Beliefnet
Many moons ago, when disco was king, gray hair for grandparents and crow's feet for birds, I was set up with someone. As it turns out, it was the only successful set up I've ever had, resulting in a relationship that is still thriving after two decades.

Because this was how I met my best friend.

Our friendship was birthed in church when a couple members approached me and mentioned another teen who attended a different service. "You two are so much alike," they said. "You should meet. You would really click." I heard this every week. "Have you met Pam yet? You're two peas in a pod." Yeah yeah yeah. Instead of being curious, I was growing resentful. Who was this Pam chick and why were people shoving her down my throat? And so it was that each week, the more they enthused about "Perfect Pam," the more determined I became to avoid her.

Since we traveled in the same circles, however, it was inevitable that we would meet. And one day we did, at a young adult activity. When we shook hands with mutual disinterest, she revealed that she too had heard about me. The expression on her face was that of one who has sniffed something rancid. Obviously "Perfect Pam" was as sick of me as I was of her. Fine.

But we kept running into each other. And slowly, reluctantly, a friendship, supported by common backgrounds and interests, started taking root. We were both the eldest daughters and had blue-collar Irish fathers who were from the Midwest, had married Hispanic women, and were rugged, down to earth souls. Pam and I were both good students, shy with boys, shared old fashioned virtues and had no idea what we wanted to do with our lives when we "grew up," whenever that was. Over time we grudgingly had to concede that maybe the church folks were right: we were kindred spirits.

And if I could find them today, I would thank them a thousand times over for their insistence that Pam and I meet. Because she has been my best friend, therapist, biggest fan, strongest critic, most ardent supporter and more. Men have come and gone. Companies have shut down, down-sized and laid me off. Friends have married, procreated, reprioritized or relocated. Pam, however, has been the one constant in my life.

In our twenties we shared a beachfront apartment. It was during this angst-ridden period in our lives that we often provided a ready shoulder for the other to sob on. Countless nights found us wailing about our latest failed diet, boyfriend, aspiration or dream. When Pam decided to do something "different" with her hair one Saturday and came home with a purple mullet and a face full of tears, I was there to tell her it wasn't so bad, even though we both knew it was horrific. Just as horrific as the time she rushed through the front door, shrieking to call 911 because she'd found body organs scattered on the beach. I still snicker when I recall the subsequent look on the faces of the police as they patiently explained, in voices usually reserved for children, that the "body organs" Pam had found were, in fact, jelly fish.

Often our phone would ring and she'd enjoy a friendly half hour chat before turning to hand me the phone: "It's your dad," she would say. My dad! How the heck could she talk to him for that long? He and I couldn't manage ten minutes before fighting over something insignificant, like whether women should be allowed to deliver mail because, he'd insist, the job is called mailman. Such a chauvinist, my dad, but Pam adored him. When he was sick with leukemia, she was my only friend to stay in touch with him and one of my few friends to attend his funeral.

In our three decades of friendship, we've had few arguments and only one real fight. It involved a man, of course. Pam was angry because I had canceled our evening plans in favor of a last-minute date. I thought she was being unreasonable because we were on vacation at the time and it's not like I could ever see this guy again. Didn't matter, she said. I was accused of breaking our cardinal commandment crossing all borders and international datelines: thou shalt never dumpeth a friend for a date. This fight was particularly memorable and not just because it was our most heated. We happened to be flinging insults and accusations while standing in the middle of a boulevard in downtown Auckland, New Zealand. Today I recall a surreal scene in which our angry voices echoed throughout streets that were empty because it was a quiet Sunday afternoon when all the shops were closed and pedestrians gone. One would have never guessed we were friends, let alone best friends.

But as will any friendship of substance, we survived that bump in the road. Over the years we've pursued separate friends, relationships, hobbies and careers. Always though, we've remained a fixture in each other's lives. Pam is analytical, kindhearted and impetuous. I call her Spock, from Star Trek, because she can be too damned logical, often at times when I want to be irrational. Which is why, more than once, she has saved me from myself. I tend to be creative, resourceful and restless. She calls me Lambert, from a cartoon we once saw about a lion who thought he was a lamb.

I'll convince her not to quit her job when she's angry or upset, to wait until she has another one lined up, and she'll remind me of my many publications when I lament over my stalled writing career. We have the keys to each other's houses and one day I came home to find she had meticulously painted a living room wall in maroon. She knew I'd wanted to do this and it looks stunning. She recently opened a Christmas gift to find a porcelain doll I'd noticed her eyeing when we were shopping one day. We attend each other's family affairs, from barbeques and parties to weddings and funerals. Often we'll step in when the other doesn't have a date and would like a companion for a reception or reunion.

We've seen each other through fad diets, bad dates, love extraordinaire, remarkable achievements, joyous celebrations and unbearable despair. Without spouses in our lives, we offer each other an emotional pillar of support that so many singles seem to lack. Often I wonder: how might I have turned out if not for the guidance, faith and support of my best friend? Someone I once snidely referred to "Perfect Pam".

Two peas in a pod? Indeed. And one helluva good set up.

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