Sunday, December 12, 2010

New "Like Sisters" column in C Magazine

JELL-O, old pal!


Recently, I overheard one woman ask a friend to help her recruit volunteers for the list of duties at her daughter’s swim club.

“You need to make this a Google document.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“I’ll help you.”

They sat on the same side of the table and the one friend who was good with e-mail and documents helped the one who was not. It was lovely. Indeed, it’s beautiful when you know what you need, and you know when you’re needed. When I was young, I knew Lisa was the best girl to go biking with. She wouldn’t be afraid of the bumpy trail that ran behind the school. On life’s buffet, Lisa is the granola, crumbled up and full of stuff that’s good for you. She’s over by the frozen yogurt machine.

Permit me to put your friends on the buffet and group them—just as you might put all the desserts on the card table off to one side, so that when it’s time for dessert, your guests won’t miss the full array of choices from chocolate chips to coconut cake. Get yourself a clean plate and dig into your intuitive hunger for a variety of friends.

Talents: These people have skills and expertise. You find their abilities uncommonly attractive. You mean it when you find yourself saying, “You’re amazing!” Not only do these friends have a little booth at the farmer’s market to showcase gourmet cupcakes, they also have major UVA donors in their cell phone. If “cool” was an elective in high school, these people would place out. It’s O.K. to ask their advice or their help. Let them dream with you about your next big idea because they can go there. They dream, too. They don’t invite you to concerts; they invite you to their concerts. They tend to have a strong sense of self, and they’re, you know, doing “their thing.” It’s inspirational. They are the salsa with the real roasted corn and the fresh cilantro and garlic and the homemade tortilla chips. So hip, so tasty!

Tenderness: You will cry with this person even when you think you’re not a crier. This is your crockpot maca-roni and cheese. This is not the back-slapping, marathon-running lady-warrior (no offense, roasted turkey). You can be vulnerable—totally—with this person. She’s got sticking power. I called my mac-n-cheese when my brother died. I was wailing, and her tenderness with me extended far back into the years. Because she had also grown up with my brother, I had nothing to explain.

Time: Oh, blessed are the companions who will go on long walks with you. Do you remember who watched Beaches with you? This is your friend who will go all over the mall with you to find an outfit or a costume or for no particular reason at all. Time will fly with this person, but it’s O.K., and it’s easy, and you’ll make easy plans for next week with this, your cherry yum yum. Yes, she’s a throwback to church potlucks, and she’s going to be a great old lady, and she’ll have time to spend with you then, too.

Truth: Wasn’t that an insightful question? No one has asked you that before. Beware—your truth crusader is going to give you “the look” when you speak aloud the delusions you’ve been playing on your mental iPod. She’ll let you trash someone, but she won’t let you go on and on. She might even say something like, “Open your eyes!” What a gift she is. She’s your plate of pickles, a little vinegar for proper digestion. Pickles are not for everyone, but then, the truth isn’t either, is it? You’ll find yourself calling her when you need a proper judge or critic or compass.

Is it possible that you’ve got friends that are talented, tender, available and honest, all rolled into one delicious flavor? Of course. However, having an assortment of dishes gives you sweet and savory, great opportunities for connection and strength, humor and wisdom. That’s your network, your tapestry, your phone tree, your posse, your Sunday dinner. Call it what you will, but keep it strong and updated, fresh and tasty, and never forget what you signed up to bring!