I have a new friend, I think. As a child, it’s easy to tell when another kid becomes your friend. Really, it is the instant that you make eye contact with each other and one of you doesn’t stick your tongue out. Friendship was simple then. As an adult, it’s harder to tell.
For women, finding friendship is like bathing suit shopping. When you were young, you just walked up to a rack, found something in your favorite color, saw that it was about your size and made a commitment. As a grown woman, you research, you shop, you spend agonizing hours in a greenishly lit room trying on and turning around, checking every angle, hemming and hawing, deciding whether to commit, thinking, “Will this support me enough? Is it in the vicinity of my income bracket? Will it work with my kids’ activities? Will my husband like it? Does it fit with the things that I already have?” Truth is, I think that we’re all looking for the same suit—one that downplays our flaws and insecurities and bolsters our best features and confidence. A suit that we can feel comfortable having fun with and that we can trust not to leave us feeling exposed.
I have been lucky in friendship all my life. The friends that I made in elementary school are still lighting up my life like little fireflies on the periphery. They are as warm and endearing as summertime childhood photos of me in hand-me-down swimsuits from my popular and well dressed cousin who had a pool—and boobs. They make me grin and remember that bathing suits are MADE for a good time. The women that I have befriended in adulthood are some of the most radiant and genuine souls that exist. I spent almost $200 on a bathing suit once (in case you are one of those women who doesn’t think that is a lot of money, you’re wrong and I don’t mind telling you that you are more than a little bit ridiculous) because it was perfection in spandex. It was black and cut to flatter. It contained a system of panels and underwires that made me look and feel like Marilyn Monroe. That is what my friends do for me. They boost me up where I need it. When I’m falling apart, they hold me together in a way that makes me feel like I could put the world onto a polka-dot pool floatie and twirl it around while laughing and chugging champagne. And I have my mother. If you get to be best friends with your mother, it’s like knowing that your birthday suit is already perfect. It’s the most amazing lovely warmth.
When I left home and struck out on this new cross country adventure, I knew that I would be pushing the limits of spandex and that I would have to find new friends here. I tried to believe that my luck would follow me but it’s been difficult! New Englanders are always reported as cold, but I like to say that they are like Crème Brulee—you really have to work to crack the hard candy coating, but there is a dreamy creamy center. I’m a tough cookie, but jack-hammering at the burnt sugar has been exhausting. Having been friends most of my adult life with women for whom being a hot mess was a brag-worthy feature and sharing the mutual misery of our ridiculous husbands, our awkward and misbehaved children and our dirty houses for so long, I’m having a tough time assimilating into a society where you keep all of that to yourself and only put out the shiny sugar coating. Listen, I can’t help it. Hot mess is a compliment for me on most days. I STRIVE for “hot mess” because it is one step above my actual state of “natural disaster” and my shiny candy coating is typically smeared with chocolate, has red wine stained teeth and her tampon string is showing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made some “pals.” I think, for the most part, they keep me around for comic relief, but they keep me around and that’s a start. I’ve found a few women who I’m on the verge of cracking, but I think that I finally found one great creamy center. And I’m a little giddy about it. She’s a different kind of water clothing than what I’ve worn before, but in a good way. Once, I ordered something from LuLuLemon and, when the package came, it contained not only the black pants that I had ordered, but an orangey red rain jacket. I called LuLuLemon and offered to send it back to them, but they told me that if it was my size, I should keep it and enjoy. It took me a while to get used to—I don’t wear orange OR red, I lived in the desert, it has a frill. . . but one day, I grabbed it for a run and it was a perfect fit. Instead of holding me in, it supports me in a way that makes me hold myself better. Instead of pushing me up, it has room for days when I am feeling high and is equally accommodating on days when I’d rather strap myself into a sports bra. The color is flattering, but in a different way than I expected. Instead of looking like Marilyn, I’m more of a Lauren Bacall in it-classy, cerebral, thoughtful. . . so I’m wondering, in this new phase of my life, will I find new friends who are bathing suits or have I matured into a person who needs more of a rain coat? I guess that time—and the weather—will tell.