Girls Just Gotta Have Fun
And there’s no better way than to enlist the help of your best girlfriends…
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
Sometimes I feel invisible. The inner me, my connection to joy, evaporates beneath the roles I play: wife, mother, boss. This painful condition can creep over me before I even know it’s happening. Luckily, I’m blessed with girlfriends who can spot it a mile away.
“Hon, how ’bout a vacation?” suggests my friend Barbara over dinner. She knows I am feeling as see-through as Saran Wrap. “Can you and the hubby get away? You don’t look so good.”
“Two small problems with that,” I remind Barbara. I’m talking about my two preschoolers- neither of whom get my jokes. These days I spend almost all my time either working hard at my job or with them, hence no one gets my clever Sex and the City references, self-deprecating fat jokes, or hilarious one-liners. I suspect that being constantly alone inside my inside joke may be one of the causes of my debilitating condition.
“I’m giving you an assignment,” Barbara announces bossily. “Go away for a long weekend. What you need is some fun.”
I look into my friend’s concerned eyes, and I see the truth: I have to take a break; I’m not Superwoman. I sigh, trying to imagine myself getting out of Dodge.
It always strikes me as unnatural when flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting their children, in case of emergency. It feels similarly unnatural to strike out on my own, but I call my go-to travel buddy, Rebecca, anyway. I suggest we go for a few days to Cal-a-Vie, a spa in Southern California that features hiking, meditation and treatments galore.
“A spa?” she asks. (Did I mention that she’s skinny and perfect looking, and has never been on a diet in her life? I know. And I like her anyway.) “Okay,” she says. “But only because you sound so tired.” That’s her euphemism for my lost self.
On the first day at Cal-a-Vie, we meet some women by the pool who share Rebecca’s restlessness with the Spartan spa life. Within a millisecond, we hatch a bad-girl breakout to buy supplies for a secret cocktail party.
Back in the new friend’s room, happy hour starts, and although these women look like they have everything I don’t – beauty, money, quiet, and oodles of time to enjoy it all – they don’t seem particularly happy. As we say good-bye for the evening, I realize something obvious; Fun does not come one-size-fits-all. Forget what you think will make you happy; you have to keep trying until something feels good.
The next morning I rise at 5:30 for a nature hike, and when the 90-minute trek ends, I feel exhilarated. It was not a mistake to come here, I tell myself, I can actually feel my spirit recharging. I will be a better wife, mother, friend, everything because of this quickie girlfriend getaway. After the hike, I’m in the library sipping herbal tea when one of the other guests joins me.
“So where is your beautiful daughter?” she asks.
“At home with my husband,” I say, confused.
“Rebecca went home?” she asks.
I am older than Rebecca. But only by three years.
I mumble something incoherent and excuse myself.
Stinging from the fact that I actually do look as bad as I feel, I find my way to the spa’s white-pebbled meditation labyrinth. I stomp through it angrily and briskly, enjoying the crunch beneath my running shoes. Maybe I’m better off being invisible, I think, mumbling zinger comebacks to the guest who had insulted me. I know I look crazy to anyone watching.
Crunch, crunch. As I walk alone, focusing my thoughts simply on my feet hitting the earth, the zinger comebacks quiet enough for a truth to arise. There is something important I need to do. It’s not losing weight, the usual item topping my to-do list, but reclaiming my MIA sense of humor. But how? I don’t even know who I am anymore.
Our last day at the spa, Rebecca and I each have a 90-minute seaweed wrap. We are scrubbed, slathered and wrapped up in silver Mylar bags like burritos. I’m drifting blissfully between being awake and being asleep, when Rebecca murmurs, “Guess what?”
“What?” I ask, wondering what could possibly be so important to disturb this total Zen relaxation.
“I’ve gained six pounds in three days,” she says.
“Well, at least you don’t look like you could be my mother,” I respond.
“What?” she asks.
“That lady from Toledo thought I was your mother,” I say.
Rebecca guffaws so hard that she almost slides out of her burrito. I can’t help it and start laughing, too. I laugh so hard that no sound comes out, and then I hear it – my bubble of invisibility pops, and just like you’d see in a cartoon, I’m suddenly my old self again.
My real “aha” moment is this: Like the oxygen masks on an airplane, friendship is the surest lifeline that can sustain a woman through life’s raggedy transitions, scary challenges and inevitable heartbreaks. As I learned in the silver burrito, there may be no hardship in life that can’t be lessened by a belly laugh with a best friend – especially when the humor is at your own expense with someone who knows and loves you well.
In addition to blogging on BettyConfidential.com, Melina is the author of The Fun Book for Girlfriends: 102 Ways for Girls to Have Fun and The Fun Book for Moms: 102 Ways to Celebrate Family