Publisher - June 2023
“Women’s friendships are like a
renewable source of power.”
I was handed two lucky lots in life: 1. I am Southern; and 2. I am a woman. I haven’t always thought these two things were great. When I was young, people outside of the South (a.k.a. non-Southerners) viewed Southerners as slow, dumb, countrified—even if you didn’t live in the country. And, on the woman front, I was in the generation where women were supposed to lag behind, though opportunities were getting better. I remember thinking how lucky boys were. They got to play poker, and spend Saturdays hunting, fishing or boating with their buddies. They over drank, laughed and misbehaved all while the women cooked, cleaned and planted flowers. Honestly, playing poker was much more my style than tossing a salad.
Now, as an adult, I see where both being Southern and being a women has its advantages. As a general rule, Southerners are less likely to move away. We tend to bloom where we’re planted, so much so, of my more than 100 close relatives, including aunts, cousins, cousins’ spouses, and their children, only two have ever moved outside of South Carolina and not returned…yet. This is the same with many childhood friends. Most of them are still in Columbia. People are amazed I still hang out with people I knew in the first grade. Believe it or not, some of them still live in the same neighborhood many of us grew up in. My mother just sold our house last fall after being there 55 years.
I have a story to share with you: When I was in middle school—seventh grade to be exact—nearly every girl read the book Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. Though it was published in 1970, when I was barely a kindergartner, by the time seventh grade rolled around, this somewhat taboo, coming-of-age tale spread through my class like wildfire. It was a pop-culture classic that all the girls read and talked about in hushed voices at school. Of course, when alone after school or at a slumber party, we all did the exercises to increase our bust size.
This book helped us to understand what was coming in reference to the bodily changes that would take us from being children to adolescents, including sprouting boobs, starting that dreaded monthly cycle, and of course, dealing with (and crushing on) boys. The book opened up dialogue among girls that would otherwise have not been talked about, and it bonded us on this journey that was happening to us whether we liked it or not.
Fast forward to April 28, 2023. Finally, after 53 years, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret hit the big screen with the film adaptation of this forever iconic book. I was on the telephone with my friend, Colleen Dolan Metts, who I met in the sixth grade at Irmo Middle School, and we were talking about how we had to go see this movie together on opening night. We decided to invite others to go with us, and miraculously, we put a group of ten girls together—all classmates from our Irmo Middle School Days. (We also all graduated high school together.)
This was one of the most special evenings I’ve had in my adult years. We went to dinner first, and then all but two went to see the movie. One of our friends, Britt Cobb, wouldn’t go to the movie because she claimed she never read the book. “What?” I jokingly scolded her. “How did you miss reading Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret? Everyone read it!” Then I teased her. “Oh yeah, your boobs were already big in the seventh grade. You didn’t need to read the book.” After some classic Britt sarcasm, we died laughing.
I’m one who tries to keep in touch with everybody. However, some of our friends that night had not seen each other since high school. It was an incredible connection of friendship, familiarity, and fun. These are women who will always be connected no matter how many years go by. This is why I’m lucky to be a woman—we all are—because women have a way of being able to pick up where we left off and feel as if there never was a gap. Women also have a way of taking conversations much deeper than who won last weekend’s football game. We share woes, blurt out true confessions, and listen with compassion.
I believe there is a universal connection between women. I clearly see it every month at the Pink Partini ladies’ night out. As bad as female reputations can exist in being snotty, excluding, controlling, caddy, or just straight up mean, I believe the majority of women still have that little girl inside of them just wanting to be accepted, to make friends, and to support each other. Why else do you think girls go to the bathroom in groups? We are a village, and most of us don’t really enjoy doing life alone.
Life has had its ups and downs for all of us, and of course, our connections have waxed and waned over the years, but when it comes down to it, these friendships are forever. We were bonded by having to wear the most hideous gold and white striped gym uniforms (they were one piece), changing in front of each other in the locker room, riding the school bus, coming of age together and having acne breakouts bad enough to want to never leave home. We navigated—and survived—life together at our most uncomfortable, uncertain, tumultuous age. What a blessing to still have these women. Yes, I am indeed lucky.
Shout out to the girls: Lee Bell Clayton, Britt Cobb, Margie Stewart Howiler, Lisa Winesett Kitchens, Michelle Davis McLemore, Colleen Dolan Metts, Amy Wells Owens, Melanie Webb Schroeder, and Meg Howell White. Of the ten of us, two have married Irmo classmates in second marriages, and two are currently in long-term relationships with classmates. It’s pretty cool when you can go back and see that your sweetheart signed your yearbook.