By Carolyn Shields
“On that Friday men call Good, when He was unfurled on the Cross as the banner of salvation, He looked down to the two most precious creatures He had on earth: His Mother and His beloved disciple, John.” The World’s First Love, Fulton Sheen
When our Lord was hanging by nails to life, it was only his mother and best friend who were there for Him until the very end. Likewise, I think of those god awful nights after my first breakup, my mom refused to leave me until I was asleep, and when I woke in the middle of the night and asked her to sleep with me, she crawled in beside me. I also think of Emily, too, one of my best friends who traveled across Europe with me in the fall of 2011, and how even though she was an ocean away at the time, she offered all of her rosaries for my heart.
Emily's boyfriend broke up with her a few days before a month long family vacation to Europe the summer of 2013, about a month before my boyfriend ended it with me. I told her I would dedicate all of my fears and anxieties during my training in New Jersey with the VIDES program for her heart, and man I hope she was smacked in the face with those graces because I was smacked in the face with Apprehension of Life. When my break up happened, Emily was in our favorite place in the world: Dublin. When I contacted her with the news, she immediately promised to dedicate every rosary for my heart. Ladies, this is what girlfriends are for.
Who is there to urge us out of bed when it’s 8:50 and you have a 9 a.m class a mile trek through the city? Your Emily. Who is there to scream at Breaking Dawn: Part II with you when the battle scene goes completely and terribly awry? Your Emily. Who is the one who will have your favorite alcoholic beverage already chilled in her fridge for you when you come over, or is equally enthusiastic to dramatically fist pump at dances? Your Emily.
Girlfriends are the ones who will get you through the gritty parts of life, but you have to reach out to them. I fell into this smut (thesaurus is telling me smut is another word for porn, but I’m creating the word ‘smut’ to mean rut….oh hey), so I fell into this rut the fall of my junior year when I thought a lot of my friends were coupling up and cutting me off. I got into this funk when I thought I was no longer wanted because I was just simply not being invited to as much stuff as before, but was I making myself available to them? No. I was shutting myself off and wallowing in self-pity. I fell into that gross ‘woe is me’ hole that I find myself in way too often.
And the more I opened up about this, the more I realized a lot of other people feel this way too. But we need to make an effort to stay in touch with our friends, because yeah it hurts when you’re just waiting for a friend to check up on you, but YOU need to put effort in there too. Maybe all my friends thought I was busy or had alternative plans for Friday night other than chilling with them at the beloved Brotel, a little apartment attached to a giant white mansion in town. This was where two of my guy friends lived, and the name would sometimes alternate between the Brothel and the Femine-Inn, but Brotel was its birth name. We would watch Nick Cage movies and smoke cigars until the early hours of the morning. (This is seriously what we did and what we do).
St. Ignatius said, “Beware of condemning any man’s action. Consider your neighbor’s intention, which is often honest and innocent, even though his act seems bad in outward appearance.” Nothing can sum it up better than dat.
So once I got out of that self-pity stage and forgave them for faults they never knew they committed and slapped my face a few times and told myself to get over myself, I was able to move on. There’s one night in particular that I’ll never forget in February of my junior year: They were calling for a snowstorm so we declared a movie night at the Brotel. We had an unofficial ‘Cookie/ing Club’ which was pretty much just the guys inviting some of us girls over to bake them cookies as they played Smash Brothers.
On this night in particular, we built a fort but due to lack of space and materials, we literally just turned the couch upside down and threw a blanket over it. Then, five of us crawled under it and watched some Will Smith movie because all of my guy friends have a major man-crush on him. And it was one of those moments, with a blizzard coming in from the west and already dropping two inches of snow in the quiet 1 a.m town, laying squished together with my best friends under a couch, nomming on crappy half baked cookies that I realized, this quest for simplicity? It’s beautiful.
But still, though those guy friends sure do livin’ things up, nothing can ever replace your girlfriends. There’s nothing like squealing in your college apartment when you declare ‘IT’S OFFICIAL! AND WE KISSED!’ or spending hours watching Bride Day on Friday night on TLC with your best friend, eating ice cream because she just got engaged. There’s nothing like shopping sprees in Dublin with your Emily, or having your sister hold you while you cry. Women understand women. Women understand PMS. It’s just something men won’t.
There’s this thing called serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter, which is something science-y, but it helps to slap depression in the face. When we spend time with our girlfriends, serotonin runs more freely in our veins (not the correct phrasing, but whatever). But it’s like exercising. It just makes you feel better, and it's scientifically proven that when we spend time with our girlfriends, serotonin increases our sense of well-being, and is nearly as important for our health as exercising.
So what are you waiting for? Pick up your cellular device and schedule a coffee date with your womenfolk. It's always long overdue.