When Bienstock and I were in college and had short haircuts. We’ve been best friends since meeting at sleepaway camp in 1992.
It it were up to me, my best friend Bienstock would be my forever roommate and neither of us would ever get married. We’d share a place in Manhattan with two chairs on the balcony for drinking Chardonnay and analyzing my dates. Her boyfriend, Chef Christopher, would live down the street. Girls only.
Four nights a week, we’d go to some kind of cardio class. Bienstock would force me to take a spot in the front row because she knows my tendency to flee as soon as the instructor cues up the music. Afterwards, we’d go to a Bienstock-approved restaurant where she’d point out all the New York society people. “See that blonde in the corner with the doorknob-size diamond?” she’d whisper, “She has triplets and her gluten-free makeup line was just profiled in ELLE. She was a year above me at Harvard.”
“Husband?” I’d ask.
“Pediatric oncologist. One of the best in the country.”
This would inevitably lead to a discussion called ‘what are we doing with our lives?’ Bienstock and I have this conversation all the time, even though she has a fancy title at the celebrity weekly where we both work. I am proud of my best friend’s success, the problem is, her job is in Los Angeles and I am still here in New York.
In the months leading up to Bienstock’s move, I completely unraveled. The sight of two female pals gabbing in pedicure chairs moved me to tears. I’d show up unannounced at Bienstock’s apartment and command that her boyfriend, Chef Christopher, mix me a margarita, while I snapped photos of myself weeping on the couch. “This is worse than when David and I called off our wedding!” I wailed. “I’m going to send you these pictures every single day so you remember the pain you are causing me.”
Every therapy session revolved around Bienstock and the impending 2,500 mile separation. Oh, my poor therapist.
“Bienstock is more than a best friend,” I’d say, reaching for the tissue box. “She is my caretaker. Who is going to take care of me now?”
For every stage in my life, there’s been person who makes all my decisions for me. The first time I did kindergarten, there was this bossy girl called Svetlana and every day, she would break down exactly how I was to spend recess. “Dig up worms and bury them in the sandbox!? Sounds good to me!”
When I studied abroad in London, I made it an entire semester without learning the tube system or how to set my travel alarm clock because I had Meagan. Not only was Meagan my closest buddy, but she reminded me when it was time to go grocery shopping, booked all of our trips and carried the map. All I had to do was tag along. Perfect.
My ex-fiance David was caretaker, as were all the men before him. My college boyfriend, Rich, was so worried about me getting lost when I landed in London for study abroad, that he drew me a special diagram of the airport with instructions on how to hail a cab. Not long before we broke up, Rich said, “I love you, but most days I feel like I am dating a child and it’s exhausting.”
I am one of those annoying “everything happens for a reason” people (except when it comes to death). Just like I needed to go through a broken engagement, I believe Bienstock needed to move in order for me to grow up.
Still, a year later, I miss my friend terribly. I miss her commanding me to pee with the door open because if it’s closed, I can’t hear what she’s saying. I miss us trying to watch a movie but getting sidetracked because a ‘we’re pregnant!’ announcement shows up in our Facebook feed, and we need to talk about it in great length. I miss going to parties together and staking out the best spot for first dibs on the passed hors d’oeuvres. I miss Bean making me watch her try on 50 pounds of merchandise in a cramped fitting room. All that stuff, I miss, miss, miss.
My therapist promised I wouldn’t die from loneliness and, look! I’m still alive. My therapist also promised a lot of good would come from my and Bienstock’s geographical distance, and she was right about that too. I’ve made important new friends. Not important like rich and famous, but important in that they keep me company, and important in that none of them are caretakers. They are just healthy, normal friends.
I used to feel like like Oprah’s best friend Gayle, back in the days when Gayle was living in Oprah’s shadow. But I don’t feel that way anymore. “You’re a different person without Bienstock,” people say, “it’s like a whole new you.”
My sidekick days are over. I stand on my own.
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In Miami. The night David I were scheduled to get married.
Just a note: I have two other best friends. I never write about Sara because she is the opposite of me and extremely private. Sara still hasn’t forgiven me for making her a Facebook page without asking permission. Her parents are my second parents and I love them too. Lida— the mother of my little ginger goddaughter— you will learn about her soon.