For the first time in almost two years Tim and I were planning a party for our friends from fifteen to fifty-two years. We have not all been able to connect and recharge due to the darkness of Covid. We connect with our longest friends like an electrical charge. One spark leads to another, lighting up the night. One memory enhances history, with many tales of “Remember that? We all know one another so well that we have become a memory train, from the 70s to the present, with different stops along the way. This group of close-knit men and women first met in the early 70s. The Patio Party train was about to depart.
* * *
I first met Tim in 1991 when I attended his art class at HCC. The class was a gift to myself, a return to my neglected creativity born in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Fresh off a painful divorce Jayne’s Bank of Trust was sorely depleted.
Tim, this art teacher, interested me, antagonized me, challenged me. I riposted, gave as good as I got. It was a mutual tale of lust. When my feelings began deepening, I decided to investigate who this man was. The first bit of knowledge gleaned was the most shocking. He had friends, mostly male friends. My previous husband had not had one male friend. All the men I knew had female friends, not male ones. This realization became a major deposit in Jayne’s Bank of Trust. Tim had long-time friendships, just like women. Wow.
Soon, Tim began introducing me to his friends who all seemed to love him. Men? Loving other men? As friends? Their wives and girlfriends welcomed me and became my instant comrades. I was part of the fold of these men and women and the stories they shared.
Our Patio Party was a time of reconnection. I listened to all the voices around me. The stories poured forth, familiar, and welcome memories. The men’s story-telling techniques differed vastly from those of my female friends. One man piped up, swilling his beer, “Remember the nude swimming parties in the middle of the night? And the seniors who lived in a high-rise condo next door?” “Yeah, “When they complained to management, we just told our boss, “Well, you know, these people are really old. And they’re on all kinds of drugs. They hallucinate all the time.” (In fact, most of the guys were doing the same.)
“Remember the Condo party?” Immediately laughter erupted. “Oh, yeah, that empty shell of a building in Clearwater? We all hauled beer and tunes up the cement steps to the top floor.”
“Right, and then (anonymous) hauled up a blinking road sign, like a beacon, up to the open topo floor.” A moment of silence. Then, Tim reminded everyone, “And the storm that night? The thunder and lightning when we were all passed out? It was so cool. We all woke up. Then the waterfall cascaded, down the open cement steps and elevator shaft. From the top, down the open building to the bottom floor the roar of water echoed. It was a massive waterfall.”
I felt my stomach lurch at the vision. Thankfully, my female friends and I, no matter the age or level of drunkenness, would ever attempt to spend the weekend in a building with no walls, facilities, or even stair railings.
Story after story erupted from these lifelong friendships. I looked around at all these excited, gleeful men as they recounted their tales. They painted colorful memories which my female friends cannot fathom. In the annals of our shared stories, none of we women would dream of participating in any of these ridiculous, dangerous adventures. Young men, bound in friendship and history, doing stupid stuff. Even our woman friend who spent years in Africa in the Peace Corps with a bucket for a toilet would not want to participate in any of these male-oriented stunts. Women are more refined, more cautious. More sane.
We women tell tender, ugly, sweet, joyous and blissful tales of love. We wince over the anger of one another’s betrayals and the pain of our heartbreaks. We recount the pangs of childbirth and the best parts of our pregnancies. We ask how one another’s children, and now grandchildren, are. As we relate our tales, we touch, we hold hands and hug, depending on the emotions bared. We giggle and laugh. We chide and advise. Tears are shed.
Nearby, the men guffaw, howl, slap each other and grab another beer. Uncouth, we sniff. We women sip our wine and our cocktails. We sit closely and lovingly together. We smile contentedly, to be back in our nest of knowingness.
The definition of Bromance in Wikipedia is: “A close, but non-sexual relationship between two and more men.” Hmm, I thought, sounds a lot like women to me. What would our deep, adhering friendships be called? Womance, we all agreed.
We regrouped for dinner, nourished through history and friendship. The men continued their unfettered stories of “men doing stupid stuff.”
Stories: the lifeblood of friendship. Women share, write and journal with one another. We relate, we touch, we cry, we laugh. Womance, our invented word for beloved women friends who are more than just day-to-day friendships. We are a tribe of year-to-year friendships.
If it weren’t for the gathering together of these dear souls, men and women, sharing their lives and memories, I would never have become part of this remarkable tribe of camaraderie. Men relate their stories in loud, laughter-filled shouting voices. Bromance. Women tell stories, touching, laughing, tearing up, revealing tender moments. That's Womance.
No matter the gender, we’re all in this life together. The stories we share enrich us all. We are circles embracing the dearest of friends, men and women. It’s not the gender that’s important. Be it bromance or womance, our deepest friendships and shared stories are the spark, the current, that runs through our lives and lights up our world.
Photos by Sandy Orrill and Tim Gibbons