I haven’t been thinking about this blog much as I’ve made it a priority to get the first draft of a book written this year. I’ve been dancing around it for a decade and I have plenty of time to write, so it’s my one assignment for 2022. Doesn’t have to be the final product, just something fully down so I can release this feeling of homework hanging over my head. I have procrastinated because I don’t want to relive much of my past. And I have forgotten details. But it’ll happen and until then my short attention span has to focus on one writing job at a time.
We are all exhausted and scattered at this point. Covid’s lengthy stay reminds me of when the movie Jaws was released when I was a kid, when popular films stayed in theaters for months. The movie was so huge that it sat there on the roster forever, you could see it as many times as you wanted in an empty roomful of seats.
But that was much more entertaining than covid. Now we’re all so drained from the arguing, the news, the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers making everyone’s job harder, the constant sickness and death, the Trump cultists and their relentless attachment to racism, their bizarre JFK fantasies, the talking heads on the news on either side, the bickering over cancel culture, the arguments over binary or non-binary, which kind of mask to wear, the attachment to guns and devastating gun violence. I think I can safely say we have watched this movie back and forth and back again and we are more than ready to get out of this dark room and maybe never watch a movie again.
My spiritual sources (hi, Mom!) keep hammering that we (the earth and its inhabitants) are still in the middle of this shift from 3D to 5D energy, and all of this is necessary to burn off energies and belief systems from this and past lives that keep us from moving into a higher frequency. I believe it. But I’m over it and it doesn’t feel like it matters whether I believe it or not. I don’t want to read or hear any more well-meaning channelers or psychics telling me this is all part of the plan. I don’t give a shit about the cosmic fucking plan anymore. It feels like a dirty trick and I don’t want to hear any more airy fairy explanations on how it’s going to be great one magical day. Because it hasn’t been great now for too long and it’s all too much. IT’S TOO MUCH.
My sister and I, whenever we’re at a bad party or just annoyed by something, like to quote Winona Ryder in that wonderfully awful version of Dracula.
Now everyone is asking for this in a non-joking and most decidedly literal manner.
In the cosmic plan’s defense, I always feel cranky and negative in January and February as I am very susceptible to seasonal affective disorder. But I can feel the exhaustion in my friends as well. Our enthusiasm for pretty much everything is at an all time low. We’re not talking about going out to dinner or taking trips, we’re just sending each other TikTok videos and grinding through each Groundhog Day, trying to be as upbeat as possible in order to make it through and be able to calmly smoke weed and watch Netflix as soon as the sun goes down. So exactly how much longer are we supposed to trudge through infection, insurrection, businesses failing, depression abounding, until we are miraculously ascended? It’s disheartening no matter what time the sun sets.
Anyway, so that’s where I’m at with this whole pandemic, country going to shit thing–whiny and petulant. How’s everyone else?
So what I really want to write about today is my friend, although I’m not sure exactly how to do it. I guess I’ll do what I always do and noodle through this until it feels post-worthy.
You see, one of my lifelong best friends, who is three months younger than me, has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
I am 59 years old. I don’t like sharing my age or hearing anyone else’s exact age, because I believe the numbers box us in a way that doesn’t speak to who we truly are. People get too focused on their idea of what an age should look and feel like when there is a definitive number attached. But when I was attacked and stalked by a couple of angry lunatics a couple of years ago, their main insults were age-focused, they called me “grandma” and “desperate” hoping to injure me with it. They did not. But now I state my age publicly in order to de-weaponize it and remove any idea that there is any shame attached to getting older, for anyone, not just me. I like who I am, I don’t give a fuck if my age makes someone uncomfortable, go fuck yourselves, etc.
Anyway, dementia is a disease that usually hits the elderly, so she’s considered young for it. Nonetheless, it is moving at breakneck speed through her body and mind. It’s confusing and devastating and it has driven home to me how quickly things change in this life.
I’m not going to say her name here. The people who know already know, and I don’t want random google searches leading to this somewhat lowkey spot where I am only beginning to sort through my feelings about it. I want her to be known and remembered for her true self, not the impaired version.
We met at a streetwear trade show at the Javits Center in the 80’s when I worked as a model for Tripp/Trash and Vaudeville. If a buyer wanted to see what something looked like on a body, I was that body. It was fun and easy and the place was full of rock and roll beauties, both male and female. I met Ronnie Sweetheart there, although we didn’t date til a bit later, and she met Timo Kaltio and dated him. She was a clothing designer and had her own booth across the aisle from Tripp, so on the first day of the show I wandered over to see what she was selling. When I walked in she had her back to me. She was dressed in her own unique clothes and her body was a perfect hourglass. She fussed with something on the booth wall and when she turned around to me standing there quietly looking at her, her already big eyes got very wide.
She exclaimed, “Oh my God! You’re so beautiful! Who are you? What do you do? Will you be my friend?”
I had never been greeted this way by another girl. I can’t really say woman, because we were babies. I was reserved and shy with new people, but her open enthusiasm was so charming and infectious that I fell completely in love with her in an instant. After that meeting we were inseparable through the three days of that trade show, and for many years after that.
She was like this with everyone. I would curl inward when we walked into a roomful of strangers; I’ve always been self-conscious when out of my comfort zone, so I come off as bitchy. It’s easier to be scary than to feel vulnerable. My friend, on the other hand, was genuinely curious about everyone she saw. She’d say, “Hi! I love your hair!” or “Hi! I’m ——. what’s your name?” While I became more small and compact, she unfolded like an exotic flower for the room to admire. People loved her because she saw them.
We both have a love of all things French, and one time a psychic told me that she and I had lived a very happy past life in France as friends. He saw carriages and gowns and food, and it helped me make sense of our immediate connection. In this lifetime she and I still loved to get dressed up and wear expensive shoes and eat amazing food and drink too much and laugh. We had crazy, wild, hilarious adventures that I’ll write about on another day. Every minute with her was entertaining, even the not so great ones. Her energy enlivened me and my groundedness calmed her.
Over the years our coordinating dysfunctions took a toll, although we never stopped being friends. In the beginning I was very codependent (as I was and still can be with most everyone) and I would constantly fix things for her. She was one of the most capable, creative, detail-oriented people I’ve ever known. Her home was gorgeous, her aesthetic in furniture and decor was unparalleled, the clothing she made was perfection. I couldn’t bag the groceries if we went to get food because she had to have them a certain way. If you folded one item of clothing wrong the entire shelf had to be redone. But she was emotionally fragile and leaned on me when there was an issue. I would step in and talk to whoever needed talking to, arrange whatever needed arranging, that kind of thing. God forbid if she cried, I was on the offending problem or person with a vengeance.
Eventually it became too much for me and I could see it wasn’t healthy for either one of us. So I shifted, with middling results. She didn’t like it and told me I had grown cold. Then around the same time as I was reassessing my behavior in our friendship, she got pregnant. It wasn’t under the best of circumstances and she didn’t handle it well, and I didn’t have any interest in pregnancy or babies. I tried to be supportive, but I found the whole thing tedious and it showed. She accused me of being shallow. I wasn’t, I loved her just as much as I always did, but people change over time and that passion of friendship in our 20’s can’t be sustained as we mature. So we were never as close once that shift happened, but we did remain sisters.
While I worked hard to get healthy and improve my poor decision-making skills, she, although still a shining light, seemed to remain a teenager emotionally. She would make the same terrible choices over and over again, each time hoping for a different outcome. I would try to explain to her that you can’t date a turnip and expect it to behave like an apple. Or that if the business wasn’t working, she had to consider new ways to approach her career. She couldn’t do it. She had this sort of magical and romantic way of thinking that caused her to consistently choose the wrong people and things and then consistently be devastated when the outcome was exactly what the rest of us expected.
She would say to me, “I just can’t do it on my own, I need help.” And I would say, “Then stop choosing situations and people who can’t help. Choose what supports you. It’s YOUR choice, YOUR destiny, and only YOU can change things.” We spent hours on the phone going in circles. She just didn’t get it.
In her defense, I never had a growing child to raise, so maybe I just didn’t see it from her angle. But to me it looked like she was her own worst enemy. The boyfriends were selfish children; the business decisions financial suicide.
Over the last decade she became increasingly tired. She appeared exhausted all the time and we all worried for her. Then she got spacier. She doesn’t live in NYC so I only saw her every six months or so, but she seemed goofier when I would see her, much less focused. But I went through my own chaos five/six years ago, so when she visited New York it was too much of a party anyway. I chalked up the spaciness to that.
Finally, maybe two years ago she called me and told me that she was having brain issues. She couldn’t remember all of her words, she would get lost in a sentence or story easily and the most clear indicator that there was a real problem was when she told me she could no longer drive. I felt scared when she said it. She was hands down the best driver I have known and we went everywhere in her cars. She told me she was trying to see what could be done, going to doctors, but she couldn’t give me a cohesive report or diagnosis.
And then it felt like overnight the powerhouse was gone. She was no longer the same person, but a diminished version. Her attention to detail and ability to keep a beautiful house and make exquisite things disappeared. Her facial expression is still open and sweet, but vacant. And she can’t take care of herself. She needs someone to bathe and dress her, to put on her shoes, to wash her hair. Her energetic charisma is gone. The expensive lingerie she placed gingerly in tissue in her dresser will never be worn again. It’s heart wrenching.
It is my belief, not based in science, that she grew weary of the constant struggle and gave up. I think she finally got too exhausted from trying and simply checked out.
She had a good moment recently and facetimed me, which she’s never done before. I dove for my phone when I saw her name come up because it’s been nearly impossible to make that connection and I knew if I missed it I might not get it again. It was lovely to see her face. Her gray roots were long, which I know the old her would hate, but I just saw her, this soul that I love. She was sweet and airy as her words and thoughts drifted around. There were a lot of awkward pauses. But she was happy that she’d managed to figure out how to video chat and I showed her around my new place through the phone.
She kept saying, “You’re so pretty…you’re so pretty…”
I said, “So are you, my darling. You’re as beautiful as the day I met you.”
She just stared at me through the phone and giggled.
So this is a whole new bit of life’s bullshit that I am trying to process. My friend is gone but she’s not gone. I am brokenhearted, as are all of her friends, but I can’t indulge in mourning. Because she is not dead and everyone close to her has to remain strong to make sure that she gets the proper care while she lives. And we are all determined that people remember her for how amazing she truly is, not for how she might be right now.
I keep saying the same things to Sam over and over again because he’s so young and I want him to understand how time flies more quickly than we ever expect. I don’t want him to lose or miss anything. I tell him how things change on a dime. How it feels like five minutes ago I was riding shotgun in her car with my feet up on the dash, singing off key and dangling a lit Marlboro Light out the window, half-naked yet still overdressed, headed to hang out backstage at one rock show or another. Sam is infinitely patient with me and will listen to the same stories or opinions over and over again until I process them. He knows that I’m saying it out loud more for me than for him.
So the only thing I can do to make myself feel better is say it to you as well. Time is so fleeting. People don’t last forever. Take in every moment as fully as you can, love your people as fully as you can, even in this currently draining political and health climate when it feels like we have little left to give. I have to continue to try to do that with her in this current state because it’s the only option. And hopefully when we get to the other side we’ll have a good laugh about how silly and beautiful we were when we were young, and how we naively thought it would last forever. Maybe it does on the other side.