Last Friday, to celebrate the end of the semester and a god-awful academic year, Gregg and I ate pizza at my favorite restaurant and then watched Bridesmaids in the theater.
Ahead of us, a row of female friends in their mid-late 40s munched popcorn and shared laughs before the movie began. Their talk had that familiar flow of light gossip and quotidian detail. I smiled, and felt sad. I missed my female friends.
The movie began, and I was sucked into the story until it ended--minus one disgusting scene of physical comedy and bodily eruptions. The film hits so many notes spot-on--the lethargy of hitting almost rock bottom (and then hitting said bottom), the act of putting on a happy, supportive face when someone you love is getting all that you don't have, the competition between women for friends and closeness and status, and the sadness of moving on different tracks than your once closest friends.
When we left the theater, I thought of a column my friend N had written, in which she described the particular forms of female-female bullying. Those nearly imperceptible slights, those carefully aimed barbs, those manipulations of emotions. N offered up as an alternative the practice of the female vampire bats, who adopt and feed young females outside of their natal groups when they're on their own. This supportive systems helps all the female vampire bats thrive.
I thought of this juxtaposition in the film--the movement between competition and collaboration.
And I thought that so much of this has to do with removing the "frames" from our lives and being honest. So often we share the framed photo version of our lives with others, when under the surface there's a mess of anxiety, uncertainty, messiness, hope, love, disappointment, disconnect. Though our lives may be on different tracks, I'm fairly certain we have similar core concerns about our very existence.
I cried during the movie because I could relate to the characters, and mostly to the sense of loss and feeling of sorrow that comes from growing apart from your closest female friends. Though I am friends with amazing women, of many ages and stages of life, many of them are scattered around the country and keeping in touch seems to ebb and flow. Our lives change and we seem strange to one another. Emails can't convey the depth of a late night chat over a bowl of Doritos and bottle of wine. Phone calls are difficult to arrange around busy work and family schedules. Even face to face visits are challenging, as we spend so much time within that framed photo.
And so much is lost, then.
I long to talk about loneliness and disappointment, about joy and dreams, about aging bodies and anxious minds. About relationships and kids and parents and friends and work and weight and spirit and food and ...
...about finding ourselves again through friendship. I want to nourish and nurture one another like the female vampire bats. And to reject those framed photos and revel in the surprise snapshots that capture a moment--mussed hair, spinach-flecked teeth, smudged mascara, exposed tummy, tired exhilaration: real.