A little over a week ago, my best friend, soul mate and “wife” Bonnie got engaged to the absolute love of her life, Jeff. Their (so far) 6-year story is epic, beautiful, thrilling, nearly tragic, and truly one-of-a-kind. It deserves to be told, but today, I’m going to tell a different love story: the story of Bonnie and I.
I met Bonnie in high school. When I transferred to East Catholic High School in the middle of Sophomore year, I was assigned the locker next to hers. She was friendly, but I had been warned that she was “scary” and “overly opinionated” (all right mean girls, “overly opinionated” I’ll give you, but scary? MY WIFE IS A DAMN SAINT!). I didn’t buy into the hype, but I also didn’t make an effort to befriend her. Despite us having some mutual friends, we ran in different crowds.
That was, until we both got into Fordham University. Initially when I found out Bonnie would be attending Fordham, I was pissed. I had applied for early decision, and had been wearing a Fordham sweatshirt habitually for AT LEAST a year! Fordham was clearly mine, and if Miss Student Council Thang thought we were going to associate there, while I tried to leave my small town past behind me in the wide open big city (yes, I was a walking cliche at 17 — sue me!) she had another thing coming.
When she was placed in my dorm building, Alumni South, I really got huffy.
In August of 2003, our dearest mutual friend, Kristina, insisted we all meet up before heading off to college. We went to Friendly’s — which, good call, I loved me some fat kid super melts at 17 — and had a nice meal, and half-heartedly exchanged numbers. Mostly so Kristina wouldn’t feel bad. But there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between Bonnie and I that we would not reach out. Sure, we’d politely say “hi” on campus because that’s what you do when you’re mannered and from Connecticut. But we weren’t going to actively seek each other out. Why would either of us move all the way to New York City, only to hang out with people we went to high school with — no less, people we weren’t friends with?!
It seemed dead end. But then a twist of fate happened.
On our first day of Fordham, Bonnie discovered that she’d been placed on a dorm floor with a bunch of religious girls who were awfully sweet, but frankly, not down to party. She texted me, “No one on my floor is going out. What are you doing tonight?”
“Ugh!” I thought, greedily. “ALREADY?! Get your own friends!” But my Connecticut politeness pulled me back in.
“Met some cool girls. Going to a keg party on Hughs. Want to come?”
That night, I fell in love with her and never looked back. And we’ve been damn near inseparable ever since. We’ve had some ups and downs and fallouts, but we’ve stayed loyal and committed through it all.
She is my everything.
I know it seems crazy, but I feel like I can somewhat sincerely say that we’ve been happily married for over ten years.
I’m not sure where the “marriage” thing even came into play, but I think it was somewhere around fall of 2004, when Facebook opened up to Fordham. Back then, it was cool for girl best friends to change their relationship status to “married” to one another. There were no “likes” or comments or even photo albums. But you could declare who your best friend was, make your actual relationship status a mystery to stalkers, AND drive guys nuts with a few clicks of the mouse. It was GLORIOUS.
I know we carried the status on for far too long, to the point where friends and family members were becoming confused as to whether we were actually lesbians/married.
And, fair. We’re adults now. It’s time to put on the big girl pants and stop messing around.
No, we’re not lesbians. No, we’re not ACTUALLY married. No, we don’t “slip up” and hook up once in awhile (stop asking, pervs!). We’re best friends.
But here’s the thing: my relationship with my Bonnie is the realest thing I have ever known. And I still consider it a marriage of sorts.
How else do you characterize consulting one another with major life decisions..?
…Breaking down every interaction that happens with a sour colleague…
…Saying “good luck!” before every event, major or minor that comes about…
…Planning each others’ birthdays…
…Traveling the world together…
…Better yet, making a bucket list together…
…Calling each other first when something momentous happens…
…Learning to be patient with each others’ shortcomings…
…Setting aside the one night a week for each other (“wife night”), prioritizing our relationship and never going more than a week living in the same city without seeing one another…
…Sharing calendars so we can always find time for each other…
…Putting our pride aside and admitting our faults…
…Working on our relationship constantly…
What else do you call a commitment that you make — EVERY SINGLE DAY — to communicate openly, even when it’s hard and you’re frustrated and it’s not working right? I call it a friendship marriage.
She was the one who was by my side at the hospital advocating for me in the wake of my rape, who helped me find the courage when I finally came out publicly with my story, and who crossed state lines to be by my side when my mother had her stroke, and weeks later when she died, and nearly every day in between…
She has been there, supporting me through every failure, triumph, heartbreak, move, fallout, sickness, job change, mistake, growth, reflection, depression, struggle and windfall.
Most of my life, I was a victim: I couldn’t count on men, and I wasn’t in a place to be with someone. I spent most of my formative years in varying states of self-imposed celibacy. Sure, I dated around, hoping for something different — we both did — but college and young twenty-something relationships usually weren’t serious. They were messy and alcohol-and-mistake fueled and it was impossible to connect on any real level. That was not for damaged me — that was for the normals.
Through all of the aching loneliness and longing, Bonnie was my significant other. She was my person. I did learn many lessons from the various guys I dated over the years, but everything I know about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, I learned from her.
She was my guiding light, my rock, my driving force, and the one who consistently believed in me — that I could be better, that I could heal and find happiness, and that I didn’t have to be broken in a society that didn’t want to deal with my “mess.”
I used to worry I’d be forever alone. I feared that I’d never find romantic love, and even if I did, it couldn’t last; that it always fades with time, and that all we can do is hope to treat each other with a little bit of respect, and live out our years in quiet companionship.
But my relationship with Bonnie has proved that that’s simply not true. I am NEVER alone as long as I have her. And after over ten years, I love her more every day. I STILL miss her when she’s away. I never get enough time with her, no matter how many wife nights, wife weekends, or trips we take together. I never tire of her or run out of things to say… my love just grows and grows…
Not too long ago, when I finally came out of my healing process, and became a survivor, ready to love, I worried that my lack of experience with men and relationships would hold me back. I was scared to love someone that wasn’t Bonnie.
In fact, a mere 6 hours before I met Dave, my wonderful beau of nearly two years, I saw a couple on the beach together, and said to my friend Laura, “I just can’t imagine sharing my life with someone who isn’t Bonnie. I would rather be at the beach with her than with anyone else. That scares me.”
Little did I know, I didn’t need to be afraid. When things finally fell into place with Dave, it felt right. It was natural, and communicating with him felt easy. I imposed every lesson I learned from my relationship with Bonnie on my relationship with him, and guess what? We work like a charm. We’re pretty damn near perfect… or, at least as perfect as a relationship can be. It turns out, I’m pretty functional after all.
Meanwhile, she has built a fortress of a bond with Jeff that only grows stronger; a relationship that has challenged her, transformed her, and filled her up to the brim with happiness. She is her best self with him, plain and simple.
Lucky for us, it seems that loving two incredible men has only made our friendship stronger. And I think loving each other has made us far better lovers, listeners, friends, sisters, daughters and humans.
As she moves forward into her new life with Jeff, I feel nothing but solemn gratitude and pure joyfulness that the most important, formative person who ever entered my life has found a partner worthy of her forever.
I hope that they have a long, happy life together. But I don’t need to hope.
If our “marriage” is any indicator, I think they’re going to be just fine.
Congratulations to my best friend, Bonnie and her amazing fiancé, Jeff — I could not be happier for you. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for your “new” marriage. I love you both so much!