By Dena Landon
Girl’s night out, whether it’s booze or tea. Shopping trips when you need someone to tell you it’s not your butt, it’s the jeans. Reading and proof-reading each other’s resumes and cover letters when it’s time to job hunt. Providing a couch to crash on when that job hunt takes you to another city for a last minute interview. Without my friends I don’t know how I’d have survived my divorce. Many of my friendships have lasted longer than twenty years. But if you look at my friend’s list on Facebook with the exception of that core group most of my friends have been made in the last two years.
It’s often been said that going through tough times will show you who your true friends are. When I vented on social media, or started writing about my experiences having left a verbally abusive relationship, I noticed a trend. I’d lose roughly one friend per article.
A quiet unfriending, a “I was here for the happy couple pics, even if they were fake, but I’m not going to be here for the unraveling.” At first it really hurt, particularly the couples who had hung out with my ex and I. But I learned to accept it and even be grateful to know who my true friends were. In a way it was better than wondering who I could trust and who had taken my ex’s side. I’d even perform a ritual as part of my meditation practice. I’d sit cross-legged, close my eyes, and call up the good memories of the friendship. After thanking the Universe for those times I’d visualize myself cutting the cords that tied us together and releasing that person with love. It helped me accept and honor their loss without wallowing in regrets.
And as my writing spread, my site launched, and I met so many wonderful women throughout the country and world, my friend’s list started growing again. This time with people who knew and accepted all of me. The broken parts. The jagged edges. Being vulnerable, particularly after the end of a relationship, can feel scary. But it can also feel liberating to know that you don’t have to hide the true you and to discover that some people may actually prefer your honesty to the facade. I’ve lost and replaced – and then some – over twenty percent of my pre-divorce friend’s list in the three years since I left my ex.
When talking about online friendships it’s sometimes implied, and/or stated outright, that they aren’t ‘real.’ I’d like to challenge that assumption.
What is friendship if not support – someone to vent to when times are tough, or cheer for when they have a major success – whether it’s their divorce being finalized or selling an essay to a major publication. It’s also communication, sharing about your lives, your kids, the new job or apartment. All of which can take place online. And it can be based on, and grow from, simple things. A shared alma mater, an old job, loving the same sports team, and, yes, going through similar different circumstances.
A friendship is no less real, and the support and love given each other no less important, if it only takes place online. The same social media sites that made it easy to fake being happy or having a good marriage can make it easy to connect with people who embrace the real you.
Through writing for the Worthy blog I’ve met so many amazing women who share one major life experience with me – divorce. We’ve connected elsewhere on social media, through my Facebook page or on Twitter and Instagram. Knowing that you’re not alone, that other women have gone through this and survived, is a gift.
On Friendship Day I’d like to say thank you. Thank you to the true friends who’ve stuck around while I – sometimes publicly – fell apart. Thank you to the friends who left, for the times we had together, the good memories, and also for teaching me how to embrace and accept the ebb and flow of life. And, finally, thank you to the new friends who have shown me that I don’t have to be scared to be myself. Whether it’s online or in-person, I’m grateful to have you all in my life.
About the author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.