I have realized in my ripe, old age of 42 that having a nice long conversation with a friend is much more enjoyable than nearly anything else I can think of. Between work, raising kids and husbands and the chaos of a middle aged life in general, we women tend to get lost in the grind of life and forget to have fun. But fun at this age does not entail hitting the club at 10 pm, screaming out how our day went while dancing until 1 am. No, fun nowadays is a two hour, two margarita lunch with a friend while we discuss why our husbands have turned into grumpy, middle aged assholes.
The fine art of conversation has been lost on some. I learned years ago in college how to make conversation. Because we were sequestered in a tiny, north Georgia community, with no bars, no bands and only each other from which to derive humor and entertainment, we were forced to learn the craft. Many a Friday and Saturday night were spent standing around a campfire discussing one thing or another drinking cheap beer or wine with screw off caps. No fights, no stupidity, just smiles and laughter.
As I proceeded through my twenties I realized I really hated the bar scene and longed for more intimate gatherings. I enjoyed the drinking and dancing but what I loathed (and still do) is trying to have a conversation over the thumpings of a crappy cover band. I wanted to talk, I wanted to listen, I wanted to figure out where my life was taking me, because we all know we’re going to conquer the world from the hi top table in the back corner.
I tried the dinner parties in my thirties, one major party each year in May where I cooked a massive spread but after a while it just wasn’t doing it for me. I had to clean the house, prepare the food and clean the mess. I was surrounded by my close friends but pulling off something of that magnitude more than once a year was daunting and I grew bored with it. My house was small and my kitchen and dining room were not large enough for full blown dinner parties. I was often left out of the conversation because I was so busy, so what, exactly, was the point.
In my later thirties my husband and I joined an off road club where families were the focus of our fun. It worked out well, the husband had like-minded, automotive types around him to keep him entertained, I had thirty and forty something wives to keep me entertained and the art of the campfire conversation was rekindled. Most camping outings would find two campfires going-the wives around one discussing vacations, schools and the other mindless drivel of thirty something women, the other fire held the men and discussions on the merits of the four link suspension and the compound of the latest off road tire. Being isolated from the men was never a real issue, as a matter of fact we preferred it that way.
About three or four years ago we left the club, my husband had done all of the improvements and upgrades to the Jeep that he was going to do, and for him, the joy was in the build, not the wheeling. We recently bought another Jeep but are resisting the urge to rejoin the club. Its two hours away and the kids are becoming more and more occupied with other interests. But I do miss the conversations.
It must be stated that conversation for women is so much different than I imagine it would be for men. I envision the male bonding conversation being highly focused on a topic, behind closed doors with scotch on the rocks in hand with little to no outside interruption. Men can’t stay focused on their conversation with too many distractions. Don’t believe for a minute that men can cook and carry on a conversation about baseball statistics at the same time, at least still provide you with an edible grilled item. A conversation among women can go from what little Bobby accomplished at school to local politics to gossip to the mindless insanity of our mothers in about four and a half minutes, and everyone is completely up to speed. In one particular conversation I was involved in the topic went in this order; such a pretty girl…why does she dress like that….you know she’s gay and has been hitting on so and so….most people think I’m gay….I get hit on in biker bars by chicks….I don’t have a problem with the women hitting on me its the gay guys that want to be my best friend. And that ladies and gentlemen is the deterioration of the female conversation.
I recently became friends with a high school classmate with whom I have had few interactions with since school. She is married to a distant relative by way of marriage but in the south we’re all distantly related to people by marriage. Our daughters play high school sports together and we seem to have hit it off somehow, possibly from our mutual love of sarcasm and need for intelligent conversation. There are rules to the conversation, we must each bring a topic to discuss as these games are sometimes long and boring. With my friend’s background in community mental health and my background in nursing, most topics surround the brain with my interest being neuro-physiology. The conversations always start off intelligent and academic-like but usually degrade over the two hours into what stupidity our husbands and sons do, the poor grammar used by those around us and misspelled tattoos. The conversations take place in fits and starts as it is not seen by either of us as rude to get up and walk away at the end of a sentence. But the talk begins in the same point it left off with new points being made. When the season ended our conversations became nearly non-existent until we made the ill fated mistake of having lunch on my birthday-nothing like a $75 lunch tab at a Mexican restaurant, the majority of which was margaritas. I was happy to pay the price as we laughed and gossiped like twelve year old girls.
I was reminded again this past weekend of my love for quality conversation. My friends and I from the off road club were reunited for a day of story telling and bellying aching over this, that and the other, mostly grumpy, middle-aged husbands. We let our friend vent about her loneliness in the big city with no friends and how the most interesting thing that has happened to her as of late was possibly becoming a nanny for two gay men who recently adopted a newborn infant. This is why I subscribed to the notion that real life is stranger and funnier than fiction. I whined about my husband’s new love of all things gun related (another expensive hobby). All of this while driving around a campground in a golf cart with beer in hand, ah yes, good times.
I think I will make it a point of once a month, spending time with a friend, be it lunch or dinner, and have a good conversation. It seems to lift the spirit and remind me that although life is mostly dull and mundane, a good conversation with your friends is all the entertainment you need. From what I’ve heard, it beats the hell out of Honey Boo-Boo.