Girlfriends have saved my ass, made me laugh, bought me back from the brink of despair and told me I looked cute when I most certainly did not. In fact, some of the best support and most wonderful fortification I’ve ever had, has come from my girlfriends.
Is it different now? I don’t believe my mother had anyone she could confide in back when she was my age. Not confide along the lines of “I hate my husband”, “I want to kill my kids” and, “Does this orange (drawstring) jump suit really look as good on me as the sales woman said?” I think she, like most back then, was tied up in the knots of looking good and presenting the “I have it all together” front. And I get it. There is a piece of me that tries to do just that, even now. I would love to look like I have it all worked out, that my life is going just as I planned it and that there are not times when it just completely is not. But I have these girlfriends who pull me away from that sterile, Pleasantville world. With them I can bare my soul, and show all my warts and it is that realness that stops me from shriveling up.
They don’t all know each other, and I’ve met them at different times in my life. I’ve had the best friend growing up whose parents showed me what a happy marriage could be as my parents’ one lay in tatters and she’s still there, reminding me who I was and still am, almost 40 years on. I’ve sat next the female stranger on the train home to DC as I contemplated jacking it all in and moving back there, and discovered a life-long friend whose world paralleled mine, and continues to, in crazily similar ways. And who, like me, never moved back there either.
In my darkest times I’ve had the amazing friend who actually made the calls to the phone numbers on my husband’s bill as I remained convinced of an affair-that-wasn’t, one of them inadvertently being to his mother. Who picked up. With who else could I, in one moment be in the devastation of a potentially ruined marriage, and in the next be convulsed with laughter because my girlfriend just faked some wrong number call to my mother-in-law? I’ve cried with ridiculous insecurity on a friend’s shoulder about how threatened I felt by my husband’s new assistant, and she, joining some far-flung dots, incredibly worked out who it was, gasped “she has nothing on you!” and in that instant changed everything.
And I’ve shared how I had no idea what I was doing in a particular department, and without hesitation, out came the bowl of fruit for, shall we say, a blow-by-blow demonstration. "You mean you don't actually have to blow?" I was able to ask her, knowing full well she would die laughing. When she told me that she considers it 'an art', we both lost it.
It’s really only now that I look back and know that the girlfriends I’ve had have given me a strength and a security that I could never have found on my own. They have stood by me through the worst of it and made it better, have been there for deaths and births alike, packed boxes and lugged furniture when a chapter closes in my life and pushed me onward in the next. They have shown up with a banana bread when my heart is breaking. And… a banana, when my heart is not….