We all need our girlfriends. Thousands of cute little stories, memes, and videos circulate the Internet dispensing the wisdom of relying on girlfriends. FS life gives you a variety of different girlfriend groups, and each one is essential to the life of the Sane Woman.
There are your FS Family Girlfriends, ready made for each post, the girls* who form the support group who help you get over the loneliness of your first Thanksgiving away from home, pick up your kids when you are stuck in traffic, and who help you find peanut butter and chocolate chips at your new post. The second group is your college or high school girlfriends.
These are the girls who knew what you looked like with braces (and hopefully don’t tag you on FB when they post that photo), who set you up with a “functional date” (Does he drink? Does he dance? Will he look good in pictures?) for your sorority formal, and who helped you decorate your first apartment in Early American Crates and Boxes.
The third group is the one this post is about. These are your Anchor Girlfriends. They are the girls who tie you to your homeland, who take you in the moment you hit home soil, and who send you care packages on U.S. holidays. My Anchor Girlfriends don’t live in my DC area neighborhood, and I think this just may be typical of FS folks.
In NOVA, I have great neighbors. The guy next door to me is actually another FSO. I’m happy to water plants and feed fish when my neighbors go to the beach. One of my favorite neighbors adopted DB2’s fish when we moved and is incredibly kind enough to give me an update on them. I run next door and borrow a cup of sugar, an egg, or some cream of tartar from my neighbors. Some of them are exceptional people that I love and spend lots of time with when I am back, and I even fit them in for visits when I return I like them that much. I watch their kids when they play out back, bake cookies for their families for holidays, and we are generally friendly with each other. There is, however, the simple fact that they know that I am only in the neighborhood for a limited amount of time, so the investment in the relationship is different. I’ll probably never be the one they call in the middle of the night with an emotional or imagined crisis, and I’m fine with that.
I didn’t meet my Anchor Girlfriends through work, school, or neighborhood. I didn’t meet them through my kids either, surprisingly enough. I met them through DiploSis. DS, T, and D are my core anchor girlfriends, and they are some of the most amazing women I know. Their choices are ones that if my life turned out differently, are probably similar to ones that I would have made. We parent similarly, which I think is a common requirement among Anchor Girlfriends. Our values are similar. We all like wine.
When I went back for surgery in January, D was the one who stayed with me in my drugged up state the night after surgery while DiploSis went out with DiploBIL to ring in the New Year. D drank wine while I flew through the evening with medicinal grade pharmaceuticals. She kept me in even more stitches, made sure I took my meds on schedule, and fluffed my pillows. We planned DiploSis’s 40th Birthday Party and bought all the party junk for it online from my recovery bed. After a brief recovery, we settled into regular life, with me a part of it.
I don’t feel like a third wheel with my AGs, I feel like the wheel that completes the cart. During that solo trip I was included in playdates and kid pickups (even though I was sans kids and just borrowing DS’s, they knew I still needed a break), dinners, and gym time. We planned DS’s party and pulled off the most amazing birthday ever and she never knew what hit her. When it was time to go back to Mumbai, I felt like I left part of me behind.
This summer, it was no different. They kicked it up to high gear quickly once the DBs and I arrived in June.
I’d had a two-day reprieve to shake of jet lag when my phone buzzed. A text from T, the Fitness Guru.
Spin @8:15, Pump @9:30, Gold’s.
I groaned. No rest for the wicked. Or the lazy. See, my AGs are all fitness nuts. Not really nuts, but it’s a consistent part of their lives. Like, an everyday occurrence, and you need to show up because it’s good for you, it keeps your stress level down, and it burns off all the wine calories.
So every single day I was there, I ran on the rails to trails, attended a fitness or yoga class, or did one of T’s workouts. I could barely move some mornings, but it was awesome.
For the three weeks before DiploDad arrived to shake up the home leave, the four of us fell into a familiar, comfortable routine. We worked around all three of their work schedules – all three of them work, at least part-time. We took our kids to camp and picked up an extra kid or two if someone needed it. T would take the little girls for the afternoon while I ran errands and then we’d all get together for dinner and a BBQ and Cards Against Humanity that evening.
I passed on some Kohl’s Cash to T, and D passed along some hand-me-down clothes from her son to DB2. We form a seamless web of favors, advice, and hugs. We co-parent. If DB1 does something pitiably stupid at the swimming pool, he’s suddenly got three extra mommies who might catch him. DiploSis’ daughter wants a juice box, and I’m out in my poolside cooler, it doesn’t matter because D has extras and passes her one.
Then, of course, there is Girl’s Night Out. For some reason, this usually involves partially clothed men with rock hard abs. I really can’t figure out why. The last trip, it was DiploSis’ birthday day including brunch, mani-pedis, and then a vineyard.
The time before it was a weekend at Rehoboth Beach with a few other AGs in Rotation, B and L, that form our expanded Anchor Girlfriend Group, that involved illicit bloody Marys on the beach, too much sushi, and dancing at Man Dance until 2 a.m. This time it was wine, Magic Mike XXL, and more wine.
When I’m with my AGs, I feel more relaxed and “me” than many other times. For expats, going back, even though it’s home, it’s strange. Unless you are lucky enough to have a summer home that’s all yours (and few FS folks that I know are), you are in someone else’s space, and you know what Ben Franklin said about fish, guests, and three days. People kind of tiptoe around you, like you are some odd bird in a cage who was set loose for a while and they either smother you or walk on eggshells because they don’t know what to do. Not my AGs. DS comes in at 6:30 a.m. and announces I have to get up and over jet lag because we are going to the gym or because I have to take DiploNephew to camp in an hour and it’s all the way across the county. T tells me to drop DiploNiece by to play with her daughter because two of them are easier to manage than one. D meets me for yoga and then asks me to pick her kids up from camp so she can work or because she has a meeting. We have conversations about kids, husbands, and life.
In short, for the time I am with them, I live the life I might have had. I’m just another mom driving the back roads of West Virginia with a minivan full of fighting kids on the way to the grocery store, the gym, to soccer or a basketball game at the local Catholic school. I get to experience, at least 99%, of my “maybe”. And that’s awesome on so many levels.
*I use the term “girls” colloquially. It’s not sexist, it’s not diminutive, and it’s not an insult at least in my mind. Besides, if I used the other term we call ourselves, my mother would be annoyed, and stop reading my blog. Oh, wait . . . .