I was at the theater the other night with my husband to attend a hilarious adaptation of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray. According to Gray, men and women are so different in the way they talk, act and express their feelings that it is tantamount to saying that they’re from different planets. It made me realize just how amazing and even improbable it is that so many couples are actually able to live together at all.
To make his point, the stand-up comedian engaged with the crowd about how women and men respectively talked with their peers in a much more natural way based on their common language. And he was right: compared to a sexual relationship, friendship is so easy, carefree and headache-free. Okay, maybe not the headache-free part.
“Girls’ night, 7:00 at the Parrot bar. See y’all tonight.”
My favorite kind of texts to send or receive. Forget RSVP; it’s totally extraneous. Save for a nuclear cataclysm, the response goes without saying, because a night out with the girls is a promise of time worthily spent with laughter, tears, in and out of tune singing, suave or fail dancing, wine and raw vegetables and crackers. And by the end of the night, you might find yourself miserably sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, swaying back and forth with your head between your knees while your girlfriends either hold your hair back or shoot photos and make fun of how you look like shit. Vomit bags on demand. (Yes, your girls are THAT nice.) Chance of hangover: high.
You may have wonderful children (well-behaved and well-mannered even), you may have a successful marriage (If not, see Gray’s book as the bilingual dictionary you need, and read it. Both of you.), get along great with your siblings and parents (let’s be a little crazy and push it to admit this sentence also works with your mother-in-law), but you won’t be completely happy or accomplished unless you have friends. Girlfriends.
Women need to connect to others; we always have. It’s a visceral and vital necessity. And when you think about it, our connection to our friends is more human than human, it’s huwoman, by the simple strength of women’s love and loyalty. When I say loyalty, of course you have to mark the difference between your regular and fun gals and the rare and precious ones.
Women can be twisted, though. There are some notions among them that simply don’t exist when your pals are guys. They’re a women-to-women exclusivity. Like, say, jealousy, lies … Oh wait, no, sorry, I got that wrong again. Girls don’t lie; they distort the truth so as not to offend you. It’s totally different, I agree.
For instance? Clothes. Women can have a somewhat distorted reality in their choice of clothing. Call it a fail. If your buddies were men, either they wouldn’t notice your attire at all or they’d really hit the nail on your head: “I thought the carnival was last month?” Sure, it doesn’t make you happy, but at least it’s honesty, while on the other hand, your girlfriend will give you a fake and overplayed answer, complete with a stupid Italian accent: “Honey, you just look soooo bella!” No, I do not look bella, honey. When I look into your eyes, I don’t read “you look so bella,” I read “you look like a stuffed sausage with a head.” Be realistic. Or take an acting class. Something.
That’s where and how you can appreciate the feminine complexity, the joyous rivalry and jealousy that lie between girlfriends. Remember that girl who thought you looked beautiful in the way that only a stuffed sausage can? Well, as soon as you’ve turned your back, she’s going to shop you to everyone: “Am I the only one to think those pants make her ass look elephant-wide-on-a-16:9-resolution-screen or what?” I love girlfriends; they’re so nice. And even if your friend does find the courage to tell you how your pants really do not look one bit good on you, you know you’re going to hate her for her burst of honesty. Admit it. Oddly, you’ll reply “Thank you,” but in your head it’ll echo “Bitch!” Hey, funny thing, who just summed up their relationship with their mother-in-law there?
But I digress. Anyway. The other topic by which you can measure your friendship is men. And I must warn you there: between gals, there are series of rules you ought to respect. The Fight Club rules of girlfriends.
The first rule is: Never ever flirt with your girlfriends’ exes. The second rule is: Never ever go after your girlfriends’ crushes. And the final rule is: Never talk or argue about the gals’ club’s rules.
Thus, the more friends you make, the fewer men there seem to be and you are left facing three possible options: One, ignore the hereinbefore rules and end up on the blacklisted friends list, doomed for the rest of your life. Two, change location. Three, singlehood is not that bad after all (which also solves the mother-in-law issue).
There was this one friend in college, who, whenever we went out to a pub, would instantly scrutinize the whole crowd. You hadn’t yet put a foot inside the door and she was already pointing out every man in sight. “So, him, him, him and him. They’re mine. I saw them first. Got it?” Obviously, we got it. And you had to respect that; she was your gal. You wouldn’t touch, you wouldn’t get near, and you wouldn’t look. No, of course you won’t sniff either! What the hell is the matter with you? Might the target cross paths with you on the way to the bathroom, you’d close your eyes, trap your hands between your knees and hold your breath.
That’s respect. It’s important between girls. As stupid as it sounds you don’t mess around with it. That’s bestgirlfriendship. Always being there for one another. Until, of course, one eventually hooks up with a guy and thereon becomes the David Copperfield of your universe. Now you see me, now you don’t. Magically, when the guy ditches her, she recalls your phone number and you cry together over her misery, coping with wine and wrestling on her couch, fighting over her phone to stop her from drunk-texting the jerk.
But it’s okay, really. It’s complicated, but it’s not really, as long as you remember the Rules.
Nevertheless, on rare occasions, you find a really good and special Friend; the touchstone of soulmates. An identical twin that makes you wonder why you had never considered chastity in a convent an option. (Uh, forget what I said; I know why.) But anyway, all you know is that you suddenly find yourself fusing with her, emotionally and intellectually. If you don’t mind her snapping pictures as you puke your wine overdose in the street, it means you either trust her with your life (okay, at least with your privacy) or you’re way beyond too drunk to tell. Either way, you’re good.
When I was younger, my BFFs and I used to lend each other money all the time, trusting that fate would somehow balance the equation year after year (Yes, it’s cheesy and completely pie-in-the-sky but that’s the beauty of it, let me ship!), we hated the same persons (What can I say? We were on the same wavelength and — once and for all, no — it had absolutely nothing to do with relentlessness), and we knew each other’s flaws better than we knew our own (Who has flaws when they’re young, anyway?).
As you reach your thirties or — ahem — your forties, life and geography take over and the number of those close friends shrinks. But when you manage to pair up with one of them and take a break from adulting, you realize that in each other’s company you tend to acknowledge that your age is nothing but a number on an ID and that you can still successfully act like brainless college kids. No matter how responsible, sensible and intelligent women you two have grown into, you still end up merrily staggering, singing out loud and pole dancing around a streetlamp in the middle of the night with your bottle of champagne in hand. Don’t judge. I myself still never judge my friend. We judge together. Always the same people. (Still no relentlessness.) It’s so good to know that some things don’t change. Actually, yes, they have changed a bit. Feelings are stronger, deeper. You still cry on each other’s shoulders, but now the reasons are legitimate FML reasons. Oh, and she’s the only one who can call you a bitch and still make it sound endearingly pleasant and sexy. Am I weird if I say it sounds like “I love you” to my ears? And talking about love, the real friend will not leave you because a little testosterone entered her life, even if it exited her body in the form of perfectly shaped Martian/Venusian kids.
You also still chat too much together. And you know it. Your husband doesn’t always understand it, but you don’t really care; he’s from another planet. How could he get it? Luckily, since he’s read Gray’s book, he gets it that he doesn’t get it. Got it?
So finally, I’m gonna play the octopus and do what a trusted friend does best: kick your butt. That’s right, I’m telling you to get off the couch, stop getting frustrated by your life, and bring a bit of warmth to someone else’s. So grab your phone and text a virtual hug to a friend who means the world to you. Or, at the very least, tell her truthfully that she does indeed look like a stuffed sausage when she wears those pants.