Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

There has never been a time when I haven’t had fun with my women friends. I’ve been through several ups and down and in-betweens but a consistent pleasure is the quick catch up, which is anything but quick. Coffee meetings have spilled over to happy hours, lunch to shopping excursions and phone chats to long rants. No one, absolutely no one else gasps with delight that I found a handbag at a steal or understands the problems of repairing smudged eyeliner or criticizes brands for making clothes that look good only on hangers. We always watch our diet but always order dessert. They tell me about their exercise regimen and I tell them about my yoga class. They tell me about their daily grind and I tell them that I am equally drained. Yet, we sit, unperturbed, in fine clothes, There wearing our best faces, and sip glasses of ice tea as though the world is our oyster. We have had our romances and our heartbreaks, raised our children, experimented with jobs, used our skills and talents, and survived family dramas. Life seems better when we momentarily sweep aside the same old dilemmas.

It is with a friend that I enjoy discussing the minutiae of life, be it hiring efficient house help, tips for growing basil in the pot on the window-sill or finding the tastiest recipe for Thai curry. I like to exchange numbers of tailors I will probably never visit, learn about ayurvedic remedies that I will forget to try and conceptualize a lifestyle business together because ‘we have such great taste’ even if it will never happen. It is with a friend that I visit the new earthenware shop on the corner although I don’t need more crockery. Only a friend will echo the look of longing I reserve for a perfect pasta dish. I need a friend to discuss celebrity scandals at length, until we pronounce, “It’s probably just a rumour and not our concern,” at the end. It is with a friend that I can browse through exhibitions and make alternately appreciative and snide remarks about the products on display. A friend will console me for making an impulsive purchase and offer me assistance when I’m looking for a cocktail dress. It’s as though our lives (in spite of work/household responsibilities) will remain suspended until we spot the right outfit. It is a friend I urgently need after a bad haircut so that she can say, “Don’t worry. It’s just hair. It will grow back.” I knew that too but I really needed someone to say it out aloud, and she did.

Sometimes I mentally relay an awkward incident to my friends even while it is happening to me. Except that instead of feeling aggravated, I’m imagining a future moment when this goof up will sound funny. Then there are memes I would not find as entertaining if I couldn’t share them. That little red heart, the laughing emoji or the hugging smiley that comes back in response can make daily hassles easier to deal with. This bonding is not limited to superfluous pursuits. Every now and then we thank the stars for our big and little joys and sometimes we whisper wistful yearnings. They have held on to me when my life has resembled a Greek tragedy and cajoled me back to normalcy. Sometimes days pass and we barely keep in touch. A few messages and a couple of cancelled plans later, we return to the same scenario. It could be weeks, months or even years because time doesn’t matter. We’ll talk about the state of the world, ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over a new red lipstick and recommend the latest must-read novel. Hidden in these small pleasures is a big one of abiding friendship that we don’t need to address. It’s self-explanatory the moment we say, “I have lots to tell you. Let’s meet.”

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