if i could see all my friends tonight

It was long past midnight on New Year’s, and I was slumped over on a chair, legs dangling over the side, head propped on one arm. My friends were engaged in a fervent discussion about football that was starting to devolve into shouting, so I rolled my eyes and dragged my sleepy ass up out of the chair in search of tamer conversational waters. As I walked into the next room, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d been the only girl in the other room. All the rest were in here, jammed onto one couch. And they were talking about clothes.

If they ever film a documentary about me in my old age, which they totally will, I’m going to relate this story. The lighting will cast my wrinkles in stark relief as I stare straight into the camera and say: “Honey, that’s when I knew everything had changed.” Somehow I’ll have a Southern accent; sweet as tea and slow as molasses. Just trust me on this.

But where were we? Ah. Guys were talking about football. Girls were talking about clothes. In separate rooms. Suddenly, every plotline from every television sitcom ever filmed before a live studio audience began unspooling in my head. Suddenly, I was having flashbacks to every family reunion I’ve attended, which always involves the womenfolk congregating in the kitchen to cook, wash dishes, herd children, and get tipsy on wine coolers while the menfolk stand around in the garage drinking beer and staring at some variation of automotive vehicle.1 Is this some unfortunate byproduct of getting older? Is this truly what we’re becoming? Is this our collective fate?

You know, I remember a time not so long ago when things were different. Back in the halcyon days of my mid-twenties. My mid-twenties were a fascinating time to be alive, and by fascinating I mean drunken. No one was in college anymore, yet we partied like we didn’t have to be showered, dressed, and in the office by 8:00 a.m. the following morning. And it didn’t matter whether we were out at a bar with friends or dealing rounds of cards at someone’s house: the guys and girls hung out together. We played together. We boozed together. We talked together. In the same room, even! If you can imagine.

Visual evidence that at one time in my social history, males and females willingly sat, stood together.

But these days? I don’t know. In social situations, I increasingly find myself sequestered with other women. When we go for drinks now, ladies tend to sit at one end of the table and guys at the other. What the hell happened?

Well, for one, my friends and I aren’t spring chickens anymore. You know, if spring chickens were known for their propensity for staying out until the bars close down every weekday night. Which they aren’t. So, you know, I’m glad we got that sorted out. For two, folks are more coupled-up than they used to be back in their mid-twenties, and I don’t necessarily know their significant others very well. And since we are old and tired and rarely bother to meet up anymore, I tend to want to huddle with my closest friends and catch up on their lives — and guess what, most of my closest friends are gals.

So I guess it makes sense, but I still don’t like this inclination. The fact that we’re seemingly lapsing into stereotypes makes me severely uncomfortable. I just want to reverse the trend, not least because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on a couch talking about clothes. I am not good at that.2 I am that chick who spent a significant portion of her life thinking that fashion was the name of a department at J.C. Penney’s. I also know jack shit about celebrities and other gabby gossip fodder. If you are really in the mood to torture me, try combining the two into one clusterfuckbomb of a question like, Can you believe what so-and-so wore to the Oscars? Then, stand back and have fun watching the blank look on my face gradually melt into panic as I awkwardly stammer out the first response that comes to mind — for example, I like avocados! — before turning and fleeing to the bathroom, where I will hide in the stall with my face in my hands and mentally berate myself for not knowing who so-and-so is and why she was at the Oscars’ house in the first place.3

Basically! I am not very good at being a conventional girl. Which is why I just want to be A PERSON. A person who talks to OTHER PEOPLE. We are all just people, after all! People with varying interests and backgrounds. We are not really gender-divided caricatures, are we? Are we? [Hint: say “NO!”]

From the first day I met him, one of the things I always appreciated about the beau was that he could come out and meet me and a few other girls for drinks without feeling bored, frightened, or emasculated. Likewise, I was happy to hang out with him and a group of guys — quite a common occurrence since he’s on a rugby team, I might add. People were people were people to us — and still are. It doesn’t matter what gender you are; as long as you have a good personality and have never stabbed anyone for any reason other than self-defense, I will enjoy talking to you.

So I want to go back to that. Is that too much to ask? [Hint: say “NO!”] Is it even possible to return to our roots? Maybe roots that are watered with a little less alcohol this time, since I am now so old and feeble? Am I asking too many questions? Were you expecting this post to have more stuff about football in it, since that’s what I opened with, and are you now feeling disappointed and betrayed? Is anyone else going through anything like this? Would you like to have a drink with me and talk about it?

No? Oh. Okay.

Apologies in retrospect for the gender-normative content in this post. I promise that my worldview isn’t actually this limited.

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1 Hot tip: if you are a child and you would like to have a fifth popsicle, go in the garage and ask the men. The men will never say no. The men, in all likelihood, will have forgotten who you even are. To them, you are just an extremely short person, almost puppy-like, who desires the simple pleasures of a popsicle. Why not let the poor short person have one? The women, on the other hand, will always have questions for you first. “HOW MANY POPSICLES HAVE YOU ALREADY HAD?” they will ask, and then they won’t even wait for an answer before they screech, “YOU HAVE ALREADY HAD A POPSICLE TODAY. NO MORE SUGAR FOR YOU!” Then they will wipe your face and tell you to go play outside and stop bothering them.

2 The clothes-talking, not the couch-sitting. I actually excel at couch-sitting. You can find me practicing diligently every night.

3 Ooh, I smell scandal!

34 Responses to “if i could see all my friends tonight”

  1. Okay, so the popsicle thing. It’s like you’ve been in my kitchen asking me for a popsicle. Because I probably said no.

    The worst, though, is when one of my kids calls me to their room after I’ve tucked them in bed for the night. After I’ve tucked them in and sneaked a cookie while they’re supposed to be sleeping, that is. “Why do I smell chocolate?” my daughter will squint her eyes accusingly. “Because, uh, because I’m the mom and you’re the kid and and and … I ate a cookie. Now go to sleep.” She will not be deterred, though. “Why didn’t WE get a cookie?” “Uh, I ate all my dinner.” “No you didn’t! You didn’t eat all of your broccoli!” “Shhh. You’ll wake your brother.” Then I retreat. In the morning, I pretend I have no idea what she’s talking about. “Huh,” I say. “That must have been a weird dream.”

  2. Oh, yes. This is the bane of my going-out experience with one particular couple with whom we’ve become “couple friends.” If Nick and I come in after these two have already sat down, they will GET UP and switch seats so that Nick can be with the male-type and I can be with the female-type. Do the parts match? Good, then OF COURSE we each have something to talk about.

    I would shrug my shoulders if Female liked beer and wanted to talk about, I DON’T KNOW, books and relationships and anything but that-time-when-she-sent-Male-to-law-school-with-some-banana-bread-to-give-to-Nick-when-I-was-out-of-town. Sometimes I try to jostle Nick so that it has to go male-female-male-female around the table, because the girls corner really sucks. And I hate being relegated there.

    • They get up and move? That’s… creepy. Couples dates suck hardcore unless you’re with some pretty key people. Too bad it isn’t polite to bring a book when they’re not.

  3. Oh Lyn, this hurt my heart to read because I miss those days, too. I don’t understand how it happens.

    I think this might be why I am that crazy person who is always trying to make the group play a game, nearly at gunpoint “I don’t care if you don’t WANT to play Balderdash, you’re playing. Sit down and shut up.” I just want everyone together – talking together, being a group, all part of one conversation.

    How about Craig and I come visit you and Beau. Invite some other people over. We will all chat merrily as a group, and if it’s not working out, well, I’ll bring Apples to Apples just in case.

    • Games! Yes. And dinner parties with multiple people who are not allowed to sit with their significant other nor in gender-defined groups (this is easiest with a max of 8 people or if you also have several single friends to include in the mix.)

      The downside to games and dinner parties is the realization that I am becoming my parents. And, as much as I railed against them and their utter uncoolness, it turns out they were on to something. Sigh.

      • Okay, I have to admit your parents totally had a clue what was up. Also, this is a wake-up call to incorporate more games in my social activities. What do you usually play?

    • I WANT ONE CONVERSATION TOO. Why is it so hard to wrangle?

      Please come over? Please? I think we’d get along famously! P.S. I love Apples to Apples!

      • Me, too! Me, too! My parents used to play card games. They had one in particular that was complicated and loads of fun called “Shit on Your Neighbor.” I think it was actually called Hearts, but our name was much more accurate. The neat thing about this game was that you played with a partner (up to three teams of partners/six people) could play. Sometimes we had to split up the spouses, though, because they had secret signals for each other and could cheat with little raised eyebrows and finger signals that the other players didn’t understand.

        So you need: two decks of cards, a book of Hoyle, three couples, and a lot of wine, beer or margaritas.

      • yes, games! Apples to Apples…balderdash….catch phrase – catch phrase is a great one that can go on for ever and people can rotate in and out – pictionary is a classic… all sorts of hearts/spades/trump games….paper rock scissors tournaments….
        I love games!

      • My group of friends love playing games – Mad Gabs is my fav, also love Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, Smart Ass. We all play together and its lovely. But sometimes the guys do sneak off, and I have been told its because my friends and I monopolize the conversation and they feel its the only way they can get a word in edgewise. But we usually follow, so…

        Funny story – Cam and his brother used to play Shit on Your Neighbor with their Iowa relatives when they were little, but as the only kids around they were told it was called Be Kind to Your Neighbor. Brother just found out the real name last summer, Cam still had no idea. Sneaky relatives. And both boys learned to swear anyway.

    • Kerry, come visit me! I *have* Apples to Apples, and we are all allowed to hang out together. No “bundling” necessary.

  4. Hmm, yes, i agree and I will also agree and blame the coupling. I think you should just start a THIRD conversation option for those who don’t care about either. Because I’d put down significant money that a lot of the folks would like that third option best. I’ll say dumb stuff about clothing if that’s the conversation, but I’ll feel totally awkward the whole time and look for an out or a tangent asap! Be the tangent!

    • “Be the tangent” is going to be my mantra the next time I go out and it turns awkward. Of course, there is a high possibility that *I* will then do or say something extraordinarily awkward. But if that’s what it takes, then I am willing to take that risk.

  5. We do things like the dinner parties suggested above. With this friend group it’s bizarre b/c they can function together, but then they’ll devolve into groups of hard-core-nerd and cooking. I flit back and forth between both and then get cranky and make an observation about why are all the women in here? which causes people to look around and say huh.

    Grumble.

    And then sometimes I suggest a game of flip-cup to shake things up and I get mocked.

    I’m just trying to save you!

    (I do think it has something to do with being coupled. When you’re not you’re trying to flirt with the opposite sex. When you’re coupled you’re wanting space from your partner, but they know better than to flirt with someone else so they’d better go hang out with the boys where it’s ‘safe’). You=stereotypical you.

  6. Things I took away from this post/comments:

    1. Sarah’s parents are hilarious people. (Shit on your neighbor, seriously?)
    2. We need some sort of way to get us all together to play games. If airfare is an issue, maybe we can become those teenage gamer type of dorks with headsets and play through our televisions while talking to each other through the microphones. That sounds strangely fun to me
    3. If we all brought our respective games of Apples to Apples and played through all the cards, the game would LAST UNTIL INFINITY.

  7. With my college friends (that I only get to see once or twice a year) it starts off with the boys drinking beer and talk about the rules of the fantasy football league in one room, and the girls over here drinking martinis and talk about sex, our vaginas, money, budgets, jobs, raises, books, news, world events. Then the boys realize our conversation is much more interesting (vaginas!) and start to trickle over, then the group gets too big to have one conversation, so then we give up and play Kings Cup.

    With my not college friends, I totally feel you. I don’t even know what the boys are talking about because I’m in the kitchen stuck talking about panty hose.

  8. I’m glad this hasn’t yet become a noticeable issue among my friends (we try to schedule in separate girls nights to get the vagina, money, jobs, books etc. conversations out of the way) because (ready for this?) I really don’t like most games (cowers). I’m the one trying to change the topic when someone suggests bringing out Cranium. Yes, I’m that lame person. Sorry.

    • It’s okay, Nina. Sometimes I don’t like games either. They can be really stressful for someone who takes themselves seriously and wants to show up competitively, like me. I’ve become more amenable to them now that they seem to get everyone involved these days…

      • yeah I’m of the taking myself wayyyy too seriously category. Working on that…. in the meantime though I did just discover a great game that I actually enjoy: Pandemic. You play cooperatively to beat outbreaks around the world! (nerd alert)

  9. getting to this phase with my friends and JUST GRADUATED two months ago. two fucking months, what the hell, right?

    anyways. we have a strange group of insecure girls that co-mingle with our circle now and then too…and one of them recently had the audacity to tell me i was flirting with [random guy i had never met] because i was TALKING to him.

    there’s no happiness anywhere, right? kidding. there’s only ignoring what makes other people happy about the way you live your life…just be, you know? be considerate and thoughtful, yes, but also mix things up at the next party…demand a card game or bring a bottle of booze and pass around a couple of shot glasses…and give a f*ck less what anyone else thinks of you when you do it. (i know you probably already rock at this).

  10. This post really resonated with me. I’m in my mid twenties (late twenties pretty soon) and it was only a few years ago that I made any female friends. I didn’t have a close friend until I was almost 22. (Hell given that I went to all girls’ school.)

    I have noticed now that when we all meet up that the boy/girl division is becoming quite stark. I usually end up cleaning up which is how I end up in the kitchen with the girls and end up chatting in there and kind of have to excuse myself to head back out to talk with the boys, by which time it looks kind of intimidating when there are guys out there you don’t know. For whatever reason. it’s suddenly a lot harder to have one on one conversations with the guys outside – it’s almost like it has to be a communal conversation and that’s fine for a while, but I want to speak with my mates one on one. And the girls in the kitchen do that same thing.

    We’re not too bad yet. But we still have a couple of years until we hit 30.

    • I totally hear you. I want to have a chance to catch up with my guy friends too, but when they’re all in a group like that (and with other semi-unfamiliar guys too) it’s kind of weird to be the odd (wo)man out these days. I’m happy just to have us all in one communal group when it happens… I don’t want to be relegated to the kitchen for the rest of my adult days!

  11. Sorry I meant *close friend who was a girl* until I was 21.

  12. Hmm, I’m another one of those girls who can’t talk girl. I was recently berated for never having had a manicure at a salon (“what do you mean!!?! It’s like doing the grocery shopping, something you just have to do every week!”), and I made some lame excuse about my job not allowing for nice nails. Like I worked in a pig farm or something. Which I don’t.

    • PS. Cranium is my favourite. What is Apples to Apples? We don’t have it in Australia.

    • Something you have to do every week? Um. That’s called eating. Or bathing. Or exercising, even. Or any number of things you actually “have” to do every week, of which “getting a manicure” is not one. Crazy talk!

      PS — I would have loved to see the looks on their faces if you had told them you do, in fact, work on a pig farm.

      PPS — Apples to Apples is a game where everyone gets seven cards and then a rotating judge draws a card with an adjective on it, and each player choses a card to best match that word. Then the judge picks his or her favorite. It’s a great game to play with a twisted sense of humor.

  13. This post makes me realize that we must not be very social. Or maybe it’s that our social contact is most often in very small groups (like 1-2 other people at a time), so there is no splitting into conversations by gender.

  14. I love every post you write with a passion unrivaled.

    Also, this happens to me, but this is why:

    1. the majority of my lady friends are single or gay, so it’s all ladies.
    2. all my man friends were banished because they were all kissyface man friends, not actual friends.

    So, no men. The husband hasn’t got friends, because he doesn’t like people. So we have tea parties and it’s 20 ladies and 3 guys. Weird.

    • Verhext – let’s trade lives for a week! You situation sounds just like what I need – and you can deal with all the men in my life for a while.

  15. I love that I was laughing out loud at the popsicle part AFTER I had just eaten two popsicles. oh my life. I love playing games too but its a newer thing for me, the family I married into is mad about them. if you’re ever in the boston area, look me up, we have apples to apples, taboo and cranium. and we haven’t lost any pieces and the clay is still good.

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