The other day, I traveled my usual journey to take the BART at Millbrae station at the end of my workday. Hubby had to dine solo this weeknight. I was going to meet up with some girlfriends for dinner in the city. We do this every couple of weeks or months. Sometimes, I wish we could do it more often. But schedules conflict with three careers, business travel, leisure travel, caring for family. The latter has graduated more to looking after the affairs of the elderly more than the young-uns lately.
While on the train, I mulled over my friendships over the years, some close ties and others, friendly acquaintances. I had quite the circle of friends in high school and college. I’m so glad to have reconnected with some, more often than the cursory holiday card. The Internet has made this so much easier. Traveling to Manila for business or for family events in the recent 5 years or so has facilitated many lunches and dinners with lingering conversations that continued long after I returned home. I’m amazed that as much as our lives have taken such divergent paths resulting in such disparate life experiences and views, we still have similar values. They have been there through some of my family’s more somber events. We had come together in full force, covering two continents of communications and coordinations to try and save an ailing friend. We’re still engaged with each other’s lives, genuinely interested in each other’s families, interests, preoccupations. I’ve also discovered some not-so-close friends from way back when, are really interesting people who have become such great human beings over the years.
We have an unica hija. Somehow, as she was growing up, we tended to surround her with friends. There were not too many relatives when we were living in Toronto, at least those she could play with. So, there were the neighborhood kids. The friends from school or sports teams. Our house was always filled with them through her school age years. And in the course of all this, we developed friendships with her friends’ parents and other extended families. Somehow, a lot of that has faded into the background, now that she has graduated from college and joined the workforce. We still keep in touch here and there. But our lives have gone separate paths somehow, in spite of proximities. And I thought, it’s okay. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have known them, their families. At some point, we embraced these kids literally, constantly, and enclosed them into our family circle. We still do, in spirit.
I have spent my grown-up years for the most part, establishing and growing my career, cultivating my marriage, raising our daughter, running the home, and caring for family mem
bers as the need arose. Between meetings, deadlines, sports tournaments, piano recitals, medical appointments, volunteering and getting dinner on the table, I have to admit that seeking and building close ties with other women was relegated to the back seat.
But now, it is changing. As much as we have husbands and daughters, girlfriends are our go-to for the issues we share: The “Pause,” the daily small nitty-gritty undulating tolerations no other group can understand, the sandwich state, the maternal anxieties over offspring’s decisions or lack of, the lines forming around our mouths or the above-bra bulge. I could go on but, you get the drift. They are there to commiserate like no other can. Only they can give words of comfort that assuage sudden bouts of ineptitude and quiet panic. And they get the same from me.
I know that our society is obsessed with youth and looking forever young. I would never trade my girlfriends at this point in our lives for those years. Now, there are no queen bees, no wannabes, no cliques, no cattiness or competition. We have all gotten over a lot of our oppressive false beliefs of ourselves and one another, attempts to fit some cookie cutter persona that was a product of the societal norms of the time, the imposed expectations from parents, and all the regressive cultural canon. Get-togethers or reunions nowadays are far more enjoyable because we just appreciate one another. We cheer each other on. And if we have to be a little critical, it’s never cruel or heartless.
We can laugh at our foibles and brouhahas with no fear of reprisals or condemnation. Even at our evolving eccentricities! We give each other uncensored insights freely. And, we draw from each other’s wealth of life experiences and strengths. I know I get much of this from my best-bud-hubby. But there’s still nothing like a girlfriend. We don’t come together because of blood ties or even an official certificate. We choose to spend the time, just because. And you know what? That’s far more productive and therapeutic than how ever many hours of psychotherapy you’ll ever get on your shrink’s couch.