Like clockwork, the same thing happens to me every year about this time. That one-two-punch of euphoria and melancholy that comes from hanging out with dear friends, repeating stupid jokes, rehashing old stories, and laughing, eating and drinking a lot. It’s great. It’s invigorating. It makes me believe all that cliched crud about friends being tied together with heartstrings or that they are the chocolate chips in the cookie of life. Good friends are the stuff that Lowenbrau commercials are made of. Tonight is kind of special.
And then they go home to whatever far flung corners of the country that they live in, and I’m stuck feeling sad and depressed and wishing that somehow, some way, all of my cherished friends from all over the place could come and live next door to me in Santa Barbara.
It happens every summer. They flock to our town for the charming little shops, the easy access to the beach, the random parades, and of course, to see us, their fabulously fun and witty friends who happen to live in a beach town. Somehow I don’t think people in Des Moines and Dubuque have out of town friends visit them every summer.
But once or twice a year just isn’t enough. Why can’t all my friends live right here? It would make life so much easier.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have great friends here in town. More than I probably deserve. Plus, contrary to a recent Time Magazine article about reports by a topflight team of sociologists that found Americans to be more socially isolated today then we were barely two decades ago, I meet interesting new people all the time. I could make new friends if I wanted to. Really, I could.
But new people just aren’t the same as the old people. The old people have already endured a complicated vetting process that involves sneaking through bedroom windows in the middle of the night, playing songs on the sink, holding my hair back from the barf, and a long list of quotes that are only hysterically funny if you’ve lived through them. Killing machine, hit list, cartoon eyes, it’s just a phase? See what I mean? You had to be there.
And it’s harder to be there now that we’re getting older. Chances are good that once you have a job that requires you get more than four hours of sleep a night, you just don’t have the same amount of time to spend contemplating your navel alongside your friends. And once you add kids to that mix, you really want to keep that belly button as far out of view as possible.
So you still make friends, but it’s just not the same.
With old friends, we’ve already weathered and survived the eternal “What should we do for dinner debate?” a thousand times. They already know why bike rides are a bad idea and that they’d better keep that pickle juice away from my plate. And, if I were the type who farted, old friends would be the first I’d do it in front of.
Of course, old friends could also tell you about that not-so-pretty bi-level haircut I had in the 80s or the not-so-pretty way I made out with my husband on the dance floor when we first met.
Maybe it’s better that all my old friends don’t live here. I’d probably be tempted to write about them, and the last thing I’d want to do is publicly embarrass all the people who have enough dirt on me to fill a small park.
But it sure would be fun to hang out there.
Old friends, and new readers can lift Leslie’s spirits by dropping a line to email
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on July 14, 2006.