There is an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie yammers about the concept of “family”, and distinguishes between the family you are born with and the family you make for yourself.
Namely: Your friends.
I share this love for the family you make for yourself, and I have many friends that I consider family. And in the pantheon of my framily, Miss Sarah Barmak holds a very special place in my heart.
When I saw her for the first time in a year in Vermont, I literally welled up with tears. I call her my pseudo sister-in-law, because the title “my brother’s girlfriend” is woefully inadequate.
She and my brother just celebrated their fourth anniversary, much to my delight. I like to remind him that she was mine first, though. Before I introduced her to my brother (the most important man in the world to me), I was proud to call her my friend. Granted, she was a fairly new friend – I had only known her for a year – but I could tell we would undoubtedly become closer and better friends for many years to come. Already in the brief space I had known her, we had shared intimate details and been brazenly honest (as we are wont to do) about all our romantic and familial aches and pains.
I could see that we would be friends for a long time, and I could also see that my brother would go mad over her: a petite, wordy, opinionated, brainy brunette with a massive comic book collection and a pair of 12 hole DMs? Perfetto.
Their meeting was momentous. Those of you who were there will remember it well. For those who weren’t I’ll recount it sometime for you. Certainly I plan to tell the story drunk as a skunk, garbed in a miniskirt and tux blazer at their wedding (should they choose to get married).
It may not exactly have been love at first sight, but it didn’t take them long to see how well matched they were: she moved into Ben’s house six weeks after they met. This was not only one of Ben’s most dramatic courtings, it is also the first time he’s lived with any woman. I am proud of my match.
Since then I have come to know and love Sarah on a much deeper and richer level than I perhaps ever could have otherwise. And should she and Ben not work out in the end (knock on wood), I will continue to love her just the same. As I said when they began dating, our friendship will not change. I didn’t introduce a friend to my brother just to risk losing a friend. That would be silly, to grow closer to somebody just to put your bond in jeapordy.
Because in so many ways she has become like a sister to me. In fact, when I came down ill this week, she cared for me like family would: cooking me food, buying me medication, and putting up with my insufferable whining. People’s true colours always show in times of stress, and she showed she truly has a maternal nature, whether she knows it or not. Seeing her care for my brother in his recent times of ill health touches my heart like not much ever has.
I like to tease Sarah that she has a cold heart, because she doesn’t instinctively love puppies, skiing, or babies. But she knows (I hope) that I’m only teasing. She may have a very independent spirit, take a very post-modern attitude towards life, and occasionally say insensitive things, but she truly does have a heart of gold. She is a good person, to the very core, who has genuine compassion and who shows incredibly generosity at every turn. That is not something you can easily say about people.
We are not exactly cut from the same cloth – simply put, she is a cat and I am a dog. We differ in many many ways, and I worry that perhaps she is under the impression that I disparage her ways because they are not like my own.
This will sound cliché, but its true: I love her all the more because of the ways in which we differ. I love that she can teach me about so many things I know so little about: philosophy, visual art, time, relativity (in all its forms).
I love even more how I learn from her in personal ways: she is a paragon of so many virtues I admire in others and lack myself. She is one of the most non-judgemental people I have ever met. She is humble and modest (dear God, could I learn from her). She really knows how to relax, calm down, and take it easy (again, dear God, could I learn from her). And, perhaps most of all, I can learn from her patience. There are so many ways that I admire and learn from Sarah, and I’m still discovering more five years after meeting her.
But for all her wisdom and reason, she is highly skilled at letting loose, having fun, and on occasion, making a silly mess of herself. I mean, just check out the pics of her making faces on her birthday. Brilliant. Beautiful women who are not afraid to make themselves look ugly for the sake of comedy are the best.
She loves to eat – passionately. She is actually my favourite person on the face of the earth to eat with. Not a single thought is ever given to nutrition, calories or fads – we just love to eat good food that is good for us together. It’s as though food tastes better when I share it with her.
She has immaculate, quirky, classy and original taste, and her birthday and Christmas presents always become fast favourites in my wardrobe. You know that pink-coral cross-tie incredibly low cut top of mine? Or that tiny pine cone encased in silver? Or the recycled magazine earrings? Pure Barmak.
Best of all, she is one of the wittiest humans I have ever met – and that is saying a lot. But I am not being hyperbolic. She has an unparalleled ability to sum up just about anything, no matter how complicated or ridiculous, with the most compact, succinct and hilarious statements.
Intelligent, compassionate, open-minded, complex, and of course, beautiful, Sarah is truly a unique and wonderful woman, one that I am sincerely proud to count among both my friends and my family. I feel like I got to pick my own sister-in-law – how cool. And, who knows. Maybe I also got to help craft my own nieces and nephews… no pressure or anything. But, you know… just maybe.
Even if that never happens, and even if things don’t work out in the end with my brother (knock on wood), I am still so happy that they came together in the first place, and that I grew to love and know her as I do now. My life has been better with her in it.
And you know, just like a great love, or a best friend, I remember the day we met perfectly. We had a meeting at The Varsity (where we were co-editors), when I was the science editor and she was the rep covering the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses at the U of T. After she left the meeting early, somebody mentioned her name. “Who’s Sarah – you mean that really pretty and funny brunette?” I asked.
I’ve learned a lot about her in the past five years. But the first impression didn’t do too bad.