Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Women's Groups

It's the first Tuesday of the month, so that means Bowling with the Happy Ladies' Club.  I picked up G'ma for our usual "lunch then watch me bowl" afternoon.  Subway was crowded, but that just gave her more people to look at and judge.  Girls with long hair and men in tight pants and women with scuff marks on the backs of their high heels... they were all ripe for the picking.  And pick we did.  She watched the line go by while I watched her face.  The man in front of me and the woman behind me were watching her, too.  She struggled with the bag of potato chips and then, realizing that we were spying, she began to mug for the (non-existent) camera.  Scrunching her face to the left and the right, wriggling her shoulders,  shaking her head in exasperation.... if she weren't so camera shy my video would be viral.  But, no, she says, put that camera away and so we 3 stand there, her audience, and laugh.

We shared stories about our mothers (hers behind me is 92, still driving "the old folks" to appointments) and agreed that, despite the worries, we are very lucky to have them around.  I passed around The Burrow's business cards.... if you're out there reading this, leave me a comment and say "Hi" .... and then we were distracted by the veggies in the bins on the other side of the case.  Through it all, G'ma was staring, noticing, rolling her eyes and raising her eyebrows.  She's like a silent movie sometimes.

The Nose was hot to the touch, and barely cooled off before we got to the bowling alley.  Why do you suppose the venue is not called the bowling allies?  I'm just wondering.  Our group was on the last 2 lanes, 39 and 40.  It's our favorite spot.  The leagues bowl on lanes 1-30, then the families and lonesome doves are assigned to the remainder.  Our two have a clear view of everything that's going on, but they're far enough away that no one can laugh at our performance.  

And a performance it most certainly is.  Our goal is, as always, for all of us to break 100.  We have a newbie whose first score was 15.  Not in the first frame.  Her total score.  She got lots and lots and lots and lots of advice.  She's left-handed, and bought left-footed bowling shoes on-line.  Who knew such things existed?  Not I, for sure.  Apparently, the "slippery" foot is different.  My shoes have a slippery foot?  They look the same to me.  But hers came with a carrying case, a round piece of plastic and an oversized shoe shaped piece of heavy felt.  None of us had any idea what the extra pieces were meant to be.  She'd bought the whole kit and kaboodle for $19; I suppose instructions would have been too much trouble to add.  By the end of today, her second time bowling since she was 15 years old, she had strikes and spares and a score of 115.  So much for giving her any more advice.  

There were seven of us, so it took a while before we were finished.  I basked in the moments when the bowlers would sit next to G'ma, sharing stories and laughing at the contestant at the line.  She's one of the group, though she doesn't think so.  I've given up trying to get her to admit that she is an integral part of the bowling party.  It's enough that I know.  It is just not in her personality to accept that others like her.  Sad, but true.  

We stopped at the hardware store to channel Daddooooo and buy some potting soil and vermiculite (see tomorrow's post for the reason), and then went to the other end of the mall for Swensen's ice cream.  Complaining the whole time that her sundae was HUGE, she left only 3 bites in the bowl.  Not finishing something chocolate is antithetical to her nature.  We smiled at the notion that this was definitely a "family thing"... going on an outing and stopping for ice cream on the way home.  Spoiling our dinner?  For sure.  But did we care?  Not a bit.

It was a hot and lazy afternoon, but it wasn't boring.  I bowled poorly (though I did break 100) and seemed to miss most of the interesting conversations but I was glad just to be there.  The Happy Ladies all understood my heat-induced lassitude and the grouchiness following in its wake.  The Little Cuter declared herself the Mayor of Grumpy Town today, and we all got a kick out of the title and her self-awareness.  We were laughing and sighing at the same time.

Most of the men in my life hear these kinds of conversations as whining, self-indulgent, what-do-you-all-have-to-be-so-aggravated-about-anyway moments of feminine folly.  The women in my life understand that sometimes it helps just to give it a name, to say it out loud, to acknowledge it in front of others and to have someone say that she knows exactly what you're feeling because she's been there, too.  There's always teasing and poking and sarcasm involved - by the complainers and listeners alike - but it's not mean-spirited or judgmental.  It's a pillow of comfort in an annoying world, a space between valid and vapid concerns, an intersection of experiences shared by the most unlikely of companions.  

It's a Women's Group - remember those from the 1970's?  Fiercely introspective sessions probing deeply into the emotional and psychological and social and physical realms,  circles of women would beat drums or read poems or respond to this question:...." and begin to unpeel themselves, layer by layer.  I don't do book clubs because they often devolve into these kinds of sessions, but the Women's Groups of the last century were unabashedly so.  The whole idea scared the crap out of me (trust issues and all.....) and for the longest time I kept my thoughts to myself.  But having children gave me Play Group, and the women I raised my children with.  They're the ones who know that if the Cuters grow up to be mass murderers it is not my fault.  We car-pooled and disciplined and fed and nurtured each other in exactly the same way that we did for the babies.  We had high expectations of each other, but that was because we knew we could rely on one another for the same standard of parenting that our darlings received at home.  Over time and camps and road trips and teams and clubs, we shared those conversations that the Women's Groups tried so valiantly and artificially to create.  The issues came up as life came around : the partnership offer coming just as she was going to tender her resignation led to weeks of pulling apart the nature of women in the workplace and our obligations to our peers and those who will follow our footsteps.  We didn't need an agenda.  We lived.

Today was a good day.  Hot and relatively uneventful, it was a lazy smile and a gentle reminder that the joy is usually there, waiting for me in a circle of women.  It's up to me to find them.

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