Gayle’s husband went blind. Mine got cancer and is okay, and then we got divorced. Marie’s got cancer and is probably not okay. Or probably not going to be okay fairly soon; it’s a tenuous situation. Dory’s husband is fine, but her brothers keep dying. Micky’s husband is fine. Ann’s is dead.
We are 47, which seems impossible, because we are really — we will really always be — 17. And it’s such a cliche, I know: Where did the time go? But seriously: Are we actually (ugh) middle-aged?
We are. We are literally in the middle. We have both dependent children and aging parents. We have both acne and wrinkles. We have more money than we did when we were young, but not enough money to support us when we’re old.
Ann was in the middle of a divorce when her husband dropped dead — literally dropped dead — on the front porch. He’d quietly drunk himself to death, without anyone even noticing. At his funeral, we joked that now she can check off every box in the “status” section of forms. She can be “married,” “separated,” “widowed,” and “single.” She was always an overachiever.
We’re kind of tired of everything, except each other. This is the real secret of women’s long-term-friendship circles: we prefer each others’ specific company over almost anything else.
We already have this plan to all co-locate when we’re old (I mean older. Really old for real). We will live in granny pods, but I mean super nice granny pods, and we will sit in our rocking chairs in the evening and just crack each other up.
We consider our collective sense of humor to be our strongest collective asset. Two years ago, when we turned 45, the other five of us went on a road trip to visit Gayle, who lives the farthest away. For our grand arrival at her house, we wore matching bedazzled jogging suits. We thought this was absolutely hilarious, and we assumed everyone else would too. What we didn’t account for is that we’re actually close enough to the age that wears bedazzled jogging suits un-ironically for it to really register as a joke. This realization was crushing for us, but also ultimately even funnier than the whole reason we did it in the first place.
And the older we get, the more we realize that nothing ever stays the same, no matter how much you want it to, and nothing ever changes, no matter how much you want it to.
Our mothers still worry about us. They’re still both proud of and disappointed in us. We now worry about them. We worry about our own children. Our mothers worry about our children. We worry about the fact that our mothers worry about our children. They’re too old to have so much stress, and we should be doing a better job raising our own children so our mothers wouldn’t have to worry so much.
And for every time we said, “We’ll never end up like that” about our own mothers, we keep ending up like that. It’s the circle of life.
There’s not much point to this story, really, except perhaps this message to younger women, a message we now have the perspective to affirm:
You’re never going to grow up. You’ll get older, sure, and you won’t be as pretty, but you won’t care as much as you think you will right now. You’ll lose your tolerance for putting up with bullshit, and that’s a good thing because it frees up your time to involve yourself with worthier pursuits. You’ll be stronger in a lot of ways, yet more fragile in others. You’ll get way funnier. You’ll pull your hair out dealing with the children you have while eternally regretting the fact that you didn’t have more children. You’ll still hide things about your life from your mother.
You may or may not wear bedazzled jogging suits, but it’s cool either way. You’ll still be dazzling to each other. ❤