• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
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After leaning over the toilet bowl yesterday, I straightened up with the brush in my hand, and burst in to tears. It was not the chemicals or the hormones. Okay, probably a little bit of the hormones. Okay, probably mostly the hormones. But also it was because a full year after moving away from Florida, I was ready to admit to the shower curtain that I am, in fact, lonely.

I don't get lonely. I clutch jealously at control of my life and my time like the One Ring. Days and days will go by and I'll happily not leave my office except to go to Mass, at which point I'll pile my purse and jacket on the chair next to me and daaaaare you with my eyes to sit on the other side. And if you do plop yourself there, you keep your sticky paw to yourself during the Sign of Peace. I will genially wish you peace from my five-foot bubble of personal space, my brother. And also with you.

Nonetheless, yesterday I realized that I cannot remember the last time I have been shopping with another woman, and surfaced in tears because of it. There. I am alien in Ginger, and I am lonely.

"But," said my best friend and my biggest fan as I wept on him over this, "you don't like to shop. We couldn't afford to shop even if you did."

"I knoooooow." I covered my face with my arm.

"Aren't I your friend?"

"You don't understand about shoes."

I barely understand about shoes, owning four pairs plus slippers. That's about 30 shoes short of the national average for a woman of my years. But this wasn't, of course, about slingbacks; it was the lack of an immediate feminine haven, the dorm life. My tribe is scattered and driving a minivan to ballet practice. Carah The BFFE will arrive the state next month after several Navy years in Scotland, complete with husband, son, and scrapbooking supplies. She will know what I mean if I hold a skirt aloft and say, "Is this green too... like, green?" It's better than Europe. But it's also not three floors upstairs, as it once was.

I have progressed from angrily forging my way to tenuous classroom conversations to dreadfully missing the days when Flipper and I sat and ate an entire pie and pointed our forks at the TV, firing Donald Trump and reassuring one another that there were two telephone calls in our futures: One from Him, whoever that was. And one from the Career Fairy, who would see to it that we were super-scuba marine biologists and health-insured famous writers, respectively. The tribe huddled close.

Maybe this is why I'm never far from the keyboard these days, post after post. It's not just the career I'm shoving uphill. In the absence of the narrow hallway where we used to flip breadsticks and each other across the scrubby carpet, you have become tribe.

Virginia, hostess state, hostesses all sorts of wonderful women. They are kind. They are also not people upon whom I can presume to call at seven-thirty in the evening begging immediate cookie assistance because my date is due in half an hour and I haven't showered yet. They have babies, jobs, lives. They grew up, as they should.

Do you think this green is too... like, green?

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Reader Comments (33)

I know exactly what you mean. After having lived in dorm rooms with my best friends for four years, I'm now in Iceland, and have to skype friends just to ask them things like, "remember that brown eyeshadow I have? Do you think it would work with that gray sweater that I sometimes wear when I'm bloated? And is that OK for a 10 o'clock class with that guy I told you about?" You need best friends there for that sort of thing. Now I'm floundering in a weird language trying to make friends with fortieth-generation Vikings. We may both be strangers in a strange land, but on the other hand, you have friends all across the globe - we love you and Virginians will too!
One is rooting for you here in Iceland!

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTripsymilkmaid

Thank you. And, EXACTLY.
And, yes to the gray sweater.

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

*hugs* Nope, definitely not too green. :-)

I have a picture that I totally have to send you as soon as I have time to scan it. One of your JamsBio posts reminded me of it. ;-)

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

OMG I so totally understand...I moved away from everything and everyone to live with my husband 1500 miles from everything I knew...I cried for months and even now, 10 years later, I still miss shoe shopping with someone other than myself. My husband will go along if I ask him to, but he just doesn't grok cuteness in the same way that a girlfriend or my mom would. Not to say I'd trade the last 10 years or the opportunity to live with him at all, just that sometimes it can get a bit lonely. You're not alone...at least we are all here on the internets together!!

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca the reader

Well, if nothing else, your post has made one college girl want to soak up all the dorm life she has left. Unfortunately, it's only about 6 weeks. But, I have plenty of memories already.
-Putting off studying for finals by playing cards in the hall
-Eating unacceptable amounts of candy and chocolate to mourn a hallmate's break-up
-Filming "horror" movies like "The Murderer around the Corner in the Bathroom"
-Throwing marshmellows out the window at unsuspecting passersby
-And, of course, sharing and getting opinions on every article of clothing --- It's probably not too green. Pair it with black. ;-)

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

I totally understand, MB.

Hugs to you and lots of love.

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy P.

Oh MB, I completely understand. I'm on my third year out here in Arizona, essentially 2000 miles away from my family and friends in Indiana. I miss lots of things: road trips to Indianapolis to take my best-friend-since-sixth-grade's two daughters to the airport so they can fly to see their dad in England; putting up Christmas lights in the pouring rain BAREFOOTED with that same friend; babysitting my niece and nephew; being able to see my family and friends ANYTIME I WANT TO (and then go home when I'm all funned out).
My parents were just here for a month. They reminded me that "You're such a hermit. Why don't you make some friends out here?"
They just don't get it. Real friends, friends who know all about you and still love you, aren't that easy to come by. I have teacher friends out here, but they're busy with their own lives. And besides. They TOTALLY would not understand why that certain song on the radio makes me grab the phone and cry my eyes out to my best friend (the one mentioned earlier) who then says "Okay, get up here and we'll make some ramen noodles and talk about it."
And we would. Till all hours Even though we both had to work the next day.
It just isn't the same without those friends.....
To paraphrase one of the other The Readers, "At least we're all together here.....in the Tasting Room.

By the way, I do the very same thing at church. I silently dare anyone to invade my safety bubble. After a week of being hugged, tapped, cried on, and everything else by elementary school students, I NEED my space!!!!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWiserlemmingAZ

I moved to the Far North fifteen years ago. The good news is I made more friends, the bad news is... why bother shoe shopping when it is always snowy outside?

I virtual shop with my mom. There are virtual models at LOTS of websites, and you can search by item number, so if one of you spots something cute, you can show it to the other one. You should try it. It's fun and an excellent substitution for retail therapy. The bonus is, at the end, you can just empty your shopping cart without having to explain yourself to the checkout girl.

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Like Rebecca, when I got married I moved away from everybody I knew (in the days when you had to use the telephone long-distance!). This post has made me EXCEEDINGLY thankful for my BFFE Jayma and her almost superhuman ability to shoe shop.

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

Wow, MB, I am so sorry that you are feeling so lonely. It seems to be a phenomenon of grown women to be lonely - there is too much schedule and not enough time to just BE with friends. And, for my part, not having kids makes me a serious outcast. Aside from the fact that I think when people get together with me they don't want to spend the ENTIRE time talking about their kids, then there's nothing else to talk about! None of my college friends live near me. Some I keep up with via email. But, graduation was 12 years ago for me, and most things in life have changed. Being an adult woman sucks! All the responsibility and notsomuch fun anymore.
I think as we age, we get more comfortable with the lonely and realize that we have to be ok alone. Obviously, two very different things. Learning to enjoy my own company has been a process, but I'm getting ok with it. I do miss the camaraderie of college, but I wouldn't trade my life now for it. Ok, maybe sometimes when my husband is driving me over the edge... :o)
Thankfully, I have gotten to be friends with my sister, who is 9 years younger than me. At 24, she is finally getting mature enough for us to be friends... That's a nice feeling.
And, hey, if you ever need a friend, I'm just north of you in Baltimore, so you know, shoot me an email!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

That's a good point about the kids, and I realize it's something I'll have to deal with more and more if we decide to remain childless.

I'm doing the "being OK alone" process backwards-- I went from thinking I don't need close friends at all, to realizing that it's actually pretty healthy to maybe have a couple shoe buddies around.

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

Hi MB -

I have enjoyed everyone's perspectives, and have to add that were it not for my kids, I might be in the same place as you. We moved away from home and friends when our son was 3 months old. I spent the next 6 weeks getting one house bought and ready for us to move into, the other house sold, and the remaining possessions moved into the new house. Additionally, I was just getting used to being a new mom. When my son was about 6 weeks old, I finally dragged myself to one of those kiddie-classes and met a few other moms with kids the same age. Eventually I found a few more friends, a church, a preschool, etc. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like otherwise - and I imagine myself working full time and studying for another graduate degree - because I needed something to fill the free time. Would I change things? Certainly not. But, can I relate? I think so.

By the way - we've been here 4 years - it took me over 2 years to find my closest group of friends. Sometimes you have to wait for the good shoe buddies to come along - but they are worth the wait!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Southerner

MB, I know exactly what you mean about the awkward, not-fitting-in-ness. I was never into the 'girly-girl' stuff that most of my peers were, so I only ever had one or two really close girl friends to hang out with at a time.

Nowadays, I'm an 'outcast' because I'm married but most of my peer group isn't. They're interested in 'meeting' people of the opposite sex, getting drunk, partying until all hours, etc. I'm a 'freak' because I'd rather be at home, hanging out with my mate and working on some freelance project or another.

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterj.s.

My advise would be to acquire an Xbox Live account, but that would probably work just fo me and the rest of the shoe-less and skirt-color-clueless Cro-Magnons, right? :-)

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

You and my husband, RPJ!!!!!

Seriously, MB, if you opt to remain childfree (for the record, I was corrected by someone who said that childLESS means you can't have them and childFREE mean you choose not to have them...but I digress), you just have to work harder to find friends. Making yourself go to adult things takes effort, but there is a chance of meeting someone... heh, it's like dating all over again to find the right couple to do things with!! Now doesn't THAT just make you want to jump in with both feet?!?!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Yup- wear the skirt with black- or grey! Or find that t-shirt that has that exact shade in it and wear it with that.

I have moved to six states in nine years (VA, NC, FL, PA, RI and now KY) and it is the hardest thing to find other female friends who don't have their BFF right next door- or their sister or cousins, or... I even had a virtual Babyshower!

The best advice I can give you is the importance of the cell phone and the need to find other transient women. They're lonely too... and "luckily" you're in a very transient place. I HATED Rhode Island where everyone was very nice, but everyone in Rhode Island is FROM Rhode Island and they are always busy with their lives they've had since they were 5.

The other thing is to stick your neck out and invite the woman you've smiled at in the gym/library/store to coffee. It is weirdly like dating - similar rules, but with a good shopping experience at the end of it. You don't want someone who is too clingy and ready to be best friends RIGHT NOW, nor do you want someone who is so engrossed in their life that they have no time to add you in. It's hard not to be desperate, but still find time for them as well. You want someone you can talk to, but someone who doesn't reveal that her brother committed suicide or the sticky details of her husband over your first coffee together. Sticky details and suicides take time to develop. And I've ruined a good possible friendship myself by mentioning details waaaayy too early because I LIKED her and wanted to be friends NOW!

And when people are so busy as grownups, they tend to select people that they have something in common with. I blatantly use my children's school as places to "pick up" potential friends (Again with the dating analogy). No, I'm not a stalker, but I figure that's a good way to bond. Unfortunately, most mothers are connected to their extended family, too- so it's been a rough year here as well.

One of the friends I've met here had a great idea we're doing next month. We're both "newish" and we decided to invite women we work with to come over to my house and bring one of their friends with them. It's a networking party for girlfriends. You might try it... Start with the wives of the people JTP works with..?

Good luck- and know that you DO have a virtual network right here. And buy the shoes that MATCH the green skirt!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter2xgtld

I hear you. Part of the issue is my massive IMPATIENCE. It takes a lot of time to build an intimate friendship, and I am friendly with a lot of very kind women, but as I mentioned in the post, they certainly aren't people I would presume call all, "Do you ever have that not-so-fresh feeling?"

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

I am way guilty of the too soon reveal. My family and my husband's family are WAY screwed up, as are both of us. Talking too much/TMI definitely have killed a burgeoning friendship or two... On the other hand, half of the women I meet do the exact same thing.. the over-reveal! We've got so much built up to talk about, it's hard not to spend 3 hours sharing those things right off the bat. Heck, if they'll still be your friend afterwards, you know you're ok! :o)

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

You are not alone. You've in fact voiced the exact emotional journey I go through every couple of months with my often confused yet very supportive husband. Female friendships are complicated and extremely hard. During those emotional break downs I would frankly say they suck. They take years and years to forge, build and nurture into something meaningful. Guys can just show up with a basketball and that's all they need. My latest I-have-little-to-no-real-close-female-friends breakdown was when I realized I could never have the same type of goofy close friendships I used to have with guys now that I'm married. The odd thing is that I've been married for three and a half years, but the reality of it hit me just a few weeks ago. College seemed to make it easier. Marriage and getting older and having to be responsible and realizing that many things in life really are still like high school social hierarchies can be really overwhelming. Blah. Well, there really are cool gals out there like you, and I humbly consider myself one too, so I know you'll find some. We're rare but we can be found. ;) Maybe you're the friend someone else is looking for as well. So take heart and hang in there.

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTorroo in Minnesota

I know how you feel, but in a backwards sort of way. For the longest time I was too busy with work and my kids to spend much time with my friends. Now I find myself divorced, with 3 teenagers and no one to ask if my butt looks too big in those black jeans or if I should keep dying my hair brown. It's crazy! And I must say that Virginia is not a good place for making and keeping good friends. Everytime I get a really good girlfriend, they end up moving!
~ Native Northern Virginian

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDebs3

Please, please, MB. Don't be lonely. Well, try not to be. Actually, even when you're lonely you're funny. And becoming one of my favorite-most writers. Include me among those who love you. Lordy, Lordy, but you can write!

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPete

I live within 30 minutes of all of my best college girlfriends. I never (NEVER) see any of them. This Saturday I spent five hours with my sorority sisters - some of which I haven't seen since graduation 3 years ago (again, we all live within miles of each other). I then came home and promptly started sobbing. My poor husband thought someone had hurt my feelings, and gathered his pitchfork. I proceeded to sniff out "I JUST MISS THEM SO MUCHHHHHHH". He looked confused (after all, we're talking literally blocks that seperate these girls from my everyday life) but passed me a tissue and assured me we'd all make the time again soon. Ahh.... hormones. :-)

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarahBeth

Oh, MB, I just want to walk down the hall with some Papa's and watch you take the cheese off as you eat it. I am ready to go get myself a whole tube of cookie dough to eat. I TOTALLY get what you are saying. I have had that lonely feeling since, well, we moved out of college. It wasn't too bad until I got sick. I went into a hospital time warp, the world kept moving and everyone got married and had kids, I just survived. I didn't see anyone except for my family and the pastor. Now I spend most of my time with the niece and nephew. It is amazing the insight a 4 yr old can have.

I can't even find solace in shopping any more as the new foot brace will only fit with sneakers. (It is killing me that I can't wear my fun shoes.)

That my friend is why we REALLY NEED to do our reunion thing this summer. I know it is hard to make new friends but I am sure you will do okay. In the meantime, know that we are only a post, email or text message away.


April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

Reading through these posts, I am struck by how many The Readers are in the same situation as I. What makes me feel the loneliest is being 2000 miles away from home and ALL ALONE. I moved to Arizona from Indiana with only my beloved cat as my companion. I am quickly becoming a caricature: the "crazy old aunt with a cat and a rocking chair". Literally. I am approaching 40, and have never been married. I have no children (other than the classroom full that I call mine five days a week).

I honestly never thought I would end up this way. I'm not even entirely sure how it happened! One day I woke up and realized that my little sister had gone the traditional route in life (husband, two kids, career as a registered nurse, nice new house). I, on the other hand, had somehow managed to remain single.

The kicker is, I can't decide if I'm sad or satisfied at this epiphany. I just know that I miss having my friends that I mentioned in my earlier reply. Even in Arizona, where everyone is fairly new, and where most conversations start with "So where are you from", it really is difficult making friends. Everyone has their guard up, and no one wants to admit that they're lonely too.

April 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWiserlemmingAZ

Hey RPJ . . . you got Halo?? :D

Both 2 & 3, Dude!! Plus Gears of Wars, Ghost Recon 2 & 3, Bioshock...

I haven't renewed my Live account though... I fear the day I lose the ability to stand up! although you do have to stand up with Guitar Hero...

You see ladies, you think too much about the color of a skirt, while we males do not worry about the chromatic values of our opponents' splattered brains, so long as they are abundant and make a cool noise as they fall to the floor ;-)

April 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

I've moved every two years for the last 8 years, and the first year in a new place is always the hardest. Even now, after moving back home, it took a year to settle in and make friends and become busy outside the house again.
As far as friendship being a mommy-centered thing at our age, I don't know...I have 3 kids but don't really feel like talking diapers and teachers and tantrums with other moms makes me feel closer to them. (It does make me glad that my kids are less weird and gross, though!)
I think true friendship is a kindred-spirit thing, not an are-we-at-the-same-stage-in-life thing. At least I hope. I'd hate to have a bunch of friends who were just...like...me... :-X

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercarrie

Me, too, MB. Me too.

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne From Iowa

This entry really says everything that I've been feeling (and fearing) for the past six months. Graduation is May 22nd and literally every single one of my friends are moving on with jobs, relationships and life in general. I will still be sticking around for grad school, but the CollegeLife that I know now will frankly never be the same....

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one out there feeling like this (thanks Stacey, Torroo, and SarahBeth!)

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCollegeGal

[...] And then George sent his most tricked-out bulletproof ride, and then they stood around waiting for his enormous metal crucifix-on-a-stick to come sliding out on the luggage carousel, comparing the quality of peanuts on Shepherd 1 and Air Force 1.  I want to chat with B16!  We can totally talk about shoes. [...]

[...] to know is why the mailbox lay in wait for me to have an absolutely clear view of it.  When I left Ginger, this is what I saw out the back [...]

"This too shall pass." It takes a while and growth will occur, change is sure. Take my word for it. I do not have time to count how many times I have moved. The hardest has been to move my husband of nearly 60 years to the cemetary. It has taken me six years to 'adjust'. . . and I have friends again.

March 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma McF

We love you, Grandma! Thank you so much for the wise, kind words.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMB
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