Saturday, December 11, 2010
It's About Time
(It took a night with my most long term and cherished girlfriends to jump start me into blogging blather once again).
I read a book a couple of years ago that stuck with me. It’s called Tripping the Prom Queen and the premise centers on how women are our own worst enemy, that the failure of your best girlfriend brings you secret pleasure and that the sexism and oppression a woman faces over her life in most part comes directly from her female colleagues, natural foes and yes, her girlfriends.
The book conjured up painful memories of my childhood where I was kicked, pinched, harassed, called boy hog, trollup (had to look this one up), all the while dodging rocks from the fifth grade she devils in my class. I remember a particularly excruciating moment where the Queen She Devil invited every girl in class to an ice cream shop during the lunch hour, except for me. I remember sitting at my desk surrounded by elementary school testosterone, and making a decision to survive. I adapted to the ten year old boy way of life. I played football, I wore vans and rags (remember those pants?) and didn’t pay too much attention to my hair - for those of you young Tomboys with long hair, the best way to keep it out of your way is the standard French braid, but get someone to do it well so you won’t have to wash it for up to a week.
High school was a little different but not much. I wasn’t being pelted with rocks, but I still felt like an outcast among the pubescent young women who had boobs and menstrual cycles, of which I had neither. Being fingered as the late bloomer, I acclimated by being semi funny and self deprecating. Still, being in the presence of my fellow female counterparts was always filled with giddy, nervous anxiety.
Then I went to college. It was there by the grace of good luck, and perhaps a little divine intervention, I ran into a handful of women (I call them girls) who not only taught me how to love my own sex, but they eventually became my family.
Oh, these girls, we have not towed the line of responsiblity, like the time X1 showed up to a formal gala in thermal underwear to give a piece of her mind - rather loudly - to a girl who owed her money, or when X2 thought that I wouldn't notice the change missing from my waitressing tip jar for months, or when yours truly got clocked in the eye at a bar in San Francisco when I was trying to stop some a-wipe from stealing X3's purse. They dragged me down to the underbelly of the 90's. For all intents and purposes, those girls should be fleeting memories.
But they are not.
And back to the book's theme, it’s not as if we spare each other from verbal pillage. Everyone has their faults and these girls will be the first to point it out. When X5 grew her hair long, we all protested and all but handed her a pair of scissors. When X2, in a moment of weakness, confessed that she didn’t like going out and meeting people, we told her that she would end up an old maid. In fact, just two days ago, we were all celebrating X3’s fortieth birthday (old maid) and I was promptly told that my hair was too light, too long and that the necklace I was wearing needed to be removed immediately. We also conducted a strategic dog pile on X4 who has spent, in our most judgmental opinion, way too much time pining over some foreign hothead who has his own challenges following the law.
But these verbal assaults are signs of our unfettered friendship. Is it due to our unconditional commitment towards sustaining our little “friends network”? (A coined nickname given to us in college by some boys who were engaged in physical relations with a few of us and didn’t want said relations discussed. Sorry, too late. And, by the way, she faked it).
Back to X3 turning forty. It’s incredibly odd to do the math on this one, not because she’s forty, which, sorry, X3, but is old. But it’s about how long we have been hanging around. If you’re counting, that’s twenty-two years, or over half our lives. It's surprising we still talk, let alone make concerted efforts to spend time together.
What I realized while spending this recent evening with these girls was that they along with other women in my life serve a purpose no man can. Sorry, Pants and my business partners and other dudes I call my closest friends. It’s true. Here are a couple of reasons why:
Details are required. A “hi, how are you?” means that you must answer with several anecdotes about how your partner completely screwed the pooch on your birthday or the specifics on why you are taking your landlord to court. “Fine, great or okay” are completely unacceptable responses and you will be verbally beaten down.
Downloading on the status of your private (as in parts) life is mandatory. We need to know how many times a week you’re getting it, and if you aren’t, what you plan to do to get it.
Psychology 101 is applied. Have a problem? We likely have five different solutions depending on who you consult. If you consult us all at once, don’t be surprised if a fight erupts over the varying differences with how to deal with your little quandary. Have a whiney kid? The women who don’t have kids in the group typically have the best ways to curb the behavior. Have trouble meeting eligible singles? Ask the divorcees in the group.
Insults show that you care. Hey, if they aren't going to tell you it's time to get yourself some Xanax or hit the gym more often, who will? Time to lay off the sauce? No surpises here. But, what if you're doing everything good and right in the world? Feeling fit? Feeling successful at work? Is the marriage good? Kid speaks six languages? Don't go thinking you're all that and a bag of chips. They politely remind you that you suck and you should shut up until your need to gloat subsides.
Loyalty is a given. If you go for months without connecting (or returning voice mails), you can be sure you won't be written off. You will, however, be publicly flogged next time everyone is together. Also, if by chance you find yourself in a Mexican prison, you have five numbers to call if you somehow can’t bring myself to tell your husband what happened. You will also be assured that the reasons that lead you to prison in the first place will be kept within the “friends network”. Now that’s not to say that after they bail/bribe you out, you won’t be reprimanded and ridiculed and never allowed to forget your ultimate stupidity, but you will be back on home soil.
I wonder why these catty bitches have meant so much to me. But they do. So I guess it’s safe to say that they paved the way for me to covet and foster other amazing female friendships that are as important to me. But really, should I be giving them that much credit? Should I be paying homage to X1 who said just last night after a great meal with wonderful friends, “I paid sixty-three bucks for Top Ramen and sand.” Should I respect X5 for making me return a $25 gift card and getting the $50 for X4’s birthday because she thought I was being too cheap? And this, after she bought X4 a flipping trash can? Should I really give credence to X2 when she told X5 that she used to be fun in college, but was now a downer?
At least I will have another twenty-two years to make up my mind.