We all have that one person we consider our best friend—that person with whom we share our deepest and darkest secrets. My bestie is Marie; we have been friends for more than 30 years, since the second grade. When we were in middle school and high school, we sang Janet Jackson and Madonna songs into our curling irons together, talked about the boys we loved and planned our weddings. We spent our late teens and early 20s partying, going out to clubs, meeting guys and having fun.
At this point in our lives, our friendship is sisterly. We love and fight like sisters. We support one another unconditionally. Perhaps we both realize that we must stay friends because we have far too much dirt on the other to become enemies.
I recently returned to my hometown for a summer visit. Marie and I went out for drinks within the first few days. We caught up on each other’s recent developments, which mostly included talking about the upcoming trips we were planning with our families. Marie also shared that she had been sleeping in the guest bedroom for a week because of some marital issues. Then, she dropped the bomb. “I need a girls’ trip! Let’s go someplace warm and pretend it is Vegas. You know, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Marie had cheated on her husband once before, when we were in our early 30s. One night, she was really angry about something, so she made plans to go out with a former colleague. She went out for dinner and went back to his place. They slept together once. When she told me about it, I was hard on her, like a good friend would be, and I reminded her that she had a very loyal husband. Marie reminded me that her liaison stemmed from a fire lit long before she met her husband. She had to put the fire out; it was only sex, and it was hot, nasty sex, unlike the nice, romantic, vanilla sex at home. I held firm to my thoughts and let her deal with her own guilt.
Marie’s marital infidelity severely tested our friendship. I had spent seven years in a relationship with my daughter’s father in which he cheated twice, maybe more. Marie supported me through these hard times, and when I kicked my ex out she saw my heartbreak and devastation. How could she witness these things and consider cheating on her spouse? It took every ounce of inner strength and the invocation of at least a dozen episodes of Oprah for me to forgive Marie’s behavior. Once I realized that Marie’s betrayal was not mine to forgive, it was easy not to judge her. I also assumed that a guilty conscience would eat her alive, but I cannot say for sure if that was the case.
Regardless, it hurts deeply to watch close friends make poor decisions. I am currently single, so I wouldn’t mind a trip to a tropical island in How Stella Got Her Groove Back style. I cannot think of anything better than a girls’ weekend, or week, lying in the sun, drinking margaritas, swaying to tropical music with a handsome man or three. No matter how much I love Marie, the idea of taking this trip with her does not excite me. Instead, I am anxious and sometimes nauseated when I think about it. I don’t want to be in a position to fight off judging her destructive behavior, nor do I want to enable her bad decisions. Every once in a while, I wrestle with the possibility. We could take a trip—like the good old days.
While I struggle with Marie’s choices, the feminist and nontraditionalist parts of me knows that man and woman were not created to be monogamous. Women are as capable of separating love and sex as men—a fact Marie and I repeatedly put to the test during our early 20s. So, perhaps a woman seeking out some “strange” as they say, will make her stronger within her marriage. Those who support the legalization of prostitution make the same argument. Marie shared with me that after she cheated, she found it easier to deal with her husband’s downfalls. But I ultimately worry about Marie’s first time leading to a slippery slope. Instead of spending time working on her marriage with her husband and their counselor, she decides to find a one night stand. If Oprah doesn’t have a problem with this, I’m pretty sure Dr. Phil has something to say about it.
Maybe if Marie has a weekend of hot sex with a relative stranger, her guilt will help her forgive her husband’s failures. I don’t condone her past behavior, but knowing the intimate details of her marriage and its history certainly allow me to understand. I’m not sure whether we will book a girls’ trip or not, but I am sure that I long for easier days, younger days, days when choices were black and white without so much gray.