I have a couple different subsets of friends.
There’s my best friend since 7th grade, who transcends all subgroups because she knew me and loved me when I thought it was cute to wear dark brown lip liner and silver lipgloss.
There are my college friends, who are probably my longest, closest friends, as we have been miraculously, permanently and co-dependently in each other’s lives for almost ten years now.
There’s my adult friends, whom, despite being new, know me almost as well as I do and would, quite literally, do anything within reason (and a few things out of reason) for me.
There are my online friends, many of whom overlap the previous categories, with whom, after six years of blogging/facebooking/tweeting, etc., I have formed varying degrees of close bonds.
And then there are my pre-Grown Up Job work friends.
These girls were the friends I made when I was still working a shitty retail job fresh out of college, long before I ever spoke Sa.llie Mae’s name. It was a simpler time. They also have the distinct honor of being the last friends I will ever make on the job as I REFUSE to make friends at work (but that’s another post).
Over long shifts and lulls in foot traffic, we got to know each other. And somewhere along the way, even with a few bumps in the road, we became friends. I was incredibly grateful for these girls, who were friendly and helpful to me when I knew no one, turning me on to restaurants and bars and manicurists and even my orthodontist. I didn’t hang out with them as much as they hung out together (I imagine because I A. spent a lot of my time out of town with those friends described above and B. they likely assumed I didn’t like doing much of what they did (shopping, drinking, dancing) because I had to turn down many of their invites though the reality was I was just broke and depressed) but my early years in Houston are commemorated with tons of pictures with these girls in them; us over sushi at the company Christmas party or at the after-hours gay club in Midtown or a group picture at a joint birthday party for me and the other sole black girl in the bunch. These girls were my lifeline.
Now though, our lives are all changing. To some degree we have become friends who see each other for the capital letter events: Birthdays, Weddings, Baby Showers, etc. And perhaps it is because the time between our outings can stretch on for months that all the changes are so pronounced.
And I am reminded of all the things I “should” be doing that I am not.
This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate the wedding of one of our ex-coworkers. Over dinner and drinks from the open bar we talked about newborns and as-yet-to-be-determined wedding dates and living in foreign countries and new jobs and ex-wives. Later we danced to music that reminded us of places we’d danced until the lights came on, and coerced the bartenders to mix up a round of shots for the entire reception, like the old, younger days.
But for the most part I couldn’t help but feeling like I was right where they all had left me.
Living in a city I hate, working the same job I’ve had for four years, dating people only suitable for making you guys laugh when I tell you how the date took an egregious turn. Here they are getting married and having babies and moving to China and getting engaged and buying houses and I could not help but sit there and wonder to myself, “What the fuck have I been doing?”
The thing is, I don’t really want any of those things. Well, maybe to move to a foreign country. The nomad in me would be all over that. But I have made my peace with not having those things or with having them later in life after I do the things I DO want to do. But isn’t that what these benchmark events do to you in your 20s? Remind you of all the ways you are failing at being a 20-something?
For the record, I should admit that these girls have NEVER made me feel that way. And if they’ve ever thought it, they have kindly said it behind my back. They have coached me through long distance relationships and listened to my bitching about my mom and told me where to go if I travel to some of the places they have been. They’ve never been anything but supportive of me and my choices. But sometimes I think wouldn’t it just be easier to just color inside the lines?
Wouldn’t it just be easier to find a guy who makes me at least marginally happy (though, these girls have actually found GREAT guys), get married, have some babies, get a dog and a house and an SUV? Certainly it would take all the stress out of living. Or rather, I suppose, introduce other, more controlled types of stress. From this side of the fence, it looks easier, more manageable and secure, kinder on the psyche and better for the wallet. Isn’t that what all these social institutions are for anyway? Then my life could be, for the most part, made up of these benchmark events, the holidays and birthdays and weddings and anniversaries that come year after year, God willing.
And if I’m honest, there is still a little voice in the back of my head (that sounds remarkably like my mother) that wonders what is wrong with me that I don’t want all this?
What does it say about me that right underneath my feeling like a failure, I felt relief at the fact that I don’t have anyone other than Honey to be responsible to? Am I holding on to the free-wheeling persona of my 20s far longer than I should be?
I’m not entirely sure.
But at the reception, I decided not to focus on that. I decided to focus on how happy my newly married friend looked. And how much I loved being able to do the wobble with another friend here all the way from China. And the fact that, at the end of the night, after I finished dancing in 5 inch heels like I have neither a degree nor a daddy at home, that if ever I decide to change any of those benchmark adult events I’ve yet to participate in, I know some sort of way, I can manage do that too.