28 April 2010

Thursday Night, That Mexican Restaurant by the Kroger

I'm sorry if that title sounds flippant. I truly don't know the name of the restaurant, and as we planned for that dinner, it was known as this, or as "that place we went on the 3-Day."  It is a true matter of knowing a location and not a name.

This third GNO from last week was with the 3-Day ladies.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the four of us met when we were training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  Although this was now three years ago, we meet monthly for dinner.  Juggling four schedules, with two of us who travel periodically for work, one of us with three kids and a husband who travels for work, and the other of us with an unpredictable work schedule, and you can imagine getting things on the calendar can be hairy.

I promise I was looking forward to this dinner but I was TIRED.  In the seven days leading up to this night, I'd been to a concert, a play, a surprise party, two other dinners, fought allergies and cranky sinuses, and worked.  The week had worn on me, and of course since I had to be somewhere that evening, my commute had taken longer than normal (note to self, figure out what I've been doing lately to bring bad Karma on the evening commute when I really need to be somewhere and stop doing it). 

So the topics that night were heavier than I wanted to discuss.  I shut down some. And it wasn't fair to the ladies I was with.  Although I've spoken with them all since then, I hope they'll also accept this as a public apology for me being cranky and disengaged.  And that isn't to belittle the topics. But sometimes, especially amongst friends, topics hit close to home. They hit you in unexpected ways. And when that happened to me on Thursday night, I chose the easier of the two reactions.  So this was by far not the best GNO I've had with these ladies.

But in another way, it was incredibly important to me. Because this same dinner was where the idea for this blog was born. I have L to thank for it.  L is a newly minted real estate agent. Within 30 seconds of sitting down at dinner, M1 asked "how's our newest real estate agent?".

L made the comment later in the evening that among her friends, we are some of the only ones who have even acknowledged her new job.  When L told us that at a recent lunch with other play group mothers, that only one of them asked about her new job, and that was when they were walking to their cars in the parking lot, the idea for this blog popped into my head.

I think we look at our friendships as ways to validate who we are as individuals. Sure, most of us have friends that have some context- people from work, from play group, from community groups or religious organizations. But I believe we are all looking for some friends who just see and value us as us, without any other labels.  That is what this group does for me. This dinner taught me how important it is to hear our friends, and understand what is important to them and recognize and acknowledge that. In too many other relationships, we don't always get that.

Now, we're trying to plan the May outing... We've at least narrowed it down to which weeks we should all have a free night. And I promise to be in a  better frame of mind next time.

26 April 2010

Wednesday Night- Twisted Taco

This was originally the next post. And then it wasn't.  But then L told me she wants another GNO before she's introduced to the blogosphere, so we're back to last Wednesday at the Twisted Taco. Which makes me realize there was another theme to last week- Taco Mac, Twisted Taco, and the Mexican place by the Kroger. So yeah, chips-and-salsa was also a pretty big theme.

At any rate this GNO had been on the calendar for a while. A deadline was fast approaching. Two days after this dinner, K was scheduled to have her third child. (And she did,  a healthy little girl, congratulations to K and her husband).  Em and K and I were going out to give K a respite from pregnancy hormones and being Mommy and just having some girl time.

We were all sorority advisors for a while. In a unique twist, this particular group of advisors got on well together, and after we began taking divergent paths (I quit advising. E moved. Em and K went on to other roles) we realized we all genuinely like each other and have found ways to stay in touch over the years.  K hosts us for the Oscars each year.We all saw the Sex and the City movie together. There's a bachelorette party whenever one of us gets married; a shower for a new baby; sometimes just gathering for a good time.  And that is what Wednesday night was. K and  Em and I having a relaxing dinner before this huge, wonderful event in the coming days.

Because the sorority is our commonality, some portion of our conversation inevitably revolves around what is going on within it. Thankfully it is not all we have in common. Because while I have wonderful memories of my time in this sorority, and admit that it did shape in part who I am today, I am not trying to relive glory days. And neither are any of these other women. They are giving back to an organization that gave so much to them.  It is a nice commonality, and  a good conversation starter, but with jobs and spouses and babies and life, it isn't enough to hold a friendship together over years.

We've been through marriages and babies and divorces and surgeries and remarriages and moves and unemployment and new jobs together. And we've still had this bond.  And now we're back to Wednesday, celebrating us, celebrating the new baby, and celebrating Em's brand new engagement (now that story? That's a chick flick or a chick-lit novel just waiting to happen, I'm just saying)  and we talked about all these wonderful things, then the conversation turned to me. "What's new with you?"

The four words I'd been dreading.  Because I know they are asked with utmost sincerity, that they genuinely are curious and want to know what is going on in my life. But all that stuff I listed earlier that we shared? The only news I've ever had to share is a new job.   Now, I'm thankful to not have experienced surgery or divorce or unemployment- I realize I've been blessed in many, many ways. But I often feel slightly out step, out of place with this group because the things that are becoming more and more a part of the conversation when we are all together- the fiances, the husbands, the babies- don't apply to me.

It is sometimes a bit of a challenge for us to find that common ground, that bond that tethers us to each other, now.  Fortunately, we all think these friendships are important enough to find that commonality.  I come away from dinners and nights out with these wonderful, dynamic women thinking, look how different we are! But look how much we enjoy each others' company.  And I know that although we don't see each other as frequently as we did when we were all advisors together, my life would not be the same without these women in it.

So we enjoyed our margaritas and mexican food. We laughed about so many random things. I shared a little story about someone they don't know just to get something off of my chest. In short, we had a wonderful time.  And as soon as K can be away from the new baby and her other kids for a while,  and Em is in desperate need of a break from wedding planning,  I'm ready to do it again.

25 April 2010

Tuesday at Taco Mac- The Impromptu GNO

A and I used to be roommates.  She's married now, and lives near my office.  Tuesday afternoon she IM'd me to ask if I could meet for dinner. Her husband was out of town, and she and the baby were feeling a bit cooped up.

I typically love an impromptu dinner out, so of course I said yes here.  We went to a sports bar type place, kid friendly. 

This is why I like being around A.  Because we were roommates, she's seen me at my best and worst, she's seen me without make-up, and we've had all those deep talks over mugs of coffee or bottles of wine. I don't feel like I have to be "On" when I'm with her. I can just be myself.  It is easy being around A.  She's also one of the nicest people I know, and, at least in our area, it's much more "six degrees of A" than "six degrees of Kevin Bacon."  But that means she's busy, and I'm busy and we don't get together nearly enough.  So this dinner out was perfect.  The baby is the cutest and was so good over dinner, and A and I were able to talk and catch up.  

I didn't know it at the time, but there was going to be a bit of a theme through the rest of the dinners I had this week, and it started on Tuesday. Politics and Religion.  A and I are much more aligned politically than any of the other people I saw this week. There's an ease there where, should the conversation turn that way, I don't feel as though I either need to go on the defensive, or, in an effort to keep things light, simply not comment.   That's something I've grown to appreciate.  

Another thing that makes Girls Nights Out with A so fun is that I'm guaranteed to laugh. And I love to laugh.  But A is also one of the few people I can be serious and authentic with, and I feel like she knows she can be that way with me.

It wasn't a late night, baby needed bathing and bed, after all.  But it was such a pleasant night, as impromptu nights tend to be.  I like having that kind of friendship, where you can actually plan some things on the spur of the moment, without having to take out calendars to plan for weeks in advance.  Those are sometimes the best Girls Nights Out.

Also, note to self... plenty of guys hanging out here after work. Must file that away for future reference...

24 April 2010

The Many Varieties of a Girls Night Out

In my twenties, GNOs were all about going out to some bar, dancing, drinking, and flirting, and having a good time.  In my thirties, they've taken on more significance.

There's still the nights we plan so we can blow off steam. No husbands or boyfriends, no kids.  Dressing in something cute, blocking the night on the calendar a few weeks in advance and going somewhere a little different.  Then there's my monthly dinner with three friends I met in 2007 when I walked the Breast Cancer 3 Day.  We met each other on a training walk, and formed a team and have stayed in touch since then.  

There's the ladies I know through the alumnae association of our sorority. We were all advisors together at a local University, and although we've not advised together for years now, we still stay in touch.

There are the more simple gatherings.  The people I'm friends with simply because we are friends. My best friend. The women I went to college with, the women I met once I joined the working world.  Whether we are meeting for dinner and drinks, or coffee, or even a walk.  

All of these offer something.  In the bar hopping days of our twenties, there wasn't a lot of substance. But now, as we're all getting a little older, we have bonds that are deeper than which guy we think is cute. We have relationships that transcend marital and parental status.  Those things can certainly change a relationship, but we're bonded on things beyond that, but our Girls Nights let us connect on the things that unite us.

23 April 2010

Girls Night Out

I had three different Girls Night's this week, with seven different girl friends.   A random comment at Thursday's "Mexican and Margaritas night" made me think about this. I'm more different than alike with many of the friends I met for dinner this week, yet there's something unique to each relationship.  I get something out of each friendship, no matter how different we are.

Some are profound, some are a good laugh. Most make good stories. I thought it could be fun to share a few here.