In 2011, Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, told us that we should learn to choose our battles in a post that involved a giant metal chicken she named Beyonce. The hilarious post went viral, and people began to post photos of themselves with giant metal chickens all over the world. For a while, I’ll bet sales of scrap metal soared while the uninformed wondered why people were suddenly scouring stores for metal avians. I don’t remember how I came across that post, but I’ll always remember the events that followed because, in truth, enormous metal poultry has had a bigger impact on my life than one might think possible. Online friendships were not new to me before The Bloggess came along; in fact, I met Friend who helped me keep my son alive and well online just in the nick of time, a few months before he was born. To this day I remain grateful to her for telling him that he just wasn’t a boob man and to get him some formula and that the chicken and liver cat treats he’d eaten while we were on the phone (that were in a yellow and purple container that looked an awful lot like the Gerber Graduates one, in my defense) would make his hair shiny. I’ve tried my hand at online dating, which is basically why I don’t date. But the friendships that emerged and then endured in the wake of Jenny’s epic tale of Victor’s lack of whimsy at having an enormous metal chicken staring at him have deepened over the years to become the kind that if I really needed to get rid of a body, I would have people all over the country, and the world, scrambling to help. Yep, those kind of friendships. The kind where they wouldn’t even ask why.
The first person I met through Beyonce was Dee, who lives far away in a peaceful land called Canada, and who is one of the few friends you will find by name here. I think we met because I posted a photo of Blue Ivy, my baby Beyonce, to a Facebook group devoted to metal chickens (there are Facebook groups for EVERYTHING). It’s been a long time since a day has passed without us messaging back and forth about our lives and the people we want to throat punch, the boys we’ve loved and then wished vaporized, the kids we adore but who befuddle us, financial mishaps, how to turn $10 into gas and food for three weeks, and what our retirement will be like when my spawn takes over the world and sends us off into exile on a quiet tropical island filled with hundreds of cats and one dog and many shirtless cabana boys. We have it all figured out. We’ve even been saving ideas to Pinterest. We’ll drink whiskey all day and wear outrageous hats and when our visitors get on our nerves, or our cats pee in inappropriate places, they will be set off on a boat to WEDON’TCAREWHERE with a passing, “Bye, Felicia!”
On our worst days, at our lowest points, we can make one another laugh. We tell each other hard truths that we don’t want to hear. I introduced her to St. Therese of Lisieux, and her Flower Power, and to this day, we send one another photos of roses that remind us of her. Neither of us is devoutly religious and we, along with our friends, all believe in “Be Kind” as the universal religious message, but we can attest to being witness to a miracle. Or twelve. Dee did an epic job with Flat Daniel for the spawn’s third-grade class, and even got him a photo with a Canadian Mountie in his dress uniform holding the spawn’s version of Flat BatStanley. On Facebook, we’re engaged, because we almost “lost” Thanksgiving of 2015 (well, yes, holidays in our tribe are a often competitive events) and our drag across the finish line involved my announcement of our engagement and her hilarious comment that, “There’s nothing like finding out that you’re engaged on Facebook, on Facebook!” Her mom took the news like a pro, and she’s welcomed me and the spawn as we’d hope any parent of any child would, with warmth and laughter and love. Of course, in light of recent electoral and political events, that engagement might have just been an act of spectacular forethought, which I typically lack.
Dee invited me to an elite barbecue soon after we connected, and my initial response truly was… OMG.WTF? BBQ! There, I met even more friends. And these people are kind of like my tribe now. I know my real life friends on Facebook and Instagram wonder about these people from all over the world who chime in with an uncanny knowledge, often deeper and broader than theirs, of my very own sanctum sanctorum. Because as Dee and I became closer, I also got to know other people at this very special BBQ. And we became closer, too. But I also learned that metal chickens, much like real ones, some dogs and the men I date, can be real jerks, and it’s important to keep laughing, even through the tears sometimes.
These are folks who have offered to have us live with them when things were hard, or I was scared. When my car broke down, and local friends turned taking me to the grocery store into a seven act play over five hours and involving 72 cast members, my online friends hired Uber for me or had Amazon Fresh deliver groceries. When I’ve found myself in strange situations with the oddest people we’ve ever come across (not a rarity for me — I am a magnet for weirdness), they’ve been the ones with the solutions, but also the perspactles, if I may paraphrase Glennon. We’ve seen each other through marriages and divorces, births of children and deaths of parents, and bouts with cancer. New cars, new dates, old problems, ex-spouses, drunk brothers-in-law and other oddities…we show up for each other, in force at times, for it all. And you never want to catch us all online, at one time, when one of us is hurting because then the Force is With Us. We’ve kept one another company in waiting rooms during surgeries, waiting for test results, waiting for juries to return, during dialysis and chemo and through unspeakable holidays with family. There’s a candid honesty amongst us that’s something even deeper than most would go in the confessional. If I have a tech question, I have tech friends. If I have questions about Ehlers-Danlos, migraines, parenting, menopause, how to use the new crock pot, how to play Exploding Kittens? They know. Want to know how to make your sucky secretary jump out of a window? They got that with a few gadgets from ThinkGeek. Got a neighbor who annoys you beyond the pale? They’ll send him spoons. Yep, random spoons. From all over the world. With no notes, for no real reason, until he thinks he’s going crazy. It may not make him move, but it will make you laugh, and that’s not a crime.
Along the way, I came across a much larger version of Blue Ivy, which, of course, I had to have. But she was troublesome. Honestly, if you think real chickens can be work, you haven’t tried life with metal ones. I live on the Main Line, not in Texas, where the whimsical value of metal poultry is exalted and seen as eccentric, not discussed as something offensive and problematic to property values and about which to write an ordinance against like here in Tredyffrin Township. So, for some time, she stayed indoors, in the living room, staring out at the great expanse of the foothills of Valley Forge Mountain and allowing Blue Ivy to hang out with me at my professional offices. But then in an unprecedented and reluctantly described (by the spawn, to the social workers and doctors at CHOP) battle involving my then six-year-old, our laundry hamper and a war in which he was leading an army of odd action figures, Beyonce broke the spawn’s arm. And so she had to take up her vigil in another, less likely to cause injury to rambunctious children, locale. To this day, she stands there, often with one of our two orange tabby cats, Dark Lord Cheeto and Crown Prince Nedward, peering out from under her. Aside from the condo association’s confused objections, she remains a fixture. Other asthetic things aside, it’s easy to give directions and describe which house is mine.
I’m not in any way discounting the friendships that exist in real time, in real life. They matter, they support and sustain us, and there is nothing like sitting in a friend’s kitchen, drinking coffee (by which I mean wine) and talking it out or dancing it out or bitching and moaning until you are thrown out. It takes a village, people. Parenting. Adulting. Coupling. Uncoupling. Living. Coping. You need your village. What I am suggesting, though, is that there are all kinds of villages, and all of those villages involve deep, lasting friendships, and none are better than any another. So, as we start a new year and leave a particularly trying one behind, you might want to broaden your definition of best friends if you haven’t already and are feeling adrift if the wake of another round of Hallmark Holidays that were less Hallmark and more horror movie. If you’re feeling alone because you don’t have somewhere to go for New Year’s Eve, do you have online friends you’ll be messaging or a group to which you belong where your like-minded compatriots will be hanging out in some cyber-space? For those of us who are introverts, or have an aversion to putting on real pants and going out of the doors, or just cannot even, online connections can sustain us through the worst parts of life and help us celebrate our successes. Dee and I both have plans that involve wearing pants and being amongst other humans on New Year’s Eve, but you can be damned sure, that even though most of a continent separates us, we’ll be together somehow when 2017 begins. And I hope you will be with your people, too. And if you’re not, feel free to be with us. Cause we rock, and everyone around us does, too. We make sure of that.