While I was in Los Angeles, I went to meet my three best friends from junior high school for lunch. This was the third time as adults that we’ve all gotten together. The first time was 15 years ago, then it was 5 years ago… and this time.
Two of the girls have been friends since birth. They literally were born in the same hospital, on the same day, their mothers became friends, and so did they. They have remained close ever since.
The four us became friends in 7th grade, but we were only in school together for two years, as we all ended up going to different high schools. Yet somehow, we stayed close through high school and we touched base occasionally in college. But it wasn’t until our late 30s that we all reconnected for one dinner. Then in our 40s for another, and now in our 50s for lunch.
15 years ago, when we had our first reunion dinner, marriage and divorce were the primary dinner topics of choice. Two of us were recently separated and the other two were still married. There was a hint of formality when we first got together, but it didn’t take long to get reacquainted. Soon after we got comfortable, we all confessed to the struggles we had in our marriages… including infidelity, financial issues, and general incompatibility. With every confession made… another confession was revealed. It felt so good to bare our souls. While we were practically strangers as adults, we were like sisters growing up. The dinner started to feel like a family reunion (if the reunion had been hosted by Oprah). It was all so personal and intimate. We were telling each other things that we had never told anyone else. It was this weird “safe space” confessional. I remember leaving that dinner feeling elated, exhausted, and completely moved by these women and their honesty. We vowed to do it again… very soon.
But “very soon” turned into 10 years later. I think life got busy for all of us. (I know mine did. Ironically, I met my current husband a few days after that first dinner. We got married the following year and had a baby shortly after that. This is while I continued to work like a maniac 60 hours a week. Then I moved to Hawaii. But it wasn’t just my life that was busy, we were all incredibly busy.)
But we finally had that second dinner 5 years ago. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was so much fun! I had just moved back to California for my last “tour of duty” as an executive and we arranged to meet at a restaurant in Manhattan Beach on a Saturday night. The only thing I remember about that dinner was sitting down at 7 pm in a big crowded restaurant. We each ordered a glass of wine, something to eat… and picked up where we had left off ten years prior. The next thing we knew, the waiter was telling us that we had to leave because the restaurant was closing. Apparently, 5 hours had passed and it was Midnight!! The four of us were so engrossed in our conversation that we never bothered to look up and see the restaurant was empty. (Needless to say, one of our greatest bonds is our collective gift of gab.)
So here we are now, 15 years after that first reunion, having lunch. Those who were once married are now divorced, and those who were divorced are now remarried. One of the more recently divorced women announces that she is only dating women now. (Ironically, I know several women who have done the same thing recently.)
Between the four of us, we have nine adult children total and one teenager. (I am the only one who had another child after my first marriage.) We all start swapping stories about our adult children. Like the dinner 15 years ago, one confession leads to another. We learn that our collective clan represents quite the microcosm of society:
Two of the ten kids are gay.
Two others have struggled with substance abuse. (Thankfully both are fine now.)
One is in a relationship with someone who currently struggles with substance abuse.
One struggles with an eating disorder.
One is a genius.
Two of them live abroad.
Three of them have dropped out of college.
Three of them still live at home and...
We love them all equally and proudly.
When we are done swapping stories about our kids, their boyfriends/girlfriends, college experiences, jobs, travels, psychological issues, hopes, and dreams, we turn the conversation to reminiscing about our own childhoods. We talk about dressing up as the KISS rock band for Halloween two years in a row. (Don’t judge. It was the 70s.They were big fans… I went along for the ride.)
We talk about all the concerts we went to (Tom Petty, David Bowie, Supertramp, Springsteen).
We talk about going to Palm Springs for long weekends and Spring Breaks in the late 70s/early 80s.
We talk about laying out in the sun with nothing but baby oil… trying to get as tan as possible.
We ate whatever we wanted... and we never got fat.
We stayed up all night… and slept until Noon on weekends.
Some of us smoked cigarettes. Some of us got high. Some of us drank.
We were ALL boy crazy. We were fun and flirty.
We eat salads… with dressing on the side.
None of us smoke cigarettes. (But I still miss them.)
Not sure if anyone still gets high.
We are careful not to drink too much.
We go to bed early.
We drink decaf.
And now, we wear sunscreen.
We all look younger than we are, but we all complain about our bodies ache more than ever.
We all agree that in spite of our aging bodies, life is better now.
We feel more confident.
We feel like we are beginning to live a more authentic life.
We are starting to come into our own.
We all wonder, why did it take us 50 years to learn this?
In spite of our gray hair (which we all color), the need for reading glasses (which we all take off as soon as we read the menu), our crows feet, and our slightly rounder bodies, we all feel more confident than we did 20 years ago. None of us know why. Maybe because wisdom comes with age. We all agree that we are all starting a new chapter of our lives: One of us newly divorced. One of us newly married. Three of us starting new careers. Some of us starting second careers.
None of us want the lunch to end, but we all have to get home and get back to our families and whatever Sunday chores are left to do. I feel so connected to these women. I feel like I just had a three-hour group therapy session. I feel a piece of my childhood rekindled. I feel loved. I feel inspired. I feel reconnected to myself and to these women that I have loved for four decades. But none of us feel like 40 years have passed because we don’t even feel 40 years old. We feel like teenagers who have hopes and dreams. We feel like the world has endless possibilities (again). We feel like survivors. Survivors of the journey of love and life. While there has been a lot of joy and we are all grateful for our lives, it has not been an easy path for any of us. In some ways, I think that is what bonds us... as much as our mutual gift of gab.
When we all get home, we start a group text. We say things like: “I love US. May we all continue on our journeys as we grow into the women we always dreamed of becoming.”
One of the other women amended that “blessing” with, “May we continue to grow into the ever-changing spectacular vision of the women we now dream we want to become. I don’t want to be limited by my old dreams anymore.”
Then another one of us sent emojis representing the “rock ’n roller,” the “healer,” the “writer,” the “speaker.” Two of us could not identify the emojis because they were too small to see (even with our glasses), so they were sent again in a larger font.
We all responded with the emojis of laughing so hard we are crying.