It started out pretty inconspicuously. We met at a writing workshop. We were both looking for a way to make money doing something we love and support ourselves in this strange new country within strange newish relationships. Well, new in that we were no longer in control in the way we had been before moving here.
Towards the end of the workshop, the leader suggested that we exchange phone numbers in order to work with each other. I got two, hers and this other woman. When I got home, Sparky and talked about the whole thing. He was happy that I might have a possibility for a friendship. Having to be everything to his expat girlfriend was getting difficult. I had felt a quiet click with Tatiana. Not one of those great big clicks where you just know this person gets you, but a quiet, still, yet persistent click. So I called her. And really, when I called, I remember it feeling like no big deal, not like I was calling a virtual stranger, and asked if she and her boyfriend wanted to go to dinner with me and mine, because both our spouses were still boyfriends.
We set up dinner at a restaurant by her house. Dinner was fine, not spectacular. However, the friendship that formed was and continues to be spectacular.
At some point recently, I realized that my life was playing out like a season of “thirtysomething”. But I’m not alone in my drama. She’s got hers going on too, and the writers were kind enough to intertwine our storylines. I have no idea where I would be without Tatiana. I love Sparky, but if not for Tatiana close enough to lend a shoulder, a Kleenex, a stiff drink, I think I would have been out of here years ago. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to stay sane. Add the expat factor, and man, girlfriends are more valuable than diamonds or Tide with Bleach.
We’ve been through so much together in such a short amount of time. She is the friend that never judges me -not my mistakes and not my choices. She is supportive when I need her to be and she’s strength when mine has run out. When living abroad, it can be damn hard to just deal with everyday life. Romantic relationships can get magnified by the isolation we expat women feel by simply being here. A girlfriend is not just a friend. She is a witness, she is a comrade, she is an ally and an anchor. There have been times when my bags were packed and I was on the phone to Lufthansa looking for the next flight back. She talks me off the ledge if that’s what she senses I need or she’d drive me to the airport if I asked. I’ve had days where if I looked at Sparky’s face for one more second, I was going to throw another jar of peanut butter. A call, a drive and glass of wine later, I’m playing cards into the night with she and her husband, both happy to have my company while I chill the fuck out. (And btw, telling someone to chill out is the quickest way to light a fire under their ass that I know of. Unfortunately, Sparky had to learn this lesson the hard way and it might have included that jar of peanut butter.)
My relationship with Tatiana is why I started the annual Girlie Weekend. We need sisters in life. I wanted everyone to have an opportunity to have the same type of friendship I have with Tatiana.
We are similar, yet weirdly opposite. She has kids, I have none. She has a smaller apartment filled to the brim with kids and stuff and my loft is big and empty and pristine. She has too much to do and no time to do it and does it all. I have an open, flexible schedule and accomplish almost nothing.
I come from a huge family with kids of various ages and various snot densities running around. I had five aunts growing up and all of them raised each one us kids in some way. Tatiana comes from a small family, her parents having left the extended family behind. I suck up her chaos and she enjoys my silences.
We’re both Leos and both pretty tough ladies. She is more soft spoken than I am. She takes her time before confronting problems or issues, looking for a way to say things so that the other person isn’t hurt. Me? Well, I come from a loud family. We tend to just say things and pick up the pieces of shit that fall out our mouths later. I could learn more from her approach.
I never feel more at home in Germany than I do sitting on her sofa snuggling Twinkle Toes, drinking coffee and talking. It transports me back to the life I fear I left behind when I made the choice to move 6000 miles away.
Then there are the days I see the world through my mother’s eyes. Eyes I assume she saw through when I was nine and hanging around trying to pick up the adult conversation. My mother would be sitting out back with her girlfriend, smoking the occasional cigarette and talking about men, money and kids – her thirtysomething script. She would shoo me away, but the indelible picture of adulthood stayed. Now, sitting on the sofa with Tatiana, discussing our scripts and our extreme frustration with the writers, I feel like that nine year old who had picked up her mother’s glasses, seeing the world through adult eyes. (Seriously, why couldn’t our scripts be closer to a Judith McNaught novel than thirtysomething??).
I have had the privilege to know her and watch her grow as a writer, as a mother and as a woman. Every month or so we have a girls weekend. Just she and I and Sparky. We sit on my back balcony and talk into the night. It is usually when we notice that the moonlight has softly faded into sunlight that we grudgingly head off to bed, still full of ideas and thoughts not wanting to give up the moments just because our eyes are crossing in the morning light.
So here’s to you, my dear. Thank you.