I was late to the last Girl’s Night.
I was at my niece’s first tee-ball game, and clearly, my heckling of kids whose necks can’t yet support helmeted heads is indispensable.
I walked in the back door of my friends house to see the Girl’s huddled masses at one end of our host’s dining table. Peeking over shoulders to see one iPhone, they looked like the Joint Chiefs in the Situation Room right before they caught Bin Ladin; each face more enraptured than the next.
As per the usual agenda at a Girl’s Night, they were looking at a weird penis.
We all have degrees from reputable institutions, and yes, sometimes we sit around a table and analyze weird penii that get texted to one of us.
Being the token gay, I weirdly don’t have a labial equivalent. On the myriad of reasons why women are better to date, not getting texted a gif of a helicoptering phallus is at least in the top ten.
Girl’s Night is wild. But wild in the “Standing in a Stewart’s in your iridescent rose-colored Crocs with spiked seltzer under your arm as someone from Crocs Nation in the next line over gives you the single nod up and yells ‘NICE SHOES RIGHT?’” kind of way.
At one point during the night, my ears picking up different pockets of conversation like tuning into local radio stations in the 1930s, I heard someone say, “I mean, it’s possible that he doesn’t have a TBI, maybe he just has baggage.”
This is why I love Girls Nights. It’s just absurd. Potential traumatic brain injuries aside, we talk about everything. And we’re not just there to braid each other’s hair (which has only happened once, and I wasn’t a fan), and blow smoke up each other’s skirts. With our busy lives and busier minds, it’s necessary to hit the reset button on life in very loose sweatpants.
Sometimes one of us needs The Laids (as they’re titled in the group text) to circle the proverbial wagons when our soft sides are bruised. We call these Emergency Girl’s Nights. Short of a SWAT team mobilizing to stop a women’s march, I think you’d be hard pressed to find nine people who rally faster to a crisis than this group.
The ideal situation is one where we gather and give space for the wounded to name the emotions stuck in the back of our throats.
That particular genie can only be freed with the magic combination of good friends that have been in the trenches with us for years - along with too much pizza, several bottles of wine, and space. So much space.
The space in question is the one between a person’s sob, and when the other person takes a breath to give advice. That pause is the space. The space is the magic. No one wants advice. We’re all unbelievably self-aware, we know what the right thing is. But the space is where the empathy is the thickest. It’s also where it’s the scariest. The space is where the listener sits with the feeling of remembering that pain, and has to reflect, even for the briefest of moments, on their own suffering.
It usually results in sound effects like, “Ugh” and “Ooof.”
“Pfff,” if you’re bilingual.
That last Girl’s Night, I looked at the graveyard of empty plates and cups congregated in the middle of the table, and listened to The Laids move from one person to another in the unofficial check-in ritual we go through every time. I thought about how different we all are and how unlikely, and lucky, it is that so many people could become so close.
Which is why it feels so foreign this week to not be able to share my every thought and feeling as they wreak havoc in my brain.
This is the first time I haven’t wanted a Girl’s Night since the inception of them.
In fact, I keep picking up my phone only to find myself putting it straight back down again, leaving the texts checking in on me unread.
Breakups are never nice, even the nice ones. Being broken up with, somehow feels worse. Even if you knew it was inevitable, and even if it’s better this way, and even if you started to make your boundaries into moats...it’s still worse.
I don’t know what I need, but the thought of being looked at with heads tilted to the side, faces scrunched up into that grimace we all do when we look at something pathetic, makes me want to shave my head a lá Britney in 2007 and move to Alaska.
You know when toddlers are tired and nothing you do will satisfy them? Like when they want you to make them a peanut butter and jelly with no crust, but absolutely don’t cut it at all, sliced into geometrically identical squares positioned exactly three-quarters of an inch apart, and presented at precisely the stroke of the afternoon solstice on the green plate that they threw out the car window a week ago?
That’s me right now.
I don’t want the advice. I don’t want to tell anyone how I’m doing. I don’t want to hear I could do better, or that I deserve more. She was pretty great, and she gave everything she could.
I also don’t want to hear that you’ll miss her and that she was sweet and funny. I don’t want to be reminded that she was beautiful or that someone more beautiful is waiting for me. I don’t want you to show up with wine in hand, and I can’t stand being alone.
Platitudes make me truly wish that grief made me temporarily deaf.
Which is why I asked, “Oh yeah? Then what exactly is the reason this is happening, Linda?” whilst caught wiping a wet cheek in the bathroom at work.
I assume her name is Linda because she was wearing sneakers under the floral print skirt that made her look like a bell. A bell who walks around the parking lot at lunch while I nap in my car.
The aforementioned magic space that I know is the cure for everything feels like a black hole that I won’t be able to crawl out of today.
Wasn’t it me who insisted that this group is made of people who fall in the mud and let the other ones wipe our faces and cheer us on to keep going?
So why can’t I face The Laids?
Oh God. How many times have they not wanted to face me?
I think my aversion to an Emergency Girl’s Night is because I can’t stomach being the broken one right now. I’m the older, wiser one who knows what they’re doing.
I think this is going to be one of those moments that we all hate. The moment when the bravest word we could ever say is, “Help.”
So this is why I have these eight Laids. They know. One of them cuts the crusts while another one finds the green plate while another one platitudes me while another one buys me dinner to leave on my stoop, while another one shares my pain with her own.
All of them, though, know enough to sit still and let me flail in the magic space until I put my feet down and see it’s only a few inches deep. Someone will throw me a towel, and someone else will cheer me on, and someone else will send me an inspirational meme. It’s what we do.
No, I don’t want to be fixed. But I think soon I might let them each hand me my own broken shards as I start to put Humpty back together again.
That, and let them buy me pizza and a whole lot of wine at the next Girl’s Night.