Part I: Jealousy
Twenty years ago, walking the halls of a then suburban Pennsylvania high school, no one would have suspected the collision of circumstance that would make Sandy and I writing partners—two girls on opposite ends of the teenage social spectrum.
In high school, I was an athlete. It was my identity, my calling.
My senior year was spent focused on convincing Mr. Romano, my Algebra II/Trigonometry teacher, that it would be easier to pass me with a “C” than to see me in class again next year. All I wanted was to graduate and play lacrosse in college.
Then there was Sandy. She was the party girl—fun and flirty—but also the girl who was friends with my childhood best friend, Sue. I had let a boy come between Sue and I, a bad decision made at 15 that had haunted me ever since.
Meanwhile Sandy was reaping the benefits of a loyal friend, beautiful both inside and out, that I had, of course, screwed up.
She had a tight-knit group of girlfriends that always seemed to have been having fun. I heard stories of them having a great time together—hanging with guys from the Valley Forge Military Academy, or trips to Philly (where I was never allowed to go because my Dad was a cop), or just having sleepovers.
All I could see of Sandy was that she had what I really wanted: my best friend, Sue.
All the while Joan was jealous of me, I was walking around extremely jealous of her.
Here was a girl who was beautiful, athletic, popular, and always had a boyfriend. Not only that, her boyfriends were always good-looking guys older than us.
While I never thought of Joan as my enemy, I did feel envious: Joan had the life I wanted.
What would have happened if we had acknowledged those feelings back then in high school?
I saw Sue often after high school and kept in touch. So did Joan—we just never saw Sue at the same time. We did both get updates on how each other’s lives were going through Sue, and after my most recent visit, she shared that Joan was getting a divorce.
“She’s doing well, she’s strong but she definitely has some stuff going on,” was the report.
At that point I was in (what I thought was) a happy relationship.
When I left Sue, I went home and checked to see whether Joan was on Facebook. She was, and for some reason I felt the need to seek her out.
There she was. She looked beautiful, just as I remembered.
I remember thinking, “Do I really want to do this?”
I sighed, letting something greater than me take over, then I clicked “Send Friend Request.”
We began to chat, not really about much other than Sue and superficial things. Then we made the decision to get together. It had been long enough, we decided, and it felt right. We set a date a few months out.
Two months later, I hopped in my car and headed to Baltimore to see her. In the time between our last conversation and that time, my boyfriend and I had split up. I was devastated. In truth, I felt more broken and embarrassed than anything, but I went anyway. I could have never imagined what was in store for me that night.
This is who I got to meet for the very first time: Joan Natoli, a woman with three gorgeous children, in the middle of a divorce.
She had everything to be upset about, and was anything but. Joan was empowered, strong and downright inspiring. The qualities she embodied were exactly what I wanted for myself.
I soaked in every moment with her, seeing it as an opportunity to learn, love and pick up the pieces I had left scattered everywhere.
I finally understood, in that one night, what a gift it was to connect with her.
We swapped war stories and how we either moved forward from them or planned to. I met a sister that night. I left the next day feeling strong, confident, and positive I would survive a breakup I thought I could not, less than 48 hours earlier.
There we were, two loosely associated high school classmates brought together under the circumstances of heartbreak, and one special friend that bound us together.
That night, though, we became more than just classmates: we became sisters.
Sandy and I are single 38-year-old empowered women taking our lives back. Not just from the men who tried to break us, but also from ourselves—from the untruths we told ourselves about who we are and what we want out of life. I am single after over a decade of marriage with three kids, and Sandy is single with that free spirit, childless swagger. As different as we are, we are fundamentally the same in our fearless pursuit of our power and happiness.
We come together here to not only share “our” story as friends, but what we did that will help other women empower themselves after a breakup or divorce. We want to build a stronger, larger sisterhood and to hear the other feminine voices in our lives that we often push away out of jealousy.
As I sit here writing this almost four months after my breakup, I find myself shockingly calm, content and happy. If you’d told me I’d be feeling this way back in March, I never would have believed you. In the past, it’s taken me much longer to get over any breakup. Why was this time different?
I believe that in large part, it is due to my friendship with the women in my life—Joan included.
Joan & Sandy
As women, how many of us have been jealous of another woman whom in reality we never even knew?
Most of us have at least one woman like this in our lives.
What’s really sad is that much of the time, we’ve made up the story that she has what we want—it’s often not even true.
But this story often leads to, “I don’t like her.” We don’t even know her and we already don’t like her, and then we justify why it’s okay to feel jealous.
We make up details about her life, and lie to ourselves, fostering beliefs of inadequacy about our own selves facilitated by fantasies about other women. We give up on other women—because it is easier to simply stay behind a mask or jealousy than to seek out authentic truth about that woman.
The problem with this is that it robs us of potential connections with those we need it from the most—other women.
We learned, through coming together, that rather than having something to fear from each other, we each had something to give—and receive.
Each of us saw a beauty and strength in the other that had us feel inspired, but also uplifted. As women, we are bonded.
The resilience and power that are so impressive in another woman resonates in part because it reflects your own.
We know it did for us.
Sandy & Joan
Sandy Rosenblatt graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in health and human development (family studies) and a minor in women studies. She also serves as Executive Director of an assisted living home, overseeing care and treatment for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sandy is an adventure junkie with a soft-but no-nonsense coaching style, who drives her students to improve themselves even when their own insecurities are holding them back. When coaching, she applies “a strong hand in a velvet glove.”
Joan Natoli holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in psychology with a minor in women’s studies and a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Loyola in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a mother of three amazing kids, and an active community volunteer, who is entering a new phase of life as a single woman. She loves the beach, working out, having fun with loved ones and laughing her way through life.
Editor: April Dawn Ricchuito
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