I am sailing out to dinner with one of my dearest friends, Katey. Believe me, it’s hard to sail anywhere when you are wrapped up in layers of coat, sweaters, scarf, hat and boots, looking like an obese mummy, but I am trying.
My husband wonders when I’ll be back. In two hours, I tell him. Give or take. “Katey and I haven’t talked — really talked — in years,” I tell him. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
He looks the way men do when you tell them something like that: puzzled, a little skeptical. It’s the same way he and our friend Rob looked Friday night, when Rob’s wife Laurie and I tried to explain to them the importance of keeping in touch with our circle of friends — how it’s one of the most significant parts of our lives. The husbands clearly thought it was nice, but a little odd. They didn’t get it. “They’re so lucky they have us,” I told Laurie.
But anyway, Katey and I have been friends since we were both young women in Charlottesville, Virginia. Already the mother of two young children, Katey tutored me through my first pregnancy. Katey has a bossy streak, so she gave me lots of advice.
We were both just beginning to write then — ambitious, but tentative. We had different ideas about combining work with motherhood, and I can remember arguing about that. But we were friends — and if you’re lucky, there’s enough room in a friendship for that kind of disagreement.
Thirty years later, our kids are grown and doing well. Katey says her daughter is as bossy as she used to be. It occurs to me that’s true with my daughter, too. Our careers — well, we’re writers. Our careers have taken off, stalled, sputtered, taken off, repeat the sequence ad infinitum, try not to get dizzy or too full of yourself or completely demoralized. Nothing’s forever, except for death, I hear.
Right now, though, we’re both doing pretty well. Katey wrote a highly respected biography of Burt Lancaster and her new biography of Jim Thorpe, which will be released by Knopf in the fall, sounds every bit as fascinating.
So, we talked about our work, our families, our pasts, other friends, friends who have died, relationships, politics. I took full credit for helping Katey, the Northern Californian who settled on the East Coast, see that this is a vast country of fascinating people and places, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. Sometimes, you win an argument with Katey, even if it takes 30 years.
I came home three hours later, hoarse from talking. My husband asked if I’d had a good time and I told him yes, it had been great, so wonderful to talk and drink and catch up as if we still had all the time in the world, with our lives in front of us.
But I was thinking, once again, that this is one of the great divides between men and women: That they can’t quite understand the sheer joy and sustenance women get from their close friendships. I can’t explain it. But I can’t explain why I need oxygen, either.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about the male, the female, the amazing result