There are 10 women sitting in my living room. We’ve polished off a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a gallon of hot rum-infused apple cider, a host of tasty treats, and this month’s book selection, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows). I chose it at my mother’s recommendation because it was so well received by her friends. It’s a story about a Channel Islands book club formed by accident during the German Occupation in WWII.
(I love the irony of a book club reading about a book club.)
This is our fourth meeting, and although we’re still quite new at this, we’re already comfortable enough to talk about our books—the characters, the plots, the themes—and share how they apply to our lives. Tonight’s discussion has been a good one. We’ve blown through all 15 discussion questions, and now we’ve come to the last one. I’ve added it myself, because I think it’s important.
I pretend to be serious as I clear my throat. “#16: The Guernsey Literary Society has a name. Do you think our book club should have one? If yes, what should it be?”
“I’ve been thinking about this for months!” Our founder, Leslie, says. “I keep wondering if I should bring it up.”
We nod collectively. A few options make their way to the floor:
- Sexy Librarians
- Sexy Drunk Librarians
- Sexy Drunk Librarians with Snacks
- Books on Heels
“Read ‘Em and Weep,” Sara suggests.
“Oh, I like that. We should say something about crying. We do that a lot here.” Which is true. We’ve read a few tear-jerkers.
“Or how about Read ‘Em and Weep (Occasionally),’” Melinda adds. “Because we don’t cry all the time.”
This is also true. Mostly we laugh, go off-topic and laugh some more.
It is decided. Once we pick the name, we forget about the book and just start talking. Lynn tells a personal story. Then Jen. Then Melinda. We all give solicited and unsolicited advice, swear a little and laugh again.
Quietly we congratulate ourselves, because this is shaping up to look like friendship, 10 women strong.
I think about friendship a lot.
When you’re young, it comes so easily. You both like Barbies. You both like Batman. You both like to roll from the top of the hill to the bottom, fist-bump over your mom’s chocolate cupcakes, and spin out together on your Big Wheels.
Then it’s not easy anymore. She flirts with your boyfriend. He’d rather play basketball than ride bikes across the lawn. She talks about you behind your back, and it smarts. Suddenly, your friends are jerks.
Then it’s easy again. Kind of. Your friendships take a little longer to build. Mostly, you buddy up with people who live near you. The kids in your dorm. The kids in your major. They like the same bands you do. You hang out at the same clubs. You visit their houses on summer break, and call their parents by their first names.
Then maybe you pair off. If you’re lucky, your significant other is also your best friend. Eventually you get a job, and you make semi-friends at work. You start a life, and there’s no time for anything else. At first you don’t notice. And then one day, you feel it: you’re lonely, and there’s no one you can call to say so.
“It’ll get easier when your kids are in school,” my mom said once. “It’s an even playing field then. You’ll be in a place where you all have something in common.”
But I want more than just kids in common. Friendship needs a wider foundation than that.
The older I get, the more I value the people I know, and the more I expect from them. Are you authentic? Interesting? Do you have your own opinions, and do you care about other people? Can you be honest when I ask how you are? Great, let’s have coffee. I’ll buy, and we can chat for hours.
It’s taken time, but I’ve started to focus on stringing together a group of people with something in common: wit that slays, an undercurrent of compassion, and honest, firm opinions that inspire me to think and learn so much more—as much as I can. I want the nearly-tangible sense that we’re all old enough now to see what’s important. Online or in person, that’s what I want all around me.
At 11PM I close the door on my last guests, slip off my heels and usher the empty glasses to my kitchen sink. The house is silent, and while I whistle something nameless to fill the quiet, it occurs to me that what I’m trying to build was in my living room tonight: Good people with kind hearts, and the willingness to open up, just to see what happens.
I’m looking forward to more hours like these.
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