You know your friend really loves you when, upon hearing you’re at serious loose ends, she takes a ring off her finger and slips it on yours. “It protected me when I needed it,” she says. “Now it’ll be your shield.” “Let’s keep giving it back to each other when we need it,” I say, and we smile. Eve Babitz says there is always a moment when a man develops enough confidence and ease in a relationship to bore you to death. What I treasure most about the women in my life is we never stop courting each other–never stop seeing each other, never stop remembering each other’s stories, never stop beaming that Mother Mary blue.
Yesterday a 23-year old-woman asked me what I’d tell my younger self if I could go back in time. “Moisturize your neck,” I answered promptly. “My neck is like Dorian Gray’s picture.” After she walked away, clearly disappointed, I realized I’d turned into one of the Erma Bombeck paperbacks I’d scoop up at yard sales as a child. Or am I now a Nora Ephron? Whatever, man. The grass is always greener over the septic tank.
I received my best compliment of the year already and it’s only January. I’d been railing for a full hour to a friend about work, love, politics. Then I mentioned as a grumpy aside that I’d been taking dance classes “all year.” “Well,” I corrected myself. “One class anyway. Yesterday.” “What kind?” she asked, finally interested in something I had to say. (I couldn’t blame her; I was being terribly boorish.) “Tap,” I answered. “See?” she said. “That’s the thing about you. You act like a grouchy grownup but you’re wearing braids and striped socks and corduroy gauchos, and I heard you singing Hair songs on your way into my apartment and the kind of dance you’re taking is tap. You’re a cute person who doesn’t admit she’s cute, which makes you cuter.” Of course I’m repeating the story here, which is not especially cute. But all in all, a great compliment, one that says more about my friend’s generosity of spirit than my own alleged charms.