My deep friendships tend to fall into two categories.* Either there is an instant recognition of our connection or a gradual admiration that grows over time.
I was late to the cultural meme that is a young women’s obsession with Jane Austen. I met Jane when I was twenty years old on my first trip abroad. Emma was on the bookshelf in the apartment where I was living. I knew that Jane understood me better than I understood myself when I read the description of her heroine as a young women who did not know where her body ended and the rest of the world began. When I moved to Los Angeles six years ago I was introduced to Mr, Darcy, both the film version and the wet-from-the-pond BBC mini-series iteration. As I have grown older I would choose now choose Aiden over Mr. Big, Edgar Linton over Heathcliff, but I still choose Mr. Darcy. The wet or dry version is fine with me. It was my own personal Jane Austen film festival over the first few weeks of 2013 that cemented our relationship. In a haze of movie marathon madness I watched some of the lesser known (to me) works, re-watched my old favorites, spent time researching her life and reading her letters. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation, maybe it was a detox high from all holiday cookies leaving my body but my love for her characters changed into a feeling that I had a kindred spirit in the author, the artist, the woman.
This weekend I met Carol Klein. Watching her show Life in the Cottage Garden I knew we would be fast friends. She has all the qualities I like in my TV presenters–intelligent, witty, unsentimental, and British. The show is so calm and undramatic it borders on nap inducing. But I love naps! And in between the snoozey bits she climbs ladders held by her (much) younger husband, works in her shed in the rainy dark of winter, and at 65 years old propagates plants with the plan that they will create new flowers in a few years…years for new flowers! I’m proud if I make a dentist appointment three months in advance. She gleefully says things like “My math teacher always used to say that I looked as if I had been dragged through a hedge backwards.” without a hint of self pity. In her personal life she called out the BBC for having a ‘grass ceiling” when she was passed over for a promotion. She then went on to make her current hit series and write a best seller. Carol, I want to have tea with you. Even more than I want to have tea with with David Attenborough, and that is saying a lot. ( Don’t worry, David. I was a girl scout and subscribe to the whole make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold philosophy.)
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*Yes, this also applies to real-life friendships as well as fictional relationships.