A Friend, Indeed

by Valerie Nusbaum

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold…” A long time ago, I was a Girl Scout who would sit in front of a roaring campfire, toasting marshmallows for s’mores and singing that song. Sitting beside my best friend, Carey, I was secure in the knowledge that we’d be friends forever. Carey lives in South Carolina now. I occasionally hear from her on Facebook, and I’ve seen her at a few of our high school class reunions. We grew apart during high school, as kids will do, and we probably haven’t thought too much about each other during the last few decades. Friendships come and go; yet, sometimes friends come together again at different points in life. Maybe that will happen for Carey and me. Who knows?

Having lunch with a group of somewhat new friends the other day got me thinking about women and our friendships. I was taking stock of the conversation around the table, and I noted that we were talking about the World Cup soccer win for the ladies’ team, the best grocery stores in the area, gardening, and food. We weren’t gossiping about anyone we knew or sniping at each other about anything. We laughed a lot, and the conversation kept working around to business opportunities and marketing and sales techniques. Everyone in this particular group is an owner of a small business, making and selling original handmade items. I was impressed with the generosity of the women, and our willingness to help and support each other.

I came home from that lunch feeling proud of all of us. I sat down at my computer and shot off an email to my friend Kathy, telling her a ridiculous story about the new project I was working on, and that’s when it hit me again that we’re different things with different people. With Kathy, I tend to make jokes, and she and I tell each other things that I might not tell my other friends for fear that they’d think I’m not socially conscious. Everyone needs that one friend who lets us say bad things without calling us on the carpet. Usually, that friend reciprocates. At the very least, she laughs at what we’re saying.

Speaking for myself at least, my friends aren’t always other women. Over the years, I’ve had some wonderful male friends. Jay and I met when I was sixteen. We thought we might want to date each other, but then we realized that we weren’t that interested. Instead, we became the best of friends, and we shared years of escapades. We told each other about our love lives and didn’t hold anything back. Jay died before Randy and I got married, but they did meet each other once, and I like to think that, given time, they would have become friends, too.

I’ve been getting on Randy’s case lately, telling him that he needs more friends and that he needs to do some fun things with them. Perhaps go fishing? Randy’s response to that was a dissertation on the joy of fishing in solitude. My hubby is not much of a partier, and he isn’t overly competitive. Group activities don’t interest him much. Being a bit of a loner myself, I can understand his feelings. Sometimes I have to force myself to socialize, but in the end, I’m usually glad I did it.

We’ve tried “couples dating” in the past without much success. At one time or another, Randy has gamely gone out to dinner with each one of my close friends and her husband or significant other. One guy spent the entire evening telling Randy where to find the “best” of everything—best vacation, best food, best drinks, and so on. Another man demonstrated his prowess with a remote control, and promptly flew his little car out the front door where it crashed into a million pieces, falling off the porch. Yet another fellow fell asleep at the table and snored loudly. Worst of all was the time the wife (my friend) spent the entire meal telling us about a cat sitting on her husband’s head and loudly describing the cat’s anatomy. The other diners were horrified, and I tried to crawl under the table, all while her husband beamed. Granted, these nights out provided fodder for Randy’s repertoire of funny stories; he and I still chuckle over them. In recent years, Randy and I have met some couples who do share interests with us, and since neither of us has a prior relationship with either the man or the woman, we seem to be avoiding the crashes. Maybe we’re ready to try “dating” again. If not, I’m still very fortunate to have a husband who’s such a good friend—to me, at least.

As I’m getting older and, hopefully, more wise, I realize that of all the best friends I’ve had in my life, the one who has always been there for me is my mom. Granted, she lets me know it when I mess up, but she’s still the first person I think of when I have news—good or bad.

Having women friends of my own age and with similar interests allows me to talk about things I wouldn’t necessarily discuss with my mother or my husband. And, of course, we women can talk about our husbands, although I don’t do that…ever. I save that stuff for my newspaper column.

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