It takes a long time to grow an old friend.
My friend Mari and I have known each other since third grade. She is one of my oldest friends. We were never “best friends”, but were always in about the same social circles. There were times when we were closer, there were times when we weren’t.
I visited her this weekend in San Francisco. I swing through California every couple of years and say hello. We don’t talk in between visits.
Mari’s story is fascinating. She grew up in a Romanian Jewish family in the same town as me. Her mother was awful – mean, vindictive, critical and aggressive. Her father was passive. She had a younger sister who got pregnant just out of high school. She was a cutter – a girl who always had lines along her legs and arm from self-inflicted wounds. Her weight fluctuated dramatically. She loved to dance, and loved art. I remember her being the original hippie in my life. I also remember her hating her mother. She was awkward and had big hair and had a strident laugh. In high school, she was the only one in the class to come out as not-straight, and she flaunted her bisexuality with rainbow colors on her backpack.
When she graduated college, she briefly worked as a social worker before moving to the Netherlands to do a masters in Womens Studies. While there, she started working as a very well paid (think Paris, Rome, London, thousand dollar nights) call girl. Today, after some starts and stops in other careers, she works as a fetish model. She is gorgeous, and owns a lot of shoes. She shows me pictures of herself bound up with fancy ropes in exotic locations. She loves her work.
She is happy. She absolutely doesn’t want to have children, and discusses her choice openly and often. She has a cat. After a failed brief marriage, she now is living with a 56-yr-old doctor. They are clearly in love, and have been together for four years. She has no plans to marry him (as commentary on the institution itself), but is happy with what she has. She would like to start a clothing line focusing on lingerie, and is going back to school to learn how to make and design fabric.
Mari still has her passion, her laugh, and her hatred of her mother. She is still good at listening. She is still good at demanding to find her own path. It is fascinating to know someone who is on such a non-traditional path, especially someone who started out with you in Ms. Asher’s 3rd grade class.