Several years ago, I was rather appalled to learn that my girlfriend, Nicole, hated to read. Granted, she’s a civil engineer by trade. A linear thinker. A planner. A fact-loving, solution-needing, draw-a-rectangle-around-the-answer, math-excelling kind of woman. She’s the girl who hated me in high school for interrupting Advanced Algebra class to ask, “When will we use this in real life?” I need to analyze. She needs to know.
So while she was nursing her second baby and spending those self-imposed long pauses in her day with nothing to occupy her mind (daytime tv does NOT count as mind-occupying), I handed her the Harry Potter series. After Harry Potter, she asked for more, so I sent her off to meet Mr. DaVinci and his special code. After that, it was the Twilight books, which she proudly admitted to being so enthralled with that she read paragraphs at stop lights on the way to her kids’ soccer practice, just waiting, waiting, waiting for those two fictional lovebirds to finally just do it already.
This year, it was the Hunger Games series, and most recently, I introduced her to my pal, Miss Sookie Stackhouse. Until we meet her in the first book of her as-yet-unfinished series (which HBO has turned into the equally delicious “True Blood” series), Sookie has lived a rather sheltered life. She lives, as Nicole often says of herself, “in the box.” She’s naïve and unworldly. But we like her, because unlike Bella Swan, the heroine of the Twilight novels, Sookie not only has a sex life but, if you ask me, she’s actually a bit of a slut. Which, come on, makes for better reading, let’s just say it. Sookie lives in the box, true, but she’s also kind of a badass. I like her. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up how I feel about Nicole. Yeah, she likes living in the box, but she’s one ass-kicking chick when push comes to shove, and I dig that about her.
I love talking books with Nicole. Talking about books has become a fundamental part of my bond with Nicole and several other phenomenal women in my life. We talk about fictional characters the way our husbands talk about sports figures: Who did what when, and why and how that’s remotely relevant in our lives. On the surface, it’s not all that important. But underneath, the time we spend talking about these protagonists and alternate fantasy worlds, the impulse to share our thoughts with one another, and the conversations that ensue, those are the things that build bonds. And those bonds are gifts we give not only to one another, but to ourselves, by learning to value other women instead of competing with them as we were so often prone to do growing up.
And that is why I love getting a random text from Nicole during the day about a scene she just read or a line that made her laugh. It’s about more than the book. It’s about sharing the moment, which strengthens our bond. I love that she calls, doesn’t even say “hi,” and just launches into, “How could they kill him! What the hell is THAT?!?!” rightly expecting that I’ll know exactly what she’s talking about. I love that we get to share her newfound love of reading. Thankfully for me, she hasn’t tried to reciprocate by sending me any calculus books, because I’ll tell you right now, that shit just would not fly.
So a few months ago, I stumbled on this blog by a woman named Jenny, AKA, The Bloggess, who is quite possibly my favorite blogger ever, in no small part due to the fact that she torments her husband (who likes it, by the way) and writes, when a fan sends her a particularly interesting little piece of taxidermy, “No shit, y’all. Kangaroo hand,” and leaves it at that.
The Bloggess is my freaking hero at the moment, largely because she has reminded me of just how damn important girlfriends are. She had a fight with her husband about needing new towels, went shopping with her girlfriend, and, banned from buying new towels and spurred on by her absolutely fabulous girlfriend, spent $100 on a 5-foot metal chicken (which, she notes, was marked down from $300, so, “That’s like, $200 worth of chicken for free.”), which she then planted in front of her own front door for her husband to find and posted a picture of it on her blog with the caption, “Knock, knock, motherfucker.” He was less than thrilled about the chicken, which Jenny and her girlfriend had named, “Beyonce,” so she told him, “Well, at least it’s not towels,” and, “It’s an anniversary gift for you, asshole. Two whole weeks early. 15 YEARS IS BIG METAL CHICKENS.”
I was still hyperventilating and hardly done reading this passive aggressive chicken rant when I forwarded the link to Nicole who laughed so hard she cried, something I haven’t seen her do since I told her about my colorectal surgery, and let me tell you, if you weren’t on the receiving, um, end, of that fun little episode of my life, that was some funny shit.
Nicole, in turn, read the entire post to her mother, who now asks for regular Beyonce updates. I sent it on to my sister Dawn, who called me later in the day, still laughing, to tell me she’d read it, laughed her head off, dragged her visiting girlfriend over to the computer so she could read it, and then they both laughed so hard that her husband came out of his office across the house to ask what the heck was going on. I hadn’t shared a laugh like that with my sister in years, and it was awesome. The next week, while she was on vacation in Aspen, she texted me a picture of a metal chicken sculpture, and I laughed about it all over again. A while later, I found a glass-chicken-topped wine-bottle stopper at Pier 1, which I mailed to Dawn, who laughed so hard she forgot just how big a time difference there is between LA and Gainesville and called me so late that I thought someone must have died, but it turned out she was just dying laughing.
So, now, periodically, I get a text from Nicole — my most straight-laced, in-the-box-living girlfriend, the very self-same woman who had never had a Jewish friend before meeting me in her 30s and never had a gay friend until I introduced her to our neighbor who promptly redecorated her house – that reads, “Knock, knock, Motherfucker!!” and I just bust out laughing in the middle of the elementary school parking lot while waiting for my kids. Those little moments in my day remind me that I’m more than a mom (although, I gotta say, being a mom is pretty awesome): I’m a woman and a sister and a really great friend. Those texts and calls and chats are little checkpoints in my week, reminding me that I am valued for more than my parenting or my professional work. I am valued for being myself. I am valued by other women, just as I so greatly value them, for simply being a girlfriend.
And this is why, last week, I was on Etsy.com, Mecca of hand-crafted gifts, looking for embroidered chicken towels to send Nicole as a housewarming gift since she up and moved to Minnesota, presumably to improve her chances of finding giant, metal chickens to buy among all those farms and such. Or maybe because her husband got a new job. Whatever. Anyway, I scored. Embroidered chicken towel? Check. Custom embroidery available? Double check. So this week, Nicole will receive a gift-wrapped kitchen towel with the words, “knock knock” embroidered above and below an image of a chicken. I’m pretty sure she’ll wet her pants laughing, but if she does, I won’t blog about it. Probably. But you can bet your ass we’ll laugh about it. And then the next time I’m at Target, I’ll text her a picture of some Depends.
P.S. Here’s the whole chicken story for those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about:
And then this…
Which you can actually buy here: http://alteregolinens.com/shop/bath-linens/
Although my version for Nicole was a bit more P.G., and I got it on Etsy from this awesome woman named Karen, the Internet’s #1 source for gifts that will make your girlfriends almost drive off the the road laughing.
***Update: Nicole received the towel, called me in hysterics, and quoted the original blog post, crying, “Chicken DOWN!!” At this point, her toddler called from the backseat of her Odyssey, “Chicken down, Mommy! Chicken down!!!” loud enough for me to hear over the phone, and we both devolved into laughter so great that she was thanking God she had on waterproof mascara, although I think maybe she should have been looking for a place to pull over and thanking Him she wasn’t in traffic.***