“We have a champagne relationship, protected from a lot of the everyday wear and tear that other couples go through. We are free to do as we wish, but at the same time we know we love each other and that whenever we meet, it’s fantastic.”
– Victoria Bugge Øye, interviewed by the magazine D2 about her long-distance relationship (my translation)
If my life were to be retold in film, and to realistically portray the big emotional moments, it would have to include scenes like this: I sit on my couch, staring, shocked, at an e-mail. My cell phone beeps just as I am waking up, and I start the day with a little dance of joy when I read the text I just got. I log onto Google talk in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep without a few lines of encouragement from the other side of the world. I hide behind a tree in the center of Oslo to cry and scream into my cell phone. On opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, my best friend and I each open a bottle of Sam Adams and toast each other via Skype.
Has anyone done that yet: Made a film where the protagonist is always physically alone, only shown interacting with characters through videochat, Facebook, e-mail, blogging, phone calls etc.? Because some of the most important characters in the story of my life have been people who are hardly ever there in the geographical sense. But they are always there in the sense that matters: there for me.
I fill my long-distance friends in on my life in great big heaps of information. Sometimes just composing a response to “So, what is new with you?” can be a way of clearing my own head, making sense of my priorities. There is no time to waste on everyday small complaints, but for the real problems I prefer to go to my long-distance people, the ones who do not have to deal with my life every day.
Perhaps I just want someone to accept my side of things. Long-distance friend won’t say “Really, that guy?” when I describe a crush, because they’ve never met him. Long-distance friends won’t let a secret about me slip out when they talk to my co-workers or family members. Long-distance friends won’t notice if I skip past the boring or embarrassing details of a story. And yet, long-distance friends manage – again and again – to call me out on it when I’m not being completely honest with them or myself. Because they’ve been listening.
Distance has a way of focusing the attention within a friendship. There is no need to involve anyone else, to introduce friends to friends, boyfriends to families, no need to struggle with integrating the person I am when I talk to Friend A with the person I am when I talk to Friend B. Instead of going to parties with groups of other people, we interact in one long two-person conversation.
When people say online communication is impersonal, I don’t understand what they mean. On the contrary, it can be immensely personal, if it works like this: I think of you, and I tell you so immediately. I don’t have to wait until I see you to let you know I had a thought you should know about. You are directly connected to my thoughts.
That being said, sometimes I need a hug. And sometimes I need a hug from someone specific, someone who lives too far away.
And maybe I do idolize my long-distance loves because I don’t have to deal with them on a regular basis. Whenever we see each other, it’s a cause for celebration, for champagne. Like at most events involving champagne, we gloss over the imperfections and pretend there won’t be a tomorrow. But maybe that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s best to view life as a series of beautiful moments. That’s what my (roommate who happens to be a) therapist says.
Knowing you are loved – even from a distance – can be enormously comforting whenever your geographically close life feels less than great. Drinking water alone is easier when you know there will be someone to drink champagne with someday soon.
The photo was taken in Paris, by Julie Balise. We drank champagne on the last day we lived in the same country.