A recent text exchange between Desirée and me:
D: i was thinking that when magnolia takes off i’ll be the gail to your oprah
E: gail and oprah? ha! that’s hilarious! more like lucy and ethel, i think, lol
D: oh shit! why didnt i think of lucy and ethel?! damn.
E: heh! at first i was thinking thelma and louise, but i don’t think it worked out so well for them in the end. we’re too goofy to be criminal. i’d stuff my face full of chocolates with you any time!
D: oh hell i was gonna write thelma and louise but that was too tragic and the world needs us or at least our men and babies do so they won’t work. and then you wrote it!
Desirée cracks me the hell up, big time. But once the laughter died down to a few random snorts, the meaning of our exchange came through, loud and clear.
There’s nothing wrong with Gail-n-Oprah (I write their names like that because they seem almost to operate as one). I’m sure they’re very lovely women. They also have their shit together, and have for a very long time. Miss D and I do not. Actually, that’s not true, we do. It’s just that where Gail-n-Oprah have all the pieces of their puzzles neatly in place, Desirée and I are walking around with our shit all piled up and loosely wrapped with rope and duct tape. In other words, we’re just not quite as polished.
The next thought (clearly) each of us had was Thelma & Louise. She’s seen the movie, I haven’t. I have, however, seen the end clip a million times and know that (spoiler alert?) they held hands, revved the engine of their convertible, and drove off a cliff. In our 20s we might very easily have said Thelma & Louise and meant it. But so far life in our 40s has been pretty damn awesome. We’ve had one speeding ticket each in the last 20 years. Our noses are cleaner than clean. Plus, we’re too goofy and we’d make terrible criminals. We know we’d end up on one of those “dumb criminal” shows if we even thought about a crime spree.
Besides, neither of us wants to drive off a cliff, literally or figuratively, any time soon. We joke that we’re cosmic twins because we’re so much alike. We’re the women who say, “Honey, I’ll be back in an hour,” and our husbands know to tack on another 3. But we also have our own lives. Our own loves. Our own responsibilities. I would do anything in the world for Desirée, and she knows that. Going over a cliff in an unspoken suicide pact? Not so much. For us, the whole Thelma & Louise thing feels far too reckless.
So we decided Ethel and Lucy would be more our speed. Given how much we both love chocolate, all I could picture was the two of us eating the candy off the belt as it races past faster than we could wrap it. Actually, we’d probably eat it anyway, but I digress.
The natural progression is, “Which one of us is Lucy and which one is Ethel?” When I was in junior high my best friend and I would have definitely assigned a role for ourselves. Actually, my friend would have done the assigning and I would have gone along. Lucy is a lovable goof. She tries so, so hard. I’m reminded of the expression, “Missed the target, but hit the tree.” Ethel is the more practical one, the voice of reason. Her role wasn’t necessarily to pull Lucy back down out of the clouds, but just to make sure Lucy stayed anchored to the ground. And she never tried to change who Lucy was. Miss D and I are both goofy and lovable, both practical and well-reasoned. Why do we have to be assigned to one or the other?
The answer is: we don’t.
We talked about the Lucy/Ethel thing the over lunch the day after our text exchange. What we realized is that a good, solid friendship is much more fluid than that. There will be days when one of us will be Lucy and need the other to be Ethel and keep Lucy grounded, and there will be days when one of us is feeling more Ethel and will need the other to be Lucy to keep Ethel from getting overly serious.
But here’s the true beauty of the Lucy/Ethel Friendship Fluidity (I’m totally trademarking that): sometimes we’re both Ethel. There are times when things get a little tough, and the goofball thing isn’t appropriate. It’s super important to just be there, to be still. Get out of her way, and let her move through whatever it is in a way that makes sense to her, and she knows she’s not alone. And there are days when we’re both Lucy, laughing at every little thing like a couple of adolescents. Which is probably how we can go to the grocery store together and be gone for 6 hours. No, that’s not a typo. Don’t judge.
Friendship in the back half of life is so much better, so much richer.
Let’s all raise a bottle of Vitameatavegemin to our back half life friendships.
Here’s to our own Lucy/Ethel Friendship Fluidity™, Miss D!