When the going gets tough
By Susan S. Kelly
Like you, I’ve missed a lot of things during the spate of gloom we’ve been living though — truffle fries still sizzling from fry vat grease being at the top of my list. But of all the bust-out activities that we’ve been waiting for, the one I most look forward to is a girl gig. Book clubs, garden clubs, philanthropic lunches, girl gigs all. Meetings that require makeup, a date on a calendar, and lemon squares dusted with powdered sugar and/or marinated asparagus spears sprinkled with lemon zest — lemon is a common denominator in a lot of girl gigs, from iced tea to platter garnish.
But a real-deal girl gig is an out-of-town trip. The only requirement is that you can’t care. About what you eat, what you look like, what you say, when you go to bed, who you share a room with, how much you drink. Females who fit these simple criteria are girl’s girls. Others need not apply.
I have a Yankee friend who was invited on a girl trip to Sea Island. The minute we’d loaded the last cooler and bag into the car into which we were all smushed, she said, “I’m so excited. I’ve never been on a girl’s trip. What do you do on one?” To which my unspoken reply was, Honey, if you got to ask, you got no bizness going. Such an utterance didn’t even warrant a Bless Your Heart.
(This anecdote has nothing to do with aspersions against Yankees. Another Yankee friend comes on a girl trip that eight of us take to Linville every February. She flies in, bringing nothing but a mink coat and four pairs of pajamas. When it’s time for the afternoon segue into cocktails, she takes a shower and changes into a fresh pair of pajamas. She flies back home wearing the same thing she flew down in.)
I’ve been on girl trips of every conceivable stripe: boarding school reunion. Sorority reunion. Enlightenment and educational forays. Hiking trips. Card-playing trips. Et cetera. And plenty where we sit around looking awful, eating things that are terrible for us, and drinking too much. Just like we’ve been doing since March, come to think of it.
A great thing about a girls’ trip is that girls do not have that weird hang-up about sleeping in the same bed together, so you can get a smaller house. What girls do have is food issues, which might be more trouble. Most girl trip meals begin with good intentions (clementines and hard-boiled egg breakfasts, salad lunches, vegetable dinners) and begin instantly deteriorating into daylong noshing on peanut M&Ms, pimento cheese, store-bought guac for hors d’oeuvres mid-afternoon, and whatever-else-is-lying-around-on-the-counter for dinner. This process extends to alcohol as well, though people bring their own chardonnay because chardonnay drinkers are notoriously picky.
It’s helpful to have an IT person along to manage the music and all the people you’re stalking on social media, and because everyone has numerous questions about their computer or cellphone, from font size to getting rid of determined error messages. In one of my girl trip groups, we come from so many different places — Charleston, Atlanta, Greenwich, Charlottesville, Wilmington, Winston-Salem — that the IT person kindly maintains a spreadsheet of what’s happened to whom (child married, grandchild born) so you’re able to consult it and get your facts straight ahead of time.
Usually, the first night of a girl gig means dancing. (During Miley Cyrus’ various shenanigans, my gang went on YouTube for a twerking demo. We’re still working on Bruno Mars moves.) But the real, authentic, non-educational, non-physical girl gig is all about . . . talking. The exchange of vital information and useless trivia, registering of complaints, and confessions ranging from ludicrously hilarious to swear-to-God-secrecy are the soul, the essence, of girl trips.
On one of my annual trips, everyone is tasked with bringing one piece of usable info, which is how you wind up returning home knowing nonessential but conceivably worthwhile minutiae such as smearing baby oil on your legs makes them look shiny, like a model’s, and that Sally Hansen makes a product that makes them look just the opposite: like you’re wearing stockings. You go home with a list of what everyone else is reading and streaming and cooking and buying and where they’re traveling. You find out what internet site to go to order those labels, those shoes, that shower gel, that fan that attaches to your cellphone.
At girl gigs you find out that it’s OK not to know what garam marsala is or understand Brexit. It’s best to stay away from Brett Kavanaugh, but if you need an opinion or help with a decision, there is nothing like a dame. If you want someone to stare at you and say, “No, you cannot use blue sheets instead of white.” Or, in a slipcover conundrum: “I would never use a fabric I can write my name in.” There goes the brushed corduroy you were debating. Or, “The first thing that dates a house is chintz.” “No, it’s your lampshades.” “No, it’s chintz.”
See? Never mind the talking about people, which might elicit gems along the lines of, “She looks like she grew up on a golf course,” or “Anyone over 40 with hair that long is bound to be tough.”
All of which is why girl gigs are empirical evidence of a familiar nugget of wisdom, and possibly the best justification for their continued existence: if five people sit around a table and put all of their dilemmas and distresses, issues and idiosyncrasies, obsessions and obligations in a heap, would you swap yours for anyone else’s?
Nope. Time to go home. PS
Susan S. Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and a proud grandmother.