Girlfriends’ Weekend: a coming of a certain age story

This past weekend, I experienced the sublime pleasure of spending time with “old” and dear friends in the framework of a “Girls’ Weekend”. For my college friends and me, the Girls’ Weekend became a thing when we all turned 50, a mere ten years ago now. Since then, our gatherings have assumed many forms: usually just a once-a-year dinner or a spa day,
occasionally a weekend, and sometimes a quick evening minus a player or two. Each time, the gathering is a place to share joys, pains, sadness, accomplishments, and a history that spans over forty years.

The celebration to mark our collective fiftieth birthdays was quite momentous. Due to the gravity and excitement of our mid-century milestone, we embarked on a three night spa-casino extravaganza. We rented a condo on the spa compound, enhancing the ability to roam the grounds in robes while sipping fruit infused waters and eating crisp, delicious apples as we awaited the next treatment. Restful and blissful, we revelled in the time together, as well as in our hot stone massages, mani/pedis, and facials. We participated in belly dancing lessons, and more in our element, a wine tasting event. Our guards were down when, on night number 3, we set off to the nearby casino, where I introduced my friends to Cosmopolitans (a la Carrie Bradshaw), and it was a case of “one martini, two martinis, three martinis…floor”. Sadly, I am not exaggerating. After a few Cosmos, we dined and enjoyed more than a bottle or two of wine. All a little tipsy, we returned to the spa property for a night cap, and to this day, where I believe where it all went truly wrong. Some of us were queasy, some of us drove the porcelain bus, but all of us fled on that Sunday morning much worse for wear but with a story that is told in humor, embarrassment, and camaraderie – a battle wound that only solidified our connection. Our legacy remains: we are the only people in history who went to a spa and emerged damaged from the episode.

Now ten years and the blink of an eye later, armed with more life experience, repaired egos, and a resolve to avoid a repeat performance of our 50th celebration, we planned a weekend of theatre, dining, and conversation in Rhode Island. In the planning stages, I depended on my friends to take the reins of planning, since I was in the middle of a personal crisis and didn’t have the energy to assist. And as friends do, the slack was taken up by the other three and the plans fell into place – two nights at a lovely hotel in the shadow of the Rhode Island State Capitol building (rooms with a view, of course), restaurant reservations, and tickets to The Phantom of the Opera matinee. Upon arrival we set off to lunch at a restaurant recommended by the hotel staff, a distance away. As a veteran of Uber and the parent of a sometimes Uber/Lyft driver, I suggested “Ubering”. Showing their ages and relative distrust of social media types of thing, a general lack of knowledge and trepidation around the miracle of Uber was exposed. As I took the reins, we secured a ride, using my app, and we were off. It was a moment of wonder and I felt oddly empowered and youthful, as I showed off my iPhone app prowess.

Once at the restaurant, we were met with by a maitre d’, who was chilly, aloof, and condescending. We were “sans reservations” and clearly very low on his list of priorities (I wanted to tell him I was Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago, but I was pretty sure the reference would have been met with a stony glare.) In our younger days, this treatment might have offended us. Instead, with limited time left (we are 60, after all), there was no room for attitude. And so, we proceeded to the bar where the explosion of news and chat ensued, as well as our first toast and cocktail of the weekend. And Girls’ Weekend was officially in full swing.

As if no time had passed since our last meeting, a familiarity that comes with years of connection took hold and, without hesitation, we shared the details of the passing of a parent, another elderly parent’s broken hip, a family member’s cancer diagnosis, and late career unemployment. Our collective empathy in this setting, so removed from our problems, provided needed comfort and respite. Interestingly, we each revealed that we had rethought the timing of our mini-break due to these life complications, which would have made it too easy to slip into our own thoughts and worries. Instead, we fought the urge to retreat, with an outcome that surpassed any expectations.

By the end of the weekend, without effort or intent, we affirmed the reason for our getaways. We all had learned a little more about downloading apps on our phones (some of us have none), mastered the world of Uber (we had an Uber virgin or two in our midst), drank moderately (no replay of 2009), and discovered that some of us have never had an avocado (ok, I confess) or ever been on a cruise (and probably never will). We also exposed our fears of elder care, parent loss, cancer diagnoses, and parenting our now grown children. But most importantly, we remembered why we still cling to this time together after all these years. Our time together is truly ours and, while the spectre of the life we leave behind for even a few hours is palpable, we are present for each other. We do not proclaim to feel 20 again in each other’s presence, because we don’t. We bear the scars and memories of the experiences that link us as humans, connect us as friends, and call us to return to each other, if even for a few hours, every year. So, to 61, or sooner, I pledge to raise a glass in the presence of my “old” and dear friends, for a evening, or a weekend, as we forever become “a certain age” together.

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