When I first met my best friend, I was crying in a room full of strangers…
It was a cold January night, and I was sitting in a circle of women. I was freshly single and extremely lonely. During my last relationship, I had stopped prioritizing friendships and only hung out with my boyfriend. So, after our breakup, I found myself both boyfriend-less and friendless. I spent hours on my phone in bed, scouring Facebook and Instagram, looking for communities I could join. Finally, I decided to try out a women’s group hosted by a local church.
The evening began with a round of Rose, Bud, Thorn, where everyone shared the highs and lows from their week, while sitting on a wine-red sectional. As my turn drew closer, sweat beaded above my lip, and I recited an ever-so-casual answer in my head (rose: passed my barista certification at work, bud: making new friends, thorn: gloss over the breakup).
When the person next to me finished talking, the room grew quiet. It was my turn. I squeaked out “Hi, my name is Jannelle!” but the tears welled. “I broke up with my boyfriend because I need to learn how to be happy by myself,” I gasped. “It was the right decision b-bbuu-buuuut-but my heart is breaking!”
At first, there was silence, until I felt a box of tissues in my lap and heard women murmuring ‘I’m so sorry.’ Then the woman next to me started talking, and the moment passed. After the group ended, I stood up to power-walk out the door and avoid another embarrassing meltdown. But a 20-something woman, with black glasses, a messy bun and a warm voice, walked up to me.
“I’m sorry about your breakup. I’m going through the same thing. Do you want to talk?” Her name was Angela. She seemed genuine, so we sat back down together.
What I assumed was a one-time conversation that night soon evolved into a weekly sleepover. Every Thursday, after the group, we’d hang out at Angela’s house. She’d settle into a worn khaki bean bag, and I’d cozy up on the loveseat. We’d open our snacks of choice — Cool Ranch Doritos for me, Boomchickapop for her — skip the small talk and get right to it.
We were each other’s ideal audience. When one of us needed to replay every moment leading to our breakups, the other listened and asked, “What else?” We were the female version of Harry and Sally, and while we didn’t get married, we did fall in love.
Over the months, we slowly made it out of the heartbreak woods, and our sleepovers stopped revolving around the guys we used to date. Instead, we shared other things we cared about — Angela’s obsession with the royal family, the latest videos I’d made for my multimedia class, our shared love for meeting and befriending women at church. Soon we added Saturday and Sunday hangouts, like grabbing lunch or driving to Santa Cruz on Saturday nights to perform at open mics. It wasn’t long before our relationship grew from confidants to best friends.
Eight years have passed since I cried in front of Angela and those 15 other women, and since then she and I have been together through every life event: graduations, birthdays, road trips, first corporate jobs, friend fallouts, engagements, weddings, deaths, kids. And this September, I stood by Angela’s side as her maid-of-honor.
Sometimes, I imagine my sliding door moment and wonder what life would have been like if I hadn’t decided to go to the church group that night. But the game never lasts long, because then I would have missed my soulmate, which is something I can’t bear to imagine.
Angela and me on a road trip in 2018.
How about you? How did you meet your close friends? I’d love to hear.
P.S.The joy of being friends with older women, and the love story I never thought to tell.
(Photo by Bonninstudio/Stocksy.)