I was having a party. A "women only" drinks and nosh potluck party. My husband was in Utah on a hiking/biking extravaganza with some guy friends. The kids were having a sleepover at grandmas. I cleaned and organized for a week. I baked. I fretted about wine choice. But I was so excited. I'm not sure if it has to do with being younger, being single, not having kids or what, but something that has significantly changed for me as I have gotten older and married with kids is that the precious alone time with my women friends has declined tremendously. And I miss it. My husband and I as a couple, have found "couple" friends and I enjoy that company, as well. But there is something different that happens in a circle of women when no men are present. There's energy and an ease in that kind of space that's invigorating to me. I feel it provides a balance that I really need. All this being said, bringing a bunch of women together can also cause drama. So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when I got a strange phone call from one of my friends a few hours before the gathering. But I was.
On the day of my party, I was surrounded by what felt like 1,000 kids in costumes. I was at a pre-halloween party. My phone was vibrating. Voicemail. I plugged one ear and strained to hear the message. It was my friend whom I've known for 19 years saying she was in my neighborhood and could she come over now (3 hours early) and leave when the party started? This made zero sense to me. She lives 20 minutes from me – hardly a haul – and why the hell would she come 3 hours early and then dash? I found the quietest spot I could and called her back. She repeated her nonsense message. "Why would you want to do that? Why would you come before the party – 3 hours early no less – and then leave at the start?" "Well, everyone is going to be married. And you will all be talking about your kids. And dirty diapers. And I have nothing to say. Nothing in common with them." I was aghast.
"First of all," I said curtly, "you don't even know most of these women! How do you know what they will talk about?" She reminded me of my husband's 40th birthday party where she sat with my parents and grandparents to avoid all the couples. (I did not choose to point out that my parents and grandparents are couples, too.) "Yes. I remember you did that. But these are women. We all have that in common. There will be no spouses." Undeterred she said, "But everyone is a mom. Right? Everyone will be talking about their kids. And soccer. And carpool. I mean, I have nothing to say to that." My response? "You know what? No! No you may not come to my house early. Put on your big girl pants and suck it up! I'm married and a mom and the last thing I want to talk about when I have time with other women is my kids – or carpool, or soccer. You are a, a, racist against moms! See you at 8!" And I hung up the phone. I returned to the 1,000 kids in costume.
I was seething. What the hell? Who did this chick think she was? And worse, who did she think I was? I felt attacked for my life choices. That somehow by my becoming a wife and mother, I had given up my being a woman. I was now seen as someone who couldn't have a conversation about anything that was unrelated to my children. I called another girlfriend. I relayed the incident. I was yelling, in my minivan, in the suburbs, with my 4 costumed children drunk with sugar overload in the back. My friend listened intently. "This is not about you." She finally said. "She's feeling self-conscious about her life. If you are really her friend, you need to call her back and apologize. But if you don't really care either way, do nothing." I was stunned. About her? I didn't say anything about her. She attacked me! I included her! I attempted the mantra of, "it's not about you. It's not about you." I sounded semi-authentic.
I called my friend back. I told her (nicely this time) that no, she could not come early and that she would be fine. That I invited her because she was a girlfriend and this was a gathering of girlfriends. I assured her that while I could not guarantee what each and every conversation would be about, that the women who were coming were interesting, thoughtful and had more to them then a detailed account of the daily ups and downs of motherhood. She came. She had fun. She met another single friend and they made a date. I also got her a gift for her cat. I think she forgave my harshness.
Looking back I see how deeply I was triggered by what my friend had been implying. What she said about me is how I protest being seen and portrayed. I often say, that although I live in the burbs, in a house, in an affluent community and stay at home to raise 4 kids, I am most definitely not like everybody else in my same situation. I feel the need to separate myself from all the stereotypes that are married (if you will) to my life place. Things in fact that may be true about me. Fact is, I am a wife, a stay at home mom and my kids are my life, and I'm wondering as I write this why I feel the need to defend that or put distance between that and myself. Because I may be a suburbanite, mini-van driving mom, but when I've got a pomegranate martini in hand, I'm a well-rounded friend and I throw a damn good party at that.