I never had a whole gaggle of friends in high school, or any other time for that matter. In elementary school, it was Scout aka Ronnie, then junior high it was Karen (who fucking abandoned me), and I made it through high school thanks to Yvette and Dawn. Kim was there for a while, but ran away at 16 to get married and have a baby. Good call.
Moving around like I did certainly didn’t help to cement any great friendships, either, so when I started teaching at the school am at now, I had my one close friend (who is amazing and wonderful and I can’t watch Steel Magnolias without her!). I felt so awkward and 17 (at the ripe old age of 39) about the whole damn idea of meeting new people, thinking stupid things like “no one is going to like me as long as my ass is THIS BIG” and “maybe I should just eat lunch in my room.” Ridiculous. But I was amazed that, despite my outrageously large ass, people did seem to like me and were even nice to me. No one beat me up and stole my lunch money. I became friends with the girl who taught across the hall, close enough that she invited me to join her book club.
I was so nervous! I love to read and talk about books (too bad I couldn’t incorporate that into a career), but my social skills were questionable. I teach ninth graders, so I knew all about Ugg boots, ceramic straighteners, and Fergie, but adult conversations – GROUP adult conversations – were not a daily occurrence. I almost didn’t go. That would have been the biggest mistake of my life.
Our book club (JUGS: Just Us Girls) welcomed me in with all the love and warmth of Christmas dinner on a Hallmark or Lifetime show. It wasn’t at all like I had imagined. There was no individual expounding on themes within the text, no shushing, no heated arguments over semantics – we hardly talked about the book at all. There were enough snacks to feed the Russian Army. As the conversations whirled, I learned who was related to who and who was married to, divorced from, living with, or going to jail over whom. This was not limited to the book club members; I’m talking about the whole damn town. It was a bit overwhelming.
We have had some, *ahem,* interesting book club meetings. Like when the book was Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice and all the snacks were penis-shaped (even the ice cubes). Or when we almost brawled over the elementary school’s abolishment of spelling test – they were horrified and I was thrilled. Things got heated. Then there was the time I made fruit skewers soaked in rum and honey, but we had to postpone for two days, which left my fruit soaking for four days. None of us could drive home and we giggled uncontrollably at the thought of being pulled over and asked, “how much have you had to drink?” and our truthful answer would be “NONE!” I guess you had to be there. And be eating fruit skewers.
As time has passed, I have found myself so intricately connected with all of these women, they have become a part of my life in such an intimate way that I never would have dreamed possible – something I didn’t even know was missing from my life. Each one of these incredible women has a story to tell, a story so rich, that I itch to do it, to do an exposé on my fellow JUGGers! (Right now, as they read this, some of them are shitting kittens at the idea.) We have a connection that has supported some of us through the most difficult of times, like when one of us went to jail, and now when one of us is fighting for her life.
I have yearned to go home to Arizona from the day I left over 18 years ago. Every February I fall into a funk, feeling claustrophobic and extremely homesick sorry for myself and driving everyone around me completely batshit, but if I was given the opportunity to go home tomorrow, I just don't think I could leave these girls.