“Can I tell you a secret? You have to promise not to tell though, do you promise?” My friend was clutching my arm now, partly for dramatic effect, partly because we’d been mainlining vodka for the last 5 hours and she could barely walk another step in her high heels as a result.
“Of course, you can tell me anything,” I slurred, “I love you.” Okay, if I were wearing high heels in this scenario, I wouldn’t have been able to walk either.
The night started out innocently enough: two old friends who don’t see each other enough catching up over happy hour cocktails after a long week at work. We covered the basics first, as is custom for two people who don’t spend much time together or even talk on the phone with any sort of regularity. “How’s the job going?” “Great, and yours?” “Amazing. Everything’s good with your boyfriend?” “Yep, just got back from a wonderful vacation together, and you?” “Yep, just spent a lovely weekend with his family upstate. Doing anything fun this weekend?” “Nothing special, just brunch with friends. You?” “Brunch with friends.”
The easy, superficial stuff took us through drinks #1 and #2, and by the time #3 landed on the table we’d started in on to the topic of Other People’s Lives – the other conversational hurdle you must clear before you’re allowed to cover anything substantial. We gossiped about our old pal Steven and his slightly off-putting relationship with his massage therapist, and about her roommate Amy who was earning twice our salaries but came home at 11pm every night with tears in her eyes, and about my coworker Lindsay who was moving to London with a guy she’d only dated for 3 months, debating whether that was totally romantic or totally crazy.
From there we leaped from topic to topic with abandon, laughing, whispering, gesturing flamboyantly, until suddenly it was 11pm and there we were holding onto each other outside the bar, my friend desperate to confess her secret, and me desperate to hear it. She prefaced her confession with a long and rambling sentence about how she met her boyfriend at a time in her life when she was feeling very lonely and took a few detours on the way to explaining how she was feeling confined in the present day. Finally, she stopped her thought mid-sentence, turned to me and asked, “How do you know if you love someone, or if you’re in love with someone? And how do you know if the person you’re with is the person you’re supposed to end up with forever? And how long are you supposed to keep trying before you just end it?”
I took these questions to be rhetorical, and even if they weren’t, I certainly didn’t have the answers to them. (Do any of us really?) I gave my friend a hug instead, which only served to further open the floodgates of doubt, anxiety, and irrationality concerning her three-year relationship with a man who was entirely wonderful, but maybe not quite what she wants or needs right now. We stood at the corner together a while longer, talking about life and love in that flighty, esoteric way that only drunk people can tolerate, until we both realized we had trains to catch if we ever planned to make it home. We promised to be better about spending time together, hugged one last time, and then went our separate ways.
That night in bed, I gazed at the ceiling (which was keeping me awake by spinning continuously in a counterclockwise direction), thinking about everything my friend had told me that night. And though I might seem like a terrible person for admitting it, the aftermath of the whole neurotic conversation had me feeling… well, pretty darn good.
But the good feeling inside wasn’t the result of some fucked up schadenfreude, nor was it because I was feeling the same way about my relationship and had found my kindred spirit. I guess my gratification came from the feeling that my old friend and I had managed to take what could have been a perfectly boring evening of small talk, and turned it into something more meaningful.
Here was a seemingly perfect girl with perfect hair and perfect manners, who went on perfect vacations with her perfect boyfriend and his perfect smile, confessing that life wasn’t so perfect after all. In the span of that 5 hours and countless cocktails, a person who usually exists in my life as a two-dimensional character on Facebook became a three-dimensional human being I could actually relate to.
Though they’re sometimes messy, regrettable, and accompanied by a massive (literal and emotional) hangover the next day, the beauty of our drunken late-night confessions is that they’re the antithesis of the shallow and sometimes downright fake versions of ourselves we put on display for the world to “like” and comment on. It’s hard to admit who we are and how we feel sometimes, and all that worrying about being ‘perfect’ and accepted is so exhausting I’m surprised most of us aren’t spending our weekends locked in our bedrooms crying.
So to cheer ourselves up, we decide to grab a few drinks with an old friend, and what ends up happening is a cathartic release of all the dark ugliness we’ve been hiding away because some magic potion called “The Moscow Mule” finally lets us lower our inhibitions and become a real, normal person for a few hours. And the icing on the cake, is that these drunken confessions give our companions an opportunity to say, “I get you, I’ve been there, I know you’re feeling like a total piece of shit, but guess what? I love you anyway.” And that moment feels exponentially better than 100 likes on a painstakingly posed profile picture. This is what reality looks like – and nothing’s more beautiful than that.