“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” – Euripides
Of all the loves I have had in my life, none has lasted as long as the love of my friends…
Romantic love starts out intense — the white-hot passion that’s so addictive — but it is hard to sustain. After a while, even romantic love that manages to last becomes Friend Love in some ways. “He’s my best friend,” is what women often say about the love of their life once they’ve been together for a while. My male friends say the same about their wives or girlfriends.
So, the love of friends then becomes the central love of our lives. Yes, there is Family Love, but that is something we’re born into and have no choice in. We choose our friends and choose to let them stay, and that is what makes Friend Love so sweet.
Here is a story-poem I wrote about choosing my friend over white-hot, steamy lust back in college. Turning down the gorgeous and talented Ethan Canin was tough (oh, the pain!), but it was ultimately worth it. Flash forward nearly 20 years later, and I still have my friend; not even a continent, not even Mr. Perfect, can keep a good friendship down.
Kissing Ethan Canin
In one of my Los Angeles summer nights,
Ethan Canin came to town to read
About Emperors in the Air under bright lights
In a room so crowded I could barely breathe.
I took Lola and Gina with me to the bookstore —
My two college pals on a high-brow girls’ night out.
And Mr. Canin was just what we were looking for:
Tall, dark and handsome – the kind of guy you dream about.
He captivated the crowd with his humor and wit
And captured our hearts with his gorgeous smile.
We stood in the back because there was nowhere to sit
Because Ethan Canin was the biggest thing L.A. had seen in a while.
What we didn’t know then – or didn’t want to admit
Was that our relationships just didn’t quite compare
To the fantasy of kissing Ethan Canin on a moonlit night.
A husband had just left, another one was barely there.
And there was Mr. Wordsmith himself looking all dreamy.
The reading had just ended and he was signing his books.
The three of us approach him and the room is getting steamy
Over the crowd, of course, surely not because of his looks.
I gush how much I love his work while thinking I want to have his baby (!)
And to my shock he rather enjoys this and asks us all out to dinner.
“Well, yes, let’s go!” I say, but my friend is too heartbroken a lady.
She’s been robbed of joy and can’t see this night is a winner.
And this is the part I’ve relived so many times trying to change it:
I don’t go out with Ethan Canin, I have to turn Mr. Perfect down!
I don’t get to hear his personal stories as he whispers the arrangement,
Don’t get to know the coolest guy to hit this glitterati town.
No, I chose girl power friendship over hot, smoky lust.
I chose to comfort a friend instead of comforting my desire.
Surely there must be a way to have both, surely there must,
But I couldn’t split the atom, time just wouldn’t conspire.
But on some nights as I lie in bed, enjoying single life on the East Coast,
I wonder what kissing Ethan Canin would have been like — or if he would have even tried.
Was he just being nice to three young ladies, perhaps granting them a toast:
To a good life, a good deal of hope, and a wild and enjoyable ride.
I’ll never know: I chose to be a good friend over making Ethan Canin fall in love,
Drove her home from Brentwood as happy people went to happy places,
Held her as she cried, listened to her, and then gave her a big Southern girl hug,
And I’m glad I did because I learned that love of all kinds leaves it traces.