It’s a fairly common theme, at least with me. I’ll be plodding along, enjoying my overseas life, then WHAM; I get hit with the blues. I’m sure it’s typically triggered by something or someone, but honestly I haven’t been keeping track. However, this last time I know exactly what it was; girlfriends.
Bean and I were at the mall. We had an exciting day of buying batteries ahead of us, and were also using the mall space to get in our 10,000 steps a day. Typically we go to the mall after dropping Daddy off at work, which means we’re there before the employees are. So, for an hour or more, we walk the quiet halls and enjoy the wooshing of the zamboni-like floor washer in the distance. By the time we’ve clocked 10,000 steps, the shops are opening and we can buy our bread, veg or Ikea purchases, which is pretty much all we buy.
However, this past week Bean and I got to the mall just before noon, so it was already buzzing with shoppers and employees and those who just tend to mill about. So, as we were clocking our steps, we were dodging group after group of women in bunches. They were everywhere. Walking along in small clumps, shopping and cooing over overpriced items together, pausing for a spritz of the latest must-have perfume being offered by the poor woman whose job it is to offer to spray people, sitting around tables stacked high with little mezza plates (typically appetizers like hummous, baba ganoush, tabouleh, etc.). It’s not that they were doing anything extraordinary, but that they were doing it together.
By the end of our 10,000 steps, I was thoroughly home-sick and missing my girlfriends. Now, I have met some great women here in Kuwait, and I am forever grateful for their friendship and shared kvetch-time, but it’s not the same as the girlfriends who have known you for twenty years. They know your secrets, your triumphs, your lower-than-lows and higher-than-highs (emotionally and/or chemically). They know when you’re lying, they know when you need to confess something, and they know where all the bodies are hidden and probably brought the shovel. These are friendships that I felt could endure anything.
There were five of us. When we all first met, we ranged in ages from 20 to 31. We survived boyfriends and husbands, hirings and firings, knock-down fights, moves to India and Portugal and back, two of us got married, one had a baby. If you’d have asked me ten years ago if we’d remain friends forever I would have screamed yes at the top of my lungs. But I would have been wrong.
Two of them are still in my life and are as dear to me as ever. But two have faded away through apathy and lack of effort, on both our parts. Initially, when my husband and I moved to Cairo six years ago, I did everything I could to keep in touch via email and phone. But I came to realize that some people just don’t want long-distance friendships. So I accepted that and stopped hoping to hear from them. When I came home I always contacted them to get together and initially they were receptive. But by year three, they were suddenly too busy to see me when I flew home 5,000 miles, so I eventually stopped asking them.
It hurt a lot to lose them. These were women whom I considered sisters. But I also came to realize that our dissipating friendship wasn’t because I moved overseas. And no matter what I did, or didn’t do, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. This very well could have happened if I’d remained within a mile of them. Maybe it was just fate’s course. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but at least I don’t assign blame.
So, as I travel the world and see clumps of women sharing their lives, whether they’re in wellies in a café in London, or in full burkas in a café in Kuwait, I smile and allow myself a little envy for them. Then I say a silent thanks to the amazing girlfriends I still have in my life and send out a wish that these representative clumps of women enjoy every second they have together. Maybe they’ll truly be BFF, or maybe they’ll just be BFFN (for now), but regardless, enjoy the chattering, the sharing, the laughter and tears, and don’t forget to pass the hummous. Now, whose turn is it to keep the shovel?