Parallel tracks

Joy and I had our first conversation when we were 20 or so; she was living in Pennsylvania; I was in New York. We’d seen each other around, had summer jobs in the same New Jersey beach town, had mutual friends. I don’t remember where we were when we first talked, a New Jersey party or bar, most likely. I do remember one subject, however. We had both recently spent romantic weekends in Maryland. A week apart. With the same guy.

    We briefly considered organizing another weekend trip to Maryland—together. But, while the look on the guy’s face would certainly have been entertaining, we quickly decided that he wasn’t worth the trouble, and really we had much more in common with each other than we ever did with him.

    For the next decade we were single gals in New York, Washington, Texas, California; sometimes living in the same city, but never at the same time. We visited back and forth a few times a year, weekends of speed-talking as we took out all our disasters and triumphs and worries and crises and spread them all out in front of us in a game of conversational go-fish. “You’re feeling this or that about your job? Wow, I’ve been feeling exactly the same way.” “You’re sick of the whole dating thing? Yeah, me too.” And then after all the cards had been dealt and turned over and talked at from every angle, we’d pack them all up again neatly and go back to our lives.

    We stayed on parallel tracks, occasionally colliding unexpectedly. She moved to L.A. and met the guy that she would end up marrying through someone at her law firm; it took a few weeks before she found out that this was one of the guys I’d been scuba diving with in Mexico a month or two earlier. We got pregnant the same year, and spent most of our 30s in babyland. We both stopped at three kids.

    Now we’re in our 40s; OK, our mid- to late 40s. We have teenagers and middle schoolers and elementary schoolers. Now I’m in Palo Alto and she’s in St. Petersburg, Florida. And we just had our first weekend talk-a-thon in more than a year; an uncharacteristically long gap.

    We talked about our kids briefly, our husbands some, and then, mostly, ourselves. About greying hair and the hormonal craziness of perimenopause that makes us screaming maniacs several days a month. About our recent high-tech breast biopsies (“You had one? Wow, I had one of those too”) and the panic of waiting for results. (Both negative, thankfully.) She said had her results not been negative, she would have called in a plastic surgeon to do her eye bags at the same time as the breast surgery because no way was she going under a knife without something positive to look forward to. I hadn’t thought about that one, but she had a point. Which got us pulling at our faces and talking about whether we’d ever consider getting “work” done and what kind.

    And we discussed our “ailments”, my neck, her knee, and realized that this is what old ladies do, talk about ailments, so we must seriously be getting old. But that since we’re still on those parallel tracks, going in the same direction, holding the same sets of cards (time to mix all my metaphors together for the big finish) I guess we’re both doing just fine.

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