Last week, following a belated birthday dinner with friends, I received a text from an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in a while.
On his walk through Doylestown, he’d passed the restaurant where we were dining, seen me on the patio and sent a message to say hello. As we went back and forth with a few texts later that night, he said he hoped my dinner had gone well because it looked important. The observation mystified me, making our get-together seem like a business meeting. When I prodded for some elaboration, it turned out he’d assumed I couldn’t have been merely enjoying myself because I was in the company of women who were older than I was.
I vacillated between laughter and affront and shot him back a response conveying a mixture of both — as much as one can convey anything in a text — as I assured him I’d been with cherished friends having a wonderful time. He realized he shouldn’t have made such a judgment, but the incident made me think about my eclectic circle of friends.
They are women of all ages and backgrounds and I appreciate that diversity. Where I may have stuck closer to my peer group in my early- to mid-20s (when, let’s face it, hanging out at bars and clubs and indolently whiling away our free time was a consistently shared preoccupation), there came a point where that group seemed to naturally expand to be more inclusive. As I headed into my 30s, and began devoting time to personal growth and more varied pursuits, when I began connecting with other women, it was usually because of an interesting story, a bright smile, an inviting transparency.
Whether they were 25 or 55, there was something about their presence, some vibrant, authentic spark that resonated with me more than any marker of maturity. Of course, I also value the accumulated life wisdom and experience of those who have a decade or more on me. Several of these women have served as both mentor and friend, offering everything from career and financial advice to insights, given several losses in recent years, into the abysmal, disorienting journey that is grief.
But mostly when we get together, we laugh and misbehave, trade yearnings and hopes, splay our sorrows and unfold our joys with a tender affection and easy companionship. We do what women do best, and as we tend and listen to each other’s lives, we find an echo from our own.
For no matter our pasts, how old we are or how divergent the outward trappings of our lives appear, we are more similar than we are different. And when I am with these women, I see only a friend, a fellow traveler on life’s path.
Recently, I attended a fundraiser with the founder of Journeys of the Heart, the nondenominational ministry through which I officiate weddings. Though our worlds don’t often physically intersect beyond the scope of that work, I consider Marge a beloved friend. I never imagined when I joined Journeys I would find in her a sage guide and trusted confidante, a woman with whom I can share anything, knowing I will not only be heard but affirmed. Her compassion and genuine interest in every officiant’s life has made our organization feel like a true family.
But what I also love about Marge, who is 71, is she is an absolute riot and joy. When we do go to the theater or attend other events together every now and then — our stalking of Elizabeth Gilbert at a Lehigh University lecture being among my personal favorites — we always have the best time. So when she asked me to be her date for the annual Black-Tie GayBINGO! event sponsored by AIDS Fund Philly at the Crystal Tea Room a few weeks ago, I was thrilled. A fellow officiant, Al Vernacchio, would be receiving the Founders’ Award for his work, both as a human sexuality educator and community volunteer, to fight AIDS and HIV. There would be a silent auction, dinner, dancing and, of course, bingo.
Marge and I had a blast. We sipped cocktails, took pictures, celebrated Al and marveled at the beauty of the Bingo Verifying Divas, dressed in gorgeous drag. We didn’t win a single game of bingo nor did either of us walk away with any of the prizes we bid on in the silent auction — but we danced nonstop and amused ourselves imagining the speculation about what an unusual couple we made.
It was such a fabulous night of fun, I’m already looking forward to our next date, and the mischief that may ensue.
Years ago, I invited my mom to join me for dinner with some friends. Four or five of us were meeting at a vegetarian restaurant I’d always wanted to take her to. But it wasn’t until we were on our way back home it struck me I’d been the youngest, by many years, in the group, when my mom turned to me and said: “You know one of the things I love about you? You have friends of all ages.”
I wouldn’t have it any other way. They’re part of what makes my life the exquisite, meaningful tapestry it is — and, yes, it is important when we get together because the effort to sustain those connections is some of the most fulfilling work we can do.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times