Last night as I'm running around madly trying to get everything that I'd heretofore put off the entire weekend finished up by bedtime on the Sunday, I stopped everything long enough to watch 'Romy & Michele's High School Reunion'. Again. I hadn't seen it in years, but remembered it being one of the best girlfriend flicks I'd ever seen...and also one of those high-school-reunion-fantasies-a-good-number-of-us-wish-we-could-have. Down to the three-person dance at the end.
If you've not seen it (and if you have 92 minutes you won't later mourn), look this one up. We meet Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and her roommate Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) roughly 9 years and 8 months after high school graduation. Best friends in high school, they moved to Los Angeles together after graduating from a hick school in Tucson, AZ ("This town is so un-hip!") and are living 'the glamorous life' in LA after their particular brand of style wasn't widely accepted by fellow classmates. Heavily influenced by Madonna, the girls make their own clothes which, frankly, are fantastic but bring them nothing but ridicule.
While working at her job at the Jaguar dealership, Romy runs into an old classmate, another 'Not A-lister', Heather Mooney, played by Janeane Garafalo, who lets slip that the 10-year reunion is coming up in a few months and asks if she's going. And the movie takes off from there.
This isn't an academy award-winning flick. It's not even the best movie you'll ever see. But what it reminded me of the most is that amazing relationship we have amongst ourselves as women. That person (or, if you're lucky, persons) in your life who, no matter what horrific thing happens, will not only find the bright side of the issue, but make you feel like you've already mastered it before you even realized you could! That girlfriend who, if you called in a complete panic to confide you'd just committed the bloodiest of murders would, by the end of the the phone call, not only have absolved you of all guilt, but would convince you that you'd done the world a tremendous favor and are now to be revered at the same level as Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Al Gore. And you'd hang up the phone with a smile on your face feeling absolutely freaking fantastic about yourself and the entire situation. You know what I'm talking about: that indefatigable optimistic-ness that is so uniquely a part of the best girlfriend role.
For instance: Having just showered and preparing to go out to the clubs, Romy and Michele are standing in front of a packed closet lamenting that they have nothing to wear.
Michele: "Did you lose weight?"
Romy: "Actually, I've been trying this new fat-free diet I invented. All I've had to eat for the past six days are gummy bears, jelly beans, and candy corn."
Michele: (with a look of absolute admiration) "God, I wish I had your discipline."
I met my Michele when I was living in El Paso going to college, working part time waiting tables at a popular local dive called The Surf Club (get it? Surf Club? In a land-locked state? Rolling eyes here...). I'd been there for a few months when Lisa walked in just after the lunch rush to apply for a job. I was standing at the bar going through receipts when she came in for her interview and said hello to her and we stood talking for just a bit. I remember telling her "You'll get the job... the pretty ones always do!". Of course she got the job, and we were best friends from that point forward.
She'd packed up her car and driven from her home in Michigan to marry her soldier before he deployed to the first gulf war...this was back in the late 80s. I'd moved there from Alaska on the pretext of going to school, but was really just trying to get out of my home and do some growing up. We spent the next few years of her husband's deployment completely inseparable.
That was some 20+ years ago. The bulk of that friendship has been spent on opposite coasts as she moved back to Michigan once Karl got home, and I just moved. But we rarely lost touch. And those few times we did, one of us would track down the other and we'd pick up our conversation where it left off, even if it had been months since we'd last spoken.
She's that kind of friend.
A lot happens in the course of 20+ years. We both had children (I unwittingly naming my firstborn male Zach which, unknown to me, was the name she had picked out for her son should she have one, and now we each have a Zach), got divorced, got remarried...and the huge varieties of life's ups and downs. No matter what, Lisa's always there for me without question and with complete support.
Over the years the topics of our phone calls, which would oftentimes go for the entire lifespan of a cordless phone battery (and then the cell phone if available!), covered everything from "Zach's going to be an ax murder!" (no, he's just a normal boy) to "I just walked in on my husband cheating on me with my friend Karen!" (that bastard!) to "I don't know if I can do this [life] anymore" (a heartfelt long-distance hug and a good long cry). One of the other of us hasn't always had a solution to whatever issue prompted the phone call, but we've always had the support in spades. No matter what happened, we could call the other, scared, heartbroken, in tears, sometimes even at the end of our rope. But we'd leave that conversation smiling, laughing, and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt we were loved and could conquer anything.
I honestly don't know what I would have done without her over the years. What I'd do without her now. And as close as we might be with the men in our lives, it's a different closeness that we share with our sisters, especially those women with whom we remain close our entire lives. They know us, most times, better than we know ourselves. They know that sometimes two months in between phone calls means something's terribly wrong. They know our secrets; those things that would immediately disqualify us from holding public office were they common knowledge. They know by the tone of our voice if we're not truly as okay as we say we are and wouldn't dream of letting that observation go by without broaching it head-on.
I got a text a few weeks ago while I was at work that simply said "I miss you. I'm coming out for a visit. Can you take some time off?" and within half an hour, the time off was approved and the reservations were made. She'll be here in three weeks, staying for about five days, over a weekend that that I was surprised to find My Person will conveniently be out of town. We'll sit on the couch and talk for hours, drink Bailey's Irish Cream, talk about our kids, memories of days both better and worse, and thoroughly catch up. We'll go for a drive up in the mountains and find some haunted hotel in which to spend a night, and I'll do the driving because there's nothing of the sort in Michigan and I know the roads here scare her. We'll talk about ex-husbands, old lovers, and friends in common. We'll talk about how lonely it can be at times living so far away from each other and hope longingly that someday that might change. We'll talk about that cruise we promised we'd take once the kids moved out on those days said kids had frayed our last nerve. We'll talk about how happy and content we both are in the relationships we've finally found and laugh about how horrible our ex husbands were. (I actually really mean that in the present-tense). And on the day she has to get back on the plane, we'll both try valiantly not to cry until we see the other off knowing that it might be another few years before we have this pleasure again.
There's a part of the movie where the girls are on the dance floor, together, at their senior prom, Michele in her bullet-bra'd lace mini a'la Madonna, and Romy similarly dressed with looonnnggg hair extensions done in a high bun and long ponytail. Romy starts twirling her hair as she dances whipping Michele in the face.
Michele: "Ow! That hurt! But it looked really good!"
Only a girlfriend would be so generous.