‘Tis the Season To Be Leaving

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.

I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. I live in a military community  where  no  one  stays  for  many  years.  I learned a long time ago that if you get attached to every cool new co-worker or neighbor, you’ll just get your heart broken when they leave. And they will leave.

Flying by Night

My 15-year-old is learning that the hard way, this week, as she  says goodbye to one of her closest friends before he moves to the other side of the country. I’d like to be able to console her better, but I know exactly how she feels. I’ve been there too many times over the years and this year is no different. “Pack up the kids and come on up here,” Jillian emails me. She loves her new job in Washington, D.C. And they seem to love her. After years of being treated like an outcast here in the Bible Belt, Jillian is now happily at work in a community that not  only  tolerates  but  encourages  her  pentagrams,  Goth-red hair, nose ring, dragon tattoo, and oh-is-my-neckline-really-that- low cleavage. I haven’t told her that I just  turned down a job within 20 minutes of hers.

Two other  favorite  colleagues  just  moved  across  the country  this Spring, and as of this week, I’ve heard of three more people—ones I feel close to—who will be moving in the next few months. One to remarry. The other two, like my colleagues who are already gone,  because  of career opportunities that weren’t available here.

I try to tell my daughter how the world is smaller now than  when  I was her age. When my teenaged friends moved away, we wrote letters for a few months and got tired of waiting for the response. Now there are cell phones with free minutes, text messages, Instant Messaging,  and email to keep in touch. Some of my closest friends live over a thousand miles away and we see each other maybe once a year, and yet it’s as if no time at all has passed.

Shannon worries that she and her friend will be like so many  other friendships she’s heard about—including ones in her own history—and they’ll lose touch. I promise her it won’t happen if a relationship is something they both want. Long distance relationships can work, but it all depends on the people in the relationship and what they expect of each other—as well as what they let society tell them they have to expect of each other. If they want to stay good friends, and both of them  want it, they’ll find a way. I’m fond of Brian, his Goth look, and his viewpoint, and I hope he and Shannon are lifelong friends and not just friends for a reason or a season.

One of the best relationships I ever had was in my first year of college. We met on a beach trip to Panama City with my friend, the preacher’s daughter. She and I made a plan: “Scout the dance floor of a  beachside club and meet back at the bar with the guy of your choice.”  The guys ended up being best friends who lived half an hour from our apartment.

My guy  worked  at  different  job  sites  for  two  to  six months, but the job sites were anywhere from six to eight hours away. While our friends’ relationship didn’t last the month, he and I hit it off so well that he drove to my apartment every Fri- day night, stayed over with family, and then drove back on Sun- day afternoon. He had his work to do during the week and I had my work and studies, then we played on the weekends. Neither of us had any complaints with the arrangement. When our romance ended a year later, it wasn’t because of the geographical distance  between us. We stayed friends for several years after that and were still fond of each other, but honestly, I needed a man I could talk to on subjects other than dance music and motorcycles. I couldn’t have those wonderful Life-Death-and-the- Universe discussions with him, but the eight-hour distance was not a problem.

As I tell Shannon, it’s easier to maintain a platonic long- distance relationship than a romantic one. I don’t really under- stand why. The expectation of the availability of sex every night, whether it happens or not? The trust factor—even though living under the same roof doesn’t really  have anything to do with trust and commitment?

I guess there’s the societal expectation that you have to curl up next to the same person at the same time every night, share their air every day, be joined at the hip. And maybe that leads to two people sitting alone together in front of reruns and not  speaking  for  hours  at  a  time  but  still  technically  being “together.”

I don’t think it’s necessary to have a man hovering over my  shoulder or getting under my feet all the time, but then, I like my space, I have a full life, and I have plenty to do that’s of a solitary nature. When I’m with someone, I like to be focused entirely  on  us  or  what  we’re  doing  together,  and  when  I’m alone, I’ll focus entirely on my work and, wow, can I be productive that way!

But I’m realistic enough to know that most men want a woman who’s needier and clingier than that, whether they admit it or not. They say they want an independent woman, but they don’t really mean it. They have to know where she is all the time and what she’s doing and who with, even if he’s the only man she wants. And unless a man is comfortable being alone some- times and able to trust and give as much freedom to her as he’d like  for  himself—which  most,  I’ve  found,  are  not—a  long- distance romance won’t work.

Since Shannon’s friendship with Brian is one of soul- mates rather than heartmates, I don’t think they’ll have a problem keeping in touch.