I blame my mother. I have decided that it's her fault my comfort zone is ruled by women for two simple reasons: (1) It is both easy and convenient to blame one's mother, and as a single working mother myself, I'm forever searching for ease and convenience...hence my freezer full of White Castle microwavable cheeseburgers. And (2) because my mother, along with her friends, always made the company of women look so incredibly appealing.
How many times did I see Helen or Ruby, Beverly or Renee, Naomi or Lilo and later Myrna use that old "giving the hostess a hand" excuse so they could disappear into the camaraderie of the kitchen—where they always seemed happiest to me, where they didn't have to look gorgeous, where they could pick at leftovers and polish off their Blue Nun and bitch without disclaimers, where they'd kick off their shoes and begin the postparty process of transferring all the stuff in big plastic Tupperware containers into slightly less big plastic Tupperware containers. The kitchen was their avocado green or harvest gold or white Formica sanctuary, and my favorite thing was to listen in to the blasts of laughter that punctuated every crazy contradiction, savored secret, or funny story as one by one, these lovely and amazing forces of nature would take a seat at the table until it was time to round up their husbands and head for home.
I loved those nights and I still love those women. Barbara Capalongo had a thing for Elvis Presley and the cheapest vanilla ice cream she could find—the kind that came studded with tiny crystals of frost. She chopped up little green pimento-stuffed olives and put them in her tuna salad—the most glamorous touch imaginable to me. Cyvia Snyder liked Danish Modern design and had her own membership card to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Sheila Abrams wore bell bottoms and eyeliner and taught me how to knit. And all of them smelled really, really good—like Wind Song, or Jean Naté, or Joy, or White Shoulders, or Aqua Net, with perhaps just a soupçon of brisket.
There is no room for a kitchen table in my kitchen...because here in the Big Apple, everything's a trade-off; I now have my very own membership card to the Museum of Modern Art, but I somehow ended up with a kitchen that only has room for three forks and a dish towel. Still, every few weeks or so, my girlfriends and I leave our various husbands and boyfriends and God-knows-what-to-call-this-but-we're-sort-of-together-at-the-moment relationships behind and settle in at my putative kitchen table to refuel our spirits or eat something we shouldn't, or both.
Inevitably one of us will announce that she's not doing what she set out to do with her life and the room will go quiet for a couple of seconds. Someone will refill the glasses, someone will clear the dishes, someone will crack a joke about setting out to get her PhD and her dry cleaning—guess which thing got accomplished, someone else will pin it on her mother (see previous page), but we'll all know exactly what our friend is mourning. And sooner or later, we'll break open the Pepperidge Farm Entertaining Cookie Collection box and come up with an inventory of her many assets. We will get high on hope and possibility and espresso. We will be the strong community of women I had no idea I needed so much until my own daughter was born. And there she'll be, Julia Claire, swiping a Mint Milano, ducking under the table, and listening to us laugh.
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