I recently stumbled upon an old article from Glamour Magazine entitled 7 Friends Every Woman Needs. Included in the Top 7 were categories like “The 9-5 Work Friend,” “The New Friend,” etc.  I would like to add an 8th category: “The College Friend.”

My old roommates spent last weekend at my house for our alma mater’s Homecoming. I have an amazing group of friends from college, who I happened to stumble upon almost in spite of myself. Phil calls them “My Crowd.” We graduated from Villanova University, a school that was NOT my top choice…in fact, it wasn’t really my choice, period. 

As a senior in high school, I was all set to slip on a pair of cowboy boots and soak up the sun in Tucson at the University of Arizona.  However, after the unfortunate Donna Martin prom situation, my parents began to wonder if sending my sorry drunk ass across the country was such a good idea.  They thought I would benefit from a smaller, Catholic school…with single sex dorms….and curfews….and bars on the windows…oh, and don’t forget the crucifixes and crosses.   Lots and lots of crosses.

I feared that I would suffer through the four years alone, sitting in my room chain-smoking cigarettes while watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie, comparing myself to the quirky, misunderstood characters like Eliza Jane or all the random one-episode  characters named Elmer. But as they say, the Lord (and we know He was HANGING AROUND) works in mysterious ways, and I ended up finding a group of friends who introduced me to parts of myself that I did not know existed…or maybe had just forgotten about. 

They got me to stop writing bad poetry and start throwing really slamming parties without getting caught (see Donna Martin Prom Situation).  They opened me up to a world where life is not so serious, where hurling tater tots at stuck-up bitches in the dining hall is sometimes necessary, and a beer with lunch is not only acceptable but highly recommended. By taking life less seriously, I learned somewhere along the way to take myself less seriously.College friends are your surrogate family for 4 years.  They know you in a way no one else can.  They were there when you got your nose pierced or peed into a Rolling Rock bottle on a moving bus.  They dyed your hair platinum, cleaned up your puke and taught you how to perform certain sex acts on a ketchup bottle.  They gently advised against hooking up with THAT GUY again but then let you cry about it when you did it anyway.  

They have seen it all…which means you have nothing to hide. This kind of radical acceptance allows you to be whoever you are in the moment-silly, catty, weepy, bitchy, quiet, loud- without fear of judgment or rejection.So here we are, almost 15 years later, and many of the details of our weekends together have changed: Beer has given way to wine (that’s not from a box), and Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff replaced by organic, grass fed tenderloin.  Showing up with a pillow and a backpack has mushroomed into  Pack ‘N Plays, toys, breast pumps, bottles, formula, monitors, soothing sound machines, and Holy Shit you said YOU packed Billy the Bunny!   “Sleeping in” now means sleeping past 7 AM without someone whining in your ear or sitting on your face (no, not Phil).   At the Homecoming picnic you will find us at the moon bounce or face painting station, not camping out by the keg (except for Phil). 

Yet despite the added complications, the “showing up” is the key; the glue that holds it all together.  College was all about physical closeness- sharing bathrooms, clothes, the last Diet Coke.  In a sense this needs to be recreated a few times a year…because nothing- not a text or email- that can replace the real thing. 

Even the cutest Facebook picture is a far cry from holding your friend’s baby in your arms.  You need to eat egg sandwiches and drink coffee in your pajamas.  You need to play Polly Pockets or Matchbox cars with her kid so she can actually take a shower without someone playing peek-a-boo with the curtain (no, not Phil).  You need to refill her wine glass as you wash dishes side by side.  This is where you go beyond “So how are things?” 

This  is where you peel back another layer of the onion…where you hear about the dreams of a career change…how this new guy might be “the one”….the latest family drama….the Bad Mommy stories…all the sex you should be having. This is where you talk, you drink, you listen…you show up.  

We’ve been through a lot together: weddings, funerals, births, surgeries, bad break-ups, eating disorders, bad decisions, illnesses, eighty hour work weeks.  At times it can be tough to show up and shut up, to be compassionate, to LISTEN, to not take her by the shoulders and say “What are you DOING?!!” 

Sometimes you are too caught up in your own shit and you miss the mark, you let her down, you step on her feelings…but then you realize it….you keep showing up…and she forgives you….because even when you are a knucklehead, she knows you are still you underneath.

Which kind of makes you wonder….if you have people who love you in spite of all that….there must be something about you to love.  Maybe you really are as great as they think you are…

…because they keep showing up.

At your best, at your worst..they keep on showing up.

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