Today I will tell you about my friend Zarah. Zarah is not only one of my best friends - she is quite possibly THE best friend. In the world. Ever. The best listener, the best conversationalist, the best constructive criticizer, the best comfort-giver and complimenter. We met in university. One could argue quite persuasively that had we not become friends in university, I would not have dated and married my husband, who lived in her student house, and I would not have my two splendid and incomparable children. We could stop there and I would already have reason for endless gratitude. But there's so much more.
Zarah has an incredible ability to say the precisely right thing at the precisely right time. I've been on and off antidepressants since right after grad school; I would sink into a crippling depression, take medication, feel better, then try to kick the antidepressants because somehow it seemed okay to take them as a temporary aid but not okay to need them for the rest of my life. I would tell her that I was off my antidepressants and she would say something like 'well, that's kind of moronic. If you had asthma and told me you left the house without your inhaler, would you expect me to say Way to go, good for you, why don't you go try to run up that hill now?' My sister, who's a pharmacist, said this should be copyrighted and used in medical school. When I would confide how I felt guilty and lazy all the time because my natural sleep cycle is something like 2 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m., and getting up at seven or eight when I didn't have to was like torture, Zarah said 'so don't. Normal people don't get up at three or four a.m. if they don't have to.' I know, right? She's like a Delphic Oracle except the stuff she says is actually coherent and useful.
In the spirit of full disclosure and to assure you that I'm not making all of this up, I should admit that if you want her to say any of this helpful, topical, reassuring stuff, you have to make sure the tv is off. Because paratroopers could burst in through the windows and strafe the room with automatic gunfire and she would still be unwaveringly focussed on Private Practice. Also, the poor girl can't tell a joke to save her life. Seriously -- you know that knock knock joke about the interrupting cow?: "knock knock" "who's there" "interrupting cow" "interrupting cow wh--" "MOO!". This is how Zarah told is: "knock knock" "who's there?" "moo" "moo who" "interrupting cow. Wait, no, I was supposed to...let's start again.". There was talk of some kind of telethon at some point, but happily she seems to be managing quite well. Only, if she ever says to you, 'stop me if you've heard this one', just stop her. It's best for everyone.
Every summer Zarah and her two kids, Alex and Sophie, come for a week. It's a fantastic week. We take the kids to museums and cultural events for a couple of mornings or afternoons, and then we hang out in the back yard with the sandbox and the hose for them and margaritas for us (and when you ask them their favourite part of the week it's always digging the gigantic muddy hole). Traditionally the kids have spent a lot of time naked, but they're getting older now and we've assured them that it isn't actually a requirement. We put the kids to bed and watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or go for a walk (when Sophie was younger she would always catch us trying to sneak out and we'd have to put her in the stroller and take her with us.) It's totally enjoyable and relaxing in the way that having houseguests almost never is, because she doesn't care if my house is a mess (which it always is) or if I run out of milk (she offers to go out and get some) or if I sleep in (she takes all of the kids to the park while I shower).
Often they come in June and we celebrate my birthday. This year they're coming in August, and Zarah's birthday is in August. We mentioned that this year we would celebrate Zarah's birthday, which I think was on the first. Not only that, but we talked on the phone last night. Did I say happy birthday? Did I remember to email her a happy birthday message before I left for the long week-end? Did I say sorry I missed your birthday while we were on the phone?
I did not. But wait -- it gets worse. During the conversation, she actually SAID that her brother had just given her a pedicure gift certificate FOR HER BIRTHDAY. What did I say? I said 'oh, nice', or something equally idiotic. No penny dropped. No circuits fired. Total, complete, epic friend fail. I'm pretty sure I'd even slept the night before, so I don't even have the stupid-tired excuse. Evidently my brain just took the long week-end as a vacation from all social niceties and traditional obligations of friendship.
Needless to say, this is going to take a serious stockpile of chocolate and vodka in the way of sucking-uppage for our visit next week.
Happy birthday Zarah. Sorry I'm an asshole.