Not A Pink Girl

Girlfriends: the ties that bind | May 23, 2008

In my last post I introduced you to my friend Nancy. We’ve been friends for 13 years; now she’s going through a life crisis. This has naturally caused me to ponder our friendship.

Nancy & I couldn’t be more different. She’s from the west coast; I’m from Washington DC. She’s eight years older than me. She has no children; I have two. She was married once for five years; I’ve been married twice, to my second husband for 19+ years & counting. She’s always been slim, I’ve always carried extra pounds. I am kind to a fault, always choosing my words with care; she is verbally-challenged. I am outgoing & bubbly, always with a kind word to friends & strangers alike. She’s the type to send back the salad because the bowl’s too cold. She can be crotchety & snappish (yes, even before her illness) to those in the service industry; I’d never dream of being impatient with people who are on their feet all day for minimum wage.

But you know what? We share a lot of the same interests. We both love history (she’s a Civil War [Confederate] re-enactor) & nature (we became friends through our love of gardening, flowers & long walks together through the bike paths in our suburban neighborhood). We love animals (especially cats & dogs). We both had difficult childhoods that involved a violent parent. Both of us are on a spiritual path & have an interest in the metaphysical.

I met Nancy in the fall of 1994 when she was working as the dining room manager of Champions restaurant (now defunct) in the neighboring town of Herndon VA. I’d had an argument with my husband (again) & I took my son, then almost 2 years old, out to dinner to get away from the tension & sadness. Nancy was drawn to my cute child (she told me later). She came over to the table to make sure we were happy & goo-goo-gah-gah’d at Anthony in his highchair for a minute or two.

A few weeks later I was pushing the stroller down the sidewalk in front of my house. I turned the corner & saw a woman arguing with a man who looked drunk. I didn’t want to get into the middle of anything so I turned to go. The man then got into his car & drove away. The woman stood stoically on her front stoop. I turned back to her & realized she looked familiar. She agreed, but we couldn’t place where we knew each other. I introduced myself & she told me her name was Nancy. After a few minutes we realized we’d chatted at the restaurant! She lived six houses down from me.

I had a dog-walking business & I cared for her mutt. Nancy & I went on junking forays into Harper’s Ferry WV, the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland (near Camp David), & other flea markets & antique shops & shows all over the Washington DC area. I also cleaned Nancy’s house periodically (Nancy worked two jobs; I was an at-home mom with a dog-walking business & a budding career as a seller on eBay).

As women, how many of us really work at our friendships? We see friendships portrayed on television & in the movies where either everything is always resolved in 22 or 48 minutes, or the friends say exactly what they think about the other friend’s behavior, shooting from the hip, with seemingly no forethought. And, of course, because these aren’t real relationships, everyone smiles & makes nice-nice & works out their disagreements until, at the end of the program, someone says she’s sorry & everyone lives happily (until the next episode).

I find friendships with women to be virtual minefields for me. I’ll talk about that more in my next post.

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