Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nina Gaby's special friendship tribute...plus a book giveaway

"Wherein she looks like her friend"
We're pleased to have Nina Gaby visiting today, as she has a story compilation with an important message about friendship. She even has THREE copies for some lucky US readers.

Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner living in central Vermont. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and periodicals, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as prose poetry and articles. Her first book, Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women, has just been published by She Writes Press. Most recently her creative non-fiction is appearing in The Best of the Burlington Writer’s Workshop, upcoming in Mothering Through Darkness and the tentatively titled collection Shrink/Shrunk. She has guest blogged on a number of sites including Brevity.com, and infrequently on her own website. Her sculptural porcelain is in the National Collection of the Renwick at the Smithsonian, as well as other collections. Follow Nina on Twitter.

Fran

When I began pitching my idea for Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women I was met with a not-so-surprising number of reactions that confirmed the topic. Women clutching their chests or grabbing my arm: “Yes! Yes!” “I have a story!” “What a great idea.” Then there were the surprising reactions: “That never really happened to me, I never had a friend dump me, but it must be awful.” (I never completely believed those.) And then there were the male editors and writers who who would stare at me for a moment before saying, “Wow, yeah, that really doesn’t happen to us guys.” “But great idea.”

I’d made the decision to solicit essays and edit a collection of stories about women losing those friendships that are sustaining, wanting to honor those relationships the way we honor romantic relationships. But as I wrote my own piece for the book and did that self inventory so essential if we are to be honest with our writing, I realized how I’d let go of friends without much fanfare myself. I found myself going back to my hometown a bit more, looking people up, doing some research. Wondering about those lost friendships and worrying about the dynamic between us women who always considered ourselves feminists. On one of those trips home I found out that my old friend Fran was very sick with cancer. Two dear friends had already died very recently and I wasn’t going to let any more time go by.

Fran and I had met in 1973 after some confusion about college ID badges- I was going into the semester as a full time student, she’d signed up for a night school class, and we were both filed under “G.” We both had registered for art classes, and we looked very much alike, curly-haired with wide, trusting faces and the round glasses so popular back then. In the registration line, Fran saw my badge and insisted that it was hers. She hunted me down, intent on finding this mysterious twin. Indeed, she soon became the kind of friend that is more like a sister, with all the accompanying jealousies. Weight, for example, was a constant topic of conversation, and that I seemed able to lose it more easily, albeit not always in the healthiest of ways. And that I was able to attract men, often the wrong kind of men, more easily, again a constant topic of conversation, with appropriate sisterly concern on her part. I was a full time artist but she was a professional therapist and seemed so much smarter and made more money than I did. We easily discussed our mutual envy, our life choices. We were both voracious readers, and when she opened a book store, I was jealous as well as excited. But we laughed, we partied, we gossiped, we talked about books and politics. She helped me stay sober. Her intellect and humored wisdom always a touchstone for me. When I got married, and changed careers, again, my assumption was that she was jealous. But she was able to travel more, still had her freedom, so I was jealous. Once she said she had figured we would always be friends who would travel together, spend time together, but now I was married. I told her that didn’t matter. But in some ways it did and we drifted farther and farther apart. Then I had a baby, a full time career, a husband in grad school. We stopped communicating, at least I thought she had stopped communicating with me. I felt dumped but it didn’t mean I was. I moved to a different state and didn’t even bother to say goodbye. Well over twenty years had passed when I heard about the cancer. With some trepidation, I called her. She was delighted to see me. Her first comment upon opening the door, after a long silent hug, was that cancer was a bitch, but she loved being thin. The rest of the afternoon is a warm blur. Her home, the scene of many parties and long intimate conversations was now a soothing blend of warm pinks and ochres. African art on the walls, restful photographs. We talked, barely noticing that the sun had gone down. Barely noticing over twenty years had passed. I told her about my book, and that it was a catalyst for my desire to reconnect. I promised to send her a copy as soon as it was out. I did not have to say “if she lasted that long” because she said it for me, with her wise laugh, and was genuinely pleased for me. Fran had developed other wonderful friendships in the time we had been separated, but some of the same women who dumped me once also dumped her near the end. That made for some old fashioned gossip. And speculation. These new ones, would these have been my friends too?

The best moments came later. Just before going to print I was able to add her name to the list of acknowledgements, lasting just long enough for me to get a copy to her. The last picture I have of my old friend was on Facebook, in repose, no longer able to read on her own, the young daughter of one of her new friends reading to her from my book in a sunny bedroom, walls lined with books.

The irony? Fran swears she didn’t dump me. She always felt it was the other way around. She had kept an old photo of me on her refrigerator for thirty years. I am still stunned by this. I’ve never parted with a tiny green Bakelite elephant charm she gave me now forty years ago. The message? Don’t waste time on petty assumptions. Please. Your life could always be so much richer.

Thanks to Nina for sharing Fran with us and her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.


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10 comments:

Bonnie Franks said...

Most of my friend breakups were more drifting away. I have friends now that I haven't seen in thirty or forty years and we would still sit down and talk like it was yesterday. I never had a multitude of friends, but my friends were good friends.

Janine said...

I have one friend who did me wrong and I stopped talking to her at the time. Years later we found each other on FB and just started talking like nothing happened. I didn't feel the need to bring up the reason why I stopped talking to her. Some things are just better left in the past. I know she was a different person back then with all that was going on in her life, just like I was.

Jennifer said...

Wow, this essay from Nina really made me think. I moved a lot as a child, and have followed suit to some extent as an adult...and moving without social networking sites made it easy to lose touch with friends over the years. I had a best friend as a child who "broke up" with me, only to find each other again in college, break up again, and then finally, to truly break up in grad school, which has been over 15 years ago. I am certain now we won't be friends again, but with all the history we had, I may always wonder "what if." It is very interesting about how we as women discuss our romantic break-ups more often than we do our break-ups with girlfriends, which in many ways are much more painful for us.

Anonymous said...

I had a friend that after my first husband passed away & 2 years later I got married again, her and her husband felt I was going against my husbands memory, when I go married. It took 11 years later when we were at a picnic with all our friends that they finally start communicating with me again. I know we will never be like we were before but it was a start. Linda May

Grandma Cootie said...

A casual work friend and I used to talk at work, occasionally go to the cafeteria for lunch, but when one of us got a different job within the company we didn't make the effort to stay in touch. Years later we found ourselves sitting next to each other at work. Our friending bloomed again then, but when she transferred out of the building we lost touch for the most part. And now somehow we reconnected a few years ago and are closer than ever. However long we are ever apart, we can always pick right up again.

Kelly Rodriguez said...

I have a childhood friend that I lost contact with over the years because my family moved away. I always felt like a lost a part of myself and one of the greatest friendships I had. I had to go through middle school and high school without her. Her father was really strict so she wasn't allowed to come over to my house for sleepovers anymore once I moved away.

Years later as adults we met up again and we just picked up right where we started. It feels so good to have her in my life again. We don't see each other that often, but at least I know she's always there when I need her.

traveler said...

I was very good friends with a woman for 15 years and she then dumped me for no good reason. We do not communicate at all, see each other and it has been years. Sop that means our friendship is truly over and done with, but in the interim I have met another woman with whom I have a great deal in common. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

susieqlaw said...

My best friend in college and I had so much fun. After college, we still kept in touch, but our lives were on different courses. She had a fabulous job and lived in a big city. I was in graduate school in a small town. Despite our different paths, we continued to keep in touch as I entered the work world. However, I had a busy couple of months where I was not in touch. My friend was understandably concerned and felt that I should at least have shot her an e-mail and told her I was okay. So...that's the break-up. Make-up...has not happened yet...but I have hope.

bn100 said...

don't have any to share

LettyB said...

I haven't had a break-up/make-up in a friendship ever. That's a good thing, right?