Friends Without Kids

This past weekend was the annual spring ritual of mom’s gone wild, desert version. I’m pretty sure our husbands imagined pillow fights and erotic braiding of each other’s hair, but that’s just the guy’s view/hope/fantasy…  although there was a gigantic bottle of vodka and assorted other options to take a break from reality, plus bikinis and plenty of lady lube.

AWWW, get your mind out of the gutter, people!  By lady lube, I mean the thing that really gets us girl’s juices flowing — intimate, soul-baring conversation. Yup, it was an orgy of communication.

The friends I went away with were friends with kids who are my kids’ friends. (Got that?) In a totally decadent move, we saw a matinee movie with an R rating and barely a kid in sight (despite its title), Friends with Kids.

It’s about a group of college friends, some of whom settled down the conventional way and started a family, and one couple who wasn’t a couple at all, but rashly decided to have a kid together. At the heart of the story is an interesting premise: if you skip the bullshit that goes along with real intimacy and cut right to the chase, is life any easier? Better? Happier?

I won’t ruin the ending, but I will tell you there are no shortcuts. For a relationship to work, there has to be shared interests and shared values. And a whole lot of real, meaningful, truth telling.

And that’s any relationship — friendship is no exception. At every stage of life, we arrive somewhere with our personal baggage, stuffed to the brim with a lifetime of habits and history. I’m a newbie in my community and the most recent addition to the p-posse I went to the desert with. Our husbands didn’t know each other in high school, we weren’t in mommy and me groups together, our children didn’t go to preschool together or even the first few years of elementary school. Still, I met them all through my kids and have always liked them as I tentatively have gotten to know each of them separate from their families. Once you move beyond the kinder, and talk about things that have nothing to do with school, PTA, or other mutual touchstones, the area can go a bit gray. Budding friendships may fade to black once you realize that despite shared proximities or experiences, your core values and interests are as different as the engagement rings Brad gave Jen (traditional and sparkly) and Angelina (mod and edgy).

Maybe that’s why one of the girls teared up over garlic knots (full-fat buttered bread always makes me weep, too) when she announced how grateful she was to have found such close friends in her 40s.  It wasn’t just the Squeeze My Lemons Martinis (see recipe below) talking, either. If we hadn’t gone there before and pronounced our friendship as something deep, meaningful, and a keeper, we sure did this past weekend.

Meanwhile, back at home, my husband got a wild hair up his butt and finally sold the SUV we’d been talking about getting rid of for months now. This was my mom mobile, purchased eight years ago in the town we used to live in. Earlier cars had been bought for economy and the ability to add a kick ass stereo. But the SUV ensured safety, plus plenty of room for strollers, diaper bags, and all the trappings of early childhood. As my gas-guzzling baby rolled toward the 100,000 mile mark, I knew in my heart I’d soon have to move on. But I was hooked on the idea of being able to cart my moveable child feast along, unchanged as it has been from almost the beginning.

That was until I drove to the desert with my friend in her Prius. For four hours (!) on the drive in rush hour traffic, we talked a lot about our kids. And a lot about ourselves, too. I realized our interests and values are very much in line, as is our sense of humor, our taste in men, our thoughts on child rearing, our fear the planet is going to pot, and other hopes, fears, and dreams. Plus our shared love of the perfect dessert. By the time we pulled up at the party, I was ready.

Ready to embrace who I am now: a woman with kids who are old enough to start taking care of themselves. Driving an SUV allowed me to make sure I had every single thing necessary to make the ride comfortable for my children. But the cost of gas was eating into their future, so I made the responsible decision to pair down and woman up: I got a Prius, too. If I hadn’t taken that ride with my friend to the desert, I’m not sure I would’ve known the time was now. Nor would I have had the courage to move bravely back into a vehicle that’s equipped not primarily for the kids’ comfort, but for my own, too.

It’s the friends we meet along life’s road that help us appreciate the journey.

So let’s drink to that with my bitches’ beverage of choice:

Squeeze My Lemons Martini

For each cocktail: 1 part vodka (you’re old enough to not be cheap – although I do recommend the moderately priced Tito’s Handmade Vodka – nice ’n chewy)

1 part Cointreau (also a key ingredient in my Vice Chocolate Mousse)

3 parts Dr. Swami and Bone Daddy’s Sweet and Sour Mix Fresh lemon

Sugar to rim the glass with – Lemon Drop Cocktail Sugar if you’ve got it, otherwise plain ol’ sugar will do