I recently went out to dinner with two of my closest friends. I see them once a year, 50 times a year too few, and during the reunion of our families we made a point to carve out a few hours for ourselves. Just us. To get out as many words as possible without someone interrupting with an issue of potty/booger/sharing/hungry/you name it.
We left 7 of our 8 children, only the newborn got a free pass, with their 3 fathers. We slid into the mini-van and rode to the restaurant with empty carseats and half-empty sippy cups and leftover art projects and our voices filled the space left by the lack of children screaming/singing/crying.
The restaurant was a new, adorable, farm-to-table joint where the water glasses were mason jars and the waiter was straight out of Portlandia and the menu had the word ‘ragout’ on it. The hipsters know how to make a cozy little spot.
The meal was delicious. ‘Tapas’ style local food which consisted mostly of bread and cheese in various forms. There was alcohol to the degree that three nursing mothers can allow for, there was the requisite and delicious dessert.
The restaurant was nice and the food was great, but it wasn’t really the point.
We spent the entire meal talking. Taking turns talking while the others took bites of artisan Brie and passed around a newborn ripe for cuddling. Laughing loudly together while the other patrons wished they were in on the joke. Weeping openly together over the shared pain of loss and the acute ache and agony of motherhood while our waiter tried to think of ways to not feel awkward about us. The best he came up with while watching us wipe away tears was “You probably need something chocolate?” Not bad pal, this will add to your tip.
It’s true that a fancy meal with foods I can’t pronounce, sitting down in a tranquil setting, eating with both hands from dishes that someone else both prepared and will clean up is a luxury for me these days. But the truth is I can be physically nourished just as well eating stray grapes and leftover sandwich crusts and cold spaghetti washed down by cold tea.
What I needed so badly like a B12 booster was the company I had during that meal. The sisterhood, the sounding board for my joys, the company for our misery, the beautiful love. So much love. I need, on fairly regular intervals, to be with people who love me no matter what I say because I can occasionally say some pretty harsh things. People who get me no matter how weird my ideas are and nod through my explanation of why it makes sense to google the endings of movies before watching them. I need face time with people who respect my need to avoid feeling my feelings while still pushing me to cry. In restaurants.
You need this too. You might need this more some days, weeks, months or years than others. You might be a mother, or not. You might have a great family network, or not. You might like artisan cheeses, and if you don’t you are incorrect.
But understand this: no matter your state of mind or your phase of life, your state of being requires this kind of connection. This source of fuel. I know what you need. You need this.
You don’t have to be in a farm-to-table fancy hoo ha place. Meet at a coffee shop. At Arby’s. In the parking lot of a gas station. This is a petty detail.
You don’t need to cry until you laugh, but if you don’t you should try harder. You don’t need to cry in front of strangers, but you probably will if the conversations takes all the right turns. You will feel your feelings and share your fears and sip your drink so slowly. You will drain your stress while filling up your tank and feel simultaneously sad that you can’t do this more often and so very lucky that you can do this at all.
If you don’t have friends who will listen and hear you and not judge or at the very least keep their judgement deeply buried in the name of love, call me. A friend who will laugh at your jokes (you are funny!) and confirm all your doubts (everything is going to be FINE!) and tell you the truth about your thighs (no one cares if they touch…NO ONE!), you must identify this friend right away. If you can’t find them, I’ll do this for you. If you don’t think I’m your type, I’ll find someone who is. Maybe my calling is a sisterhood matchmaker, I’ll make you a match.
I know what you need. You need this.