A love letter to my collective best girlfriend

Dear collective best girlfriend, I gotta say, you’ve really come through in these past few weeks.

Of course I always knew that you would. In times of plenty I see you regularly if not often, but here you are now, practically busting down my door, with wine and takeout, and dinners in strategic establishments, and funny internet videos, and playdates with the dogs, and ears and arms and shoulders, and advice, and empathy, and, above all, time.

It’s you that’s the real love of my life, you know?

For starters, you’re the one with the best origin story.

You and I didn’t meet at some bar. You and I met when you were the new kid in school and they gave you a locker next to mine. I had the last surname alphabetically and since you were new they stuck you at the end of the list, so we ended up side-by-side. If that’s not fate, I don’t know what is. We bonded over terrible early-aughts emo, and you wholeheartedly supported my decision to have my bright blue iPod engraved with a Dashboard Confessional lyric: “laced with brilliant smiles and shining eyes.” I still have that iPod. It’s going to be worth a million dollars some day.

It’s you, my collective best girlfriend, who in those early years provided me with sleepover cover stories to get my parents off my back. They thought I was sleeping soundly in your bed while in reality I was in some mosh pit in Toronto, or at a house party destroying someone’s carpet with bright-green SourPuss, or falling out of a taxi, or lying down in some field.

You and I have shared rooms, and apartments, and homes. We spent a particularly memorable year in a creaky ancient house in Kingston, the flagship of our collective friendship. It had a hole in the ceiling and a backyard full of garbage. You had the room on the first floor that was dominated by a wobbly Ikea dresser, wobbly because you never put it together right, although you would always insist that it’s just how they made it. You and I made quesadillas on the barbecue and, sometimes, I’d watch you deep-fry eggs in bacon grease in the unspeakable kitchen.

You were also the one who lived in a tiny room on the second floor that you painted an electric aquamarine. We would hang out in that room well into the early morning, talking about boys and smoking joints. And you, too, were the one who had drawn the longest straw and got to live in the best room in the house, the one with the stained glass windows and some square footage to mention. You kept a hamster named Hubert in a glass cage and painted a single wall a chocolate brown — an “accent” wall, very grown-up.

I took my collective best girlfriend to the hospital a bunch, and otherwise looked out for her health. There was the time you chipped your tooth (my fault), and I had to take you to the ER, where they did exactly nothing, except make us sit in the waiting room for three hours to sober up. Another time, you had an allergic reaction to an appletini, and I spent an irresponsibly long time trying to convince you that your face looked perfectly normal and all the passers-by were just noticing your excellent eyeliner job. Just recently, you and I went to Vietnam, where you became ill almost immediately. I strong-armed the Vietnamese airline into giving you an entire row of seats to lie down in, and then spent seven nights with you in our hotel room, encouraging you to eat terrible room service spaghetti marinara while I explained to you the precise rules and regulations of Wimbledon.

I don’t remember when I met you, exactly, but my earliest memory of you is from the Drake Hotel in the summer of ’07, back when it was still cool. I wasn’t even nineteen yet. We sat in a red booth and made eyes at an entire boy band, who, parenthetically, went on to achieve brief and middling fame. That night at the Drake was part of a multi-year misadventure for the both of us, which had us following around the said boy band to numerous southern Ontario venues on account of dating some of its members. I wore heels to a nightclub for the first time that night. I know, big deal.

I met my collective best girlfriend on an airplane. Fate tends to happen on airplanes. We spent the night together crossing the Atlantic, deep in conversation about, again, terrible early-aughts emo. “Have you ever taken a writing class?” I remember you asking John Samson, years later, after he played an unplugged Weakerthans gig in a tiny bar. I melted into the walls out of embarrassment as I handed our literary hero a drink on both of our behalf. Now, though, as I try and unstopper my own creative pursuits, I’d really like to find out the answer to that question.

I know it’s obvious, but I’ve lived a lot of music with my collective best girlfriend. I actually met my collective best girlfriend at a Timber Timbre show, because my other collective best girlfriend brought her along. We sat in the front row and I was too scared to talk to my eventual collective best girlfriend, she was literally the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

This other time, I kid you not, the one and only Robert Plant winked at me and my collective best girlfriend from the stage of a music festival, and then went on to sing “Ramble On”. On other occasions, me and my collective best girlfriend tore apart silent disco parties, sang into karaoke machines on multiple continents, and demanded to hear “Small Town Girl” (eyeroll, eyeroll, eyeroll) at absolutely any venue that entertains song requests.

Collective best girlfriend, I’ve got to confess something. I feel that I separate my life into various eras, each defined by the man who paid attention to me at the time. There was my long distance period, my tortured artist who won’t commit period, my “domestic bliss” period, and whatever you and I are going to name this latest one. This kind of personal narrative, I think, is something many (straight) women engage in, and there’s a real shittiness to it, an implication that a woman’s life is defined by the man she lets in her bed.

Besides having the foul stench of patriarchy, this kind of time subdivision is extremely inefficient: it’s not the various men that are my life’s constant, it’s actually the various parts of you.

So thanks for being a constant, lady.


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