Every other month or so, a group of the guys in our neighborhood get together for Poker Night. I’m not 100% sure how it goes down, but I think someone picks a date, designates someone as host (they take turns) and send out an email. Sometimes we girls find out about it ahead of time, such as when a bunch of us are talking and someone else mentions it; sometimes the discovery happens on the target day (or night!) itself, when our guy mentions they’ll be heading out after dinner, and sometimes it’s not until after the fact. Usually these are the times that our guy can’t make it. (To be fair, I’m sure there are also times, or at least was a time, when I learned about the night well in advance.)
And you know, I think it’s a great idea. I love it when the guys get together, and I’m always bursting with curiosity the next morning. I try not to blast my husband with questions the second he rolls out of bed, because Poker Night usually rolls into the early morning hours, and beer is involved. So I wait awhile before I start my interrogation. Usually, it goes something like this:
Me: “So who all was there?”
Him: [Sips his coffee] “Pretty much all the regulars.”
Me: “So how’s [Insert’s Guy Name] doing? I heard he had the flu.”
Him: “The flu? I guess that’s why he wasn’t there.”
Me: “Well, how did [Insert Guy’s Name] house look? I’m dying to see the new painting.”
Him: “They painted?”
Me: [Sigh] “Well, what about [Insert Guy’s Name]…are they still trying to have a baby?”
Him: [Insert Are You Crazy Look] “We don’t talk about that.”
Me: [Banging head] “Well, did [Insert Guy’s Name] seem okay? I feel so bad about his mom.”
Him: “What about his mom?”
Me: [Growl] “So what did everyone think about the break-in down the street?”
Him: [Frowns] “It never came up.”
Me: [About to scream]: “WELL, WHAT DID COME UP? YOU WERE GONE SEVEN HOURS! YOU HAD TO HAVE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING.”
Him: [shrugs] “We played poker. I totally schooled [Insert Guy’s Name].”
So they don’t talk. They play cards, with real money. They throw back a few beers. They compete. Someone wins, and someone loses. They go home. I guess it’s a guy thing, right?
With time, the girls in my neighborhood have decided to get in on the action, except we go about things a little differently. For us, the biggest challenge seems to be selecting a date. Whereas the guys pick one and run with it, for us, we come up with a few dates and discuss them via email. Rarely can anyone commit via the first round of emails. We have to check family calendars. We have to see if our guy is going to be in town and come home on time, to check if one of the kids has a sporting event or a party, to make sure we’re not having out of town company or some other commitment. And you know what? That in and of itself, the very fact that no one can commit without checking with everyone else in the family, is one of the biggest reasons why Girls Night Out is so important. As women, as mothers, our families typically revolve around us. We’re the glue. We’re the cruise director, the drill sergeant. When we step back, time either freezes or collapses. It’s really quite fascinating.
After a flurry of emails, sometimes spanning a few days, a night is selected…a night usually quite far into the future, and Girls Night Out is on. And really, how great does that sound, Girls Night Out? Immediately images of laughter and Magic Mike come to mind. It’s pretty darn alluring J
Anyway. We finally get our night scheduled, and as we rip ourselves from our homes and our families, from dirty dity dishes and laundry, school projects and deadlines, the most amazing things happens. Time falls away, and we once again return to how it was in the beginning, before kids and husbands, back when it was just us and our girlfriends, gathering at someone’s house for a slumber party, when we’d stay up all night doing each other’s hair, watching scary movies, talking about boys, and the occasional Urban Legend detour involving Bloody Mary and Light as a Feather.
Okay, so we don’t do each other’s hair anymore, and we don’t watch scary movies, but we do talk. A lot. We talk about work and our families, about stuff going on with our kids and our parents, about problems and opportunities, about the neighborhood and our community. About something we heard on the news, on the playground. About what book we’re reading or what movie we just saw (or want to see.) About an upcoming doctor appointment. About what stresses us, scares us. Terrifies us. The walls come down. We quit trying to be strong, invincible. We quit trying to be the glue that never cracks. We talk, and we laugh, and sometimes we cry. And when the tears come, so do the looks of understanding, and the hugs, and suddenly we’re not alone anymore. We’re not the fulcrum point of our families, but a friend among friends, a woman among other women. They get it. They know. They understand. They’re living parallel lives, and together like that, we all feel stronger somehow, because we know we’re not alone. We know the road we’re on is well traveled.
Consider these research-based facts:
- Women with strong female-based networks live longer than those without them.
- In fact, women without these social networks (support systems, safety nets) risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker.
- As opposed to fight or flight, women undergoing stress actually seek out others for companionship and support.
- The UCLA School of Medicine actually found that when in the company of girlfriends, a woman’s production of the oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, actually increases.
All this is significantly more sobering when you consider how increasingly isolated so many of us are. According to a sociologist at Duke University, Lynn Smith-Loving, friendships are actually the decline, a devastating consequence of the fast-paced lives more and more of us live.
If you’ve never seen the one-man show Defending the Caveman, you need to. It’s a classic, and it’s spot on. If you have, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s funny. There’s a bunko group in our neighborhood, and for years they’ve been inviting me, and I’ve politely turned them down. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because I don’t really know what bunko is, much less how to play. But finally last month one of my super sweet neighbors grinned and said…”We don’t actually PLAY bunko. That’s just what it’s called.” Oh? Really? So I went. And she was right. We didn’t play bunko. We gathered first in the hostess’s kitchen, where we indulged in chips and guacamole and other yummy offerings. Then we gathered around the kitchen table, with wine and laughter and stories about kids, families, school, vacations, you name it. No bunko, just camaraderie, and a whole lot of awesome.
Apparently calling the evening Bunko Night draws a firmer parallel to Poker Night, even though nothing could be further from the truth J But regardless of what you call it, Girls Night Out, Bunko Night, Mom’s Night On The Town, I’ve come to realize that time with friends is like one big group hug, like an endless warm bubble bath. Remember this commercial:
And yeah, while I was looking up that commercial, I ran across this one, too.
It’s kinda of the opposite end of the spectrum, but it counts, too. It matters. Because it conveys the same message, the woman who does it all. You. Me. Us. And THAT woman deserves a break…she deserves a group hug and a bubble bath, she deserves a night without anyone spilling milk or asking her to wipe their butt. She deserves to laugh and cut up and be silly. She deserves a girls’ night out. It’s not selfish. It’s not silly. It’s VITAL…and fun I think that’s why I’m so excited about my Silpada jewelry party coming up next week: girlfriends, jewelry, and wine. I can hardly wait!