Part book review, part impressionistic scribblings on the joys of reading and the struggles of carving out time in which to do it, #ABookishYear is a weekly dispatch from the front lines of an intellectual journey spanning fifty-two tomes.
The Other Loves of Our Lives
By Roxanne Fequiere
If you’re a woman, there’s a good chance that the first half of the title of Kayleen Schaefer’s Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship, evokes a warm sense of familiarity. It’s a directive that’s been issued to me countless times by other women (and vice versa) when our time together has come to an end: hopping into an Uber outside House of Yes, reluctantly extracting myself from a cozy house party in southwestern Connecticut in order to catch a train back to Harlem, hugging at the airport after a few days spent exploring the happiest place on earth. Once, incapacitated after a pot brownie experience gone wrong, I even sent my then-boyfriend to discreetly follow a friend of mine to the train station after leaving my apartment. Even in my stupefied state, my primary concern was that she get home all right.
The title is a particularly fitting entry point into the work itself, which unfolds like a rich conversation that you hope will never end, packed with historical tidbits, insight into pop cultural touchstones ranging from I Love Lucy to Girls Trip, and Oh my god, same!-inducing anecdotes. Schaefer’s appreciation for female friendship came to her gradually, and her own trajectory serves as a useful arc by which to trace many of the misconceptions associated with ladies linking up—frenemies, mean girls, and so on. Where her own experience doesn’t align with the subject at hand, she brings in firsthand narratives from, for instance, a woman whose best friend passed away unexpectedly, or a woman whose relationship with her friend suffered permanent damage once that friend got married.
Growing up, my mother used to tell my brothers and I—often—about how she had made a conscious decision not to have friends. The fact that she and her childhood best friend, Lourdes, were godmothers to each other’s daughters didn’t seem to factor into these declarations; I think she was trying to emphasize that she had chosen her husband and children over the prospect of friendship, a pursuit she clearly saw as frivolous. That she only thought to point this out to us when one or all of us had disappointed or enraged her, however, only served to demonstrate what I ought not do. I didn’t know if I would marry and/or have children, but it seemed an erroneous assumption that either of them would take the place of friendship.
This is where Text Me When You Get Home begins, examining the friendships (or lack thereof) found in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations, and works its way up to today, an era in which we plan elaborate Galentine’s Day celebrations and seek out all-female meeting places like The Wing and New Women Space. We mourn the dissolution of friendships like breakups, and court each other with ever-increasing displays of thoughtfulness. More and more women are forgoing marriage and motherhood altogether, and even more of us are elevating the bond of friendship to a level on par with family ties.
The other day, I texted my fiancé a photo of my cat, Charlie, staring somewhat heroically off into the distance, while a stuffed Roy Koopa of Super Mario fame stared up at her, sunglasses and a serene smile sewn onto his face. “You: Charlie, with your eye on the prize,” my caption began. “Me: Roy, blinded by how bright your future is, looking on in awe.”
I realized my mistake not long after I hit send, and wrote a quick follow-up message: “That was meant for Audrey, but, like,” I explained sheepishly, cringing as I typed, “I also look at you in awe.” It was a weak mea culpa, and we both knew it, but at the same time, my fiancé is used to the hyperbolic commentary Audrey and I employ to boost each other up on a daily basis. “When is your i-D cover coming out?” she asks when I send her a photo of myself winking—face covered in Kate Somerville acne treatment. “Yes, bitch,” she says when I get up the nerve to send an email I’ve been putting off. “LOVE IT.”
Of course, our sustained enthusiasm and unbridled appreciation for each other isn’t unique. It’s the common thread in all of my most treasured friendships, and it’s palpable all throughout Text Me When You Get Home, too—in fact, I plan to send enthusiastic texts about this book to a number of women in my life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch Beaches.
Roxanne Fequiere is a New York–based writer and editor who might just make it after all.