyone has a secret life, to a greater or lesser degree. Chekhov said it best.
Apparently, it escaped me that these were the golden years of UCLA basketball. I saw, maybe, two games during my four years there. I wouldn’t become a basketball fan for another 17 years, when I fell in love with the Lakers. ( They had a GREAT game last night!) I still don’t follow college basketball but the more I learn about John Wooden, the more I admire him. Three of his quotes – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” – “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Luke and I were in the midst of one of our many break-ups so I was dating. It was awkward and uncomfortable to talk to a new guy, especially compared to the rapport I enjoyed with Luke – even when we were fighting. I don’t remember anything about Bill at all; for me, he exists only in this diary entry.
That strikes me as sad, but he’s far from the only person I crossed paths with that I no longer recollect. I’m sure that’s true for everyone (I hope so or my memory is worse than I thought). We all meet so many people in the course of our lifetimes. Only a handful make a lasting impact. I like to fancy myself unforgettable, but no doubt Bill has forgotten me too.
This wasn’t the only time Sandy and I boarded the wrong bus, which makes the bonehead move even more humiliating. The “best friends again” reference at the end of this entry suggests Sandy and I settled some temporary tiff. Usually, the problem was something dumb and juvenile like me getting jealous that Sandy was better friends with someone else than me.
“The Exorcist” was far in the future; consequently, Ouija boards did not have the satanic reputation they’d later acquire. We didn’t play with the Ouija a lot. It spooked us. We were obsessed with the future, though. How would our lives turn out? Would the guy we currently crushed on call?
Personally, I still prefer to get a jump on the future if possible. I seek out internet spoilers. I read the end of novels before I get to the middle. My children hate this and beg me not to tell them what happens. They don’t want to ruin “the surprise”.
The one-bedroom Sharon and I shared near the VA cemetery was my first apartment but I had years of practice co-existing in small spaces with others. Growing up in a Santa Clara parsonage, then sharing UCLA dorm rooms, taught me a little about compromise but apparently not enough. Things had been testy between Sharon and me from the start, but it was still devastating when she wanted me gone.
After that, I avoided her on campus. We lost touch after graduation. Decades passed and I still felt badly about how our friendship imploded. I wondered what she did with her life. When the internet arrived, I googled her but “Sharon Richards” produced so many hits it was hopeless– until UCLA published a student directory.
Imagine my surprise to discover Sharon lived less than five miles away – we actually shopped at the same Ralph’s market. It took courage to call her. I’m not sure if I was scared she wouldn’t remember me or that she would. We met for lunch and I apologized for being the roommate from Hell.
She explained that regardless of what she might’ve said (I wrote it down, so I knew), she was in the throes of her own anxieties – what I read as brutal rejection wasn’t much about me at all. As it turns out, very few things actually are “all about me.” This insight was healing and, as a bonus, Sharon and I became better friends than we were before we became roommates.
I’m writing this on November 4, so I don’t know how yesterday’s midterms will end despite dawn-to-dusk polls on cable news. Forty-six years ago, I was oblivious to any polls regarding the outcome of the ’72 election. It was widely assumed Nixon would prevail, in part due to the perfectly timed Paris Peace Treaty and the fact many Democrats deemed McGovern too far left.
Although our country was polarized (two words – Viet Nam), it was still possible to disagree politically without rupturing relationships irreparably. I pinballed from Republican to Democrat and back and none of my friendships died over those divides in the 70s, 80s or 90s. In fairness, I wasn’t all that passionate about politics. I liked to argue, play the devil’s advocate. Violence was never threatened. To my knowledge, no one considered me an enemy, let alone an enemy of the people. We could agree to disagree.
I don’t consider myself vitriolic, but I can be, when provoked. All my life, I’ve taken things too personally. Now I take politics too personally. In the interest of treating others like I want them to treat me, I try to dial down the judgments I lay on people because of their beliefs. It’s harder than it should be.
My three-year relationship with Luke had crashed months earlier but we weren’t through missing each other so we were trying to figure out how to be “friends.” That election night, we were the only two people in Dickson Hall, the Art building at UCLA (since remodeled).
He was a grad student. I was a self-centered 21-year-old who didn’t want to love anyone. I believed the person who loved the most, lost. As if love was a battle and what mattered was winning or losing.
Today, I know things like love and honor are far more important than victory or defeat. To win without honor is to lose everything that matters. To live without love isn’t living at all. But I’m an aging baby boomer hippie. What do I know?
Thirty-eight years flew by and we never went sailing with Art – or anyone else – again. How do our good intentions – our genuine desires – get so easily buried under our daily routine?
Most people – myself included – have at least a vague idea about what might make us happy but most things I think I want – my fantasy about shopping for a medieval chateau in France, for example – rarely top my To Do list.
Okay, that example is over-the-top, particularly since I don’t speak a word of French, so I’ll scale it down to “we should go sailing more often.” Current reality suggests that goal is as impossible to realize as a castle in France.
In part, that’s due to the Protestant work ethic – in the words of John Lennon, “a man must work to earn his day of leisure.” Until I make significant progress toward my grandiose goals, I don’t deserve to reward myself.
My second handicap is the fact I’m spectacularly disorganized. Every weekend, I promise myself I’ll stay home and order my life so that next weekend I’ll have nothing but free time to do whatever I please. Unfortunately, like Gatsby’s green light, my dream of a perfectly organized life “year by year recedes before me. It eluded me then but that’s no matter. Tomorrow, I will run faster, stretch my arms farther, and one fine morning – so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Thank you, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m pretty sure I’d die happy if I wrote something that beautiful.)
I have no independent recall of being the tour guide for incoming students to Wilcox High. I’m not surprised I was easily thrown by a group of sarcastic kids, even those a full year younger than I was. In high school as in junior high I was painfully thin-skinned when it came to taking a joke, let alone criticism.
Which brings me to the question raised in the second part of this entry – how much honesty is too much? When – if ever – is a white lie not a lie? Vania was a truth-teller, unafraid to say things like “Ugh, I hate your shoes. They’re so ugly!” Objectively, I can accept she acted in good faith in her mind, she saved me the mortification of being seen in such an unsightly pair of shoes. I took Vania’s fashion pronouncements very seriously. By sundown, the offensive shoes would be halfway to the bargain bin at Goodwill, assuming Goodwill accepted hideous but otherwise functional shoes.
Subjectively, every time Vania blasted me, it hurt. She didn’t sugarcoat her message and I didn’t challenge her opinions. I usually agreed with her despite the fact I failed to spot these flaws myself until she pointed them out. I’m not the most observant of people.
I’ve never been so truthful or blunt, depending on your point of view. It would take something far out of the ordinary for me to volunteer a scathing critique of anyone’s clothing or hairstyle. Even when asked for my “honest opinion”, I usually dissemble and say something nice or innocuous. Is this the kindest course in the long run? Would I be a better friend if I braved a friend’s reaction and shared my unvarnished brutal truth?