I ran into an old friend recently.
It was one of those funny situations where you see someone out of context: a teacher at the grocery store; your boss in a Target clearance aisle. I hadn’t seen M., the girlfriend of a friend I met through my sister, since last New Year’s. We were in Hallmark.
The last time we saw each other, in those newborn hours of 2015, I was still adjusting to the idea of being pregnant. It seemed a strange concept . . . almost an embarrassing one. Despite being 29 years old, married and independent and financially sound, the admission that I was expecting was always accompanied by my own nervous laughter.
In fact, I’d been whispering it. A friend pointed that out. “I’m pregnant!” I’d hiss, raising my eyebrows, even if everyone in the room already knew the state of my womb.
I told M. at the New Year’s party, her eyes lighting up. She confided that she was anticipating a marriage proposal in coming months. And though we hadn’t seen each other in almost a year, M. is so easy to talk to that we can pick up where we left off.
“So,” she said in the card store, hands cross delicately on a counter, “you had your baby?”
I blinked at her. A beat of silence passed, then two. Paper wishes of “Happy birthday!” and “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Baptism!” hemmed us into a corner. My own stack of cards drooped in my hands.
“Oh wow, yes,” I said. “Are we … not Facebook friends?”
For two 30-year-olds in 2015, this was . . . bizarre. Almost unimaginable. But I wracked my brain to think of any posts I’d seen from M. in recent months — photos of a tropical vacation, news of a job offer — only to draw a blank.
“Oh, I’m not on Facebook,” she said. “Do you have a boy or a girl?”
To see a friend — in person, in the flesh — and tell her the news of my son was . . . well, it was invigorating. Just as she’d shared in my happiness with my in-person pregnancy announcement, the news of Oliver’s birth brought on the same excitement.
M. and I don’t trade texts or tweets; we don’t “like” each other’s lunches or comment on cat videos. Just as I knew nothing of her engagement (her boyfriend had indeed popped the question), she knew nothing of my baby. M. hadn’t seen our mutual friends in months, either.
How rare it is to tell — really tell — my own stories now. I’m so used to divulging my experiences on Facebook, Twitter, through my column and this blog — to prepare vignettes of my life for public consumption; to frame my anecdotes in an Instagram square. Nothing feels private — not unless you work hard to keep it that way. Everything is in a feed.
Telling M. about Oliver and watch her eyes crinkle? That brought me joy. And when I saw her ring (on her actual hand), it was all I could do not to jump up and down with her.
This is not to say I’m going ghost online. I love keeping up with friends and family through social media . . . and would be pretty bored without it. But that chat with M. definitely got me thinking about the nature of connection — and how I might want to be more present in others’ lives.
Thumbs-up emoji. Hands clapping emoji. Pink heart.