Mae and I flew to New York City last week for a few days with my friend, Megan. Megan, as I’ve said here before, is one of my oldest and closest friends. She and Evany, who completed our threesome in high school, are more sisters than friends. We grew to the same height, all wear size 9 shoes, have dirty blonde hair (though I’m currently bleached, Megan is red and Evany is a sun-kissed Clairol). We talk over each other, we bend over with giggles, we can be careless with feelings, we weep on a dime; we behave like the fourteen-year-olds we were when we met. We are present at births and deaths, unions and break-ups. We show up and we hold each other’s hands.
I’ve taken many trips to see Megan by myself. These are girl holidays; marathons of chatting, shopping and downing red wine. This last time was the first I’ve brought a child. But let it be said that this is my ten-year-old. This is Mae who I do believe might be further down the emotional evolutionary chain than yours truly. She, like her sister, is a good girlfriend. She knows how to listen, how to gossip and most of all, how to accessorize.
The trip had many highlights (earring hunting on the streets of Soho, two visits to Dylan’s Candy Bar, the careful selection of outfits each morning) but the moment that really stands out, uncharacteristically for me, is when we went to see “Wicked”.
I’m an old actress remember (older by the minute) and, like my grungy, starving, die-hard artistic peers, the Broadway musical has always struck me as, well, too broad. The constant jazz-hands, the Sondheim minor keys, the big themes and moralistic bents; it can be too much for a girl who has a love affair with subtlety.
That said, “Wicked” is a bit different. Yes, jazz hands and minor keys, but instead of romance being the central theme, as it often is in these productions, this play instead focuses on a friendship between two women. The friendship, to be specific, between the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba) and Glinda the Good. Elphaba, in this telling, is dark, heroic and true. Glinda, while her heart is good, just wants to be popular. They are opposites but they form a bond early and deep. In high school, as a matter of fact.
There’s a scene at the end when the two women are taking leave of each other for the last time. Elphaba says, “You were my only friend.” Glinda, with a wail of anguish says, “I’ve had so many friends.” Megan and I howled with laughter because we both have had so many friends. But Glinda went on and said, “But you were the only one that mattered.”
I have many, many friends that matter. I love easily and deeply and fervently, in all categories – romantic, platonic and familial. There is no greater thrill for me than holding the key that unlocks a heart and opening my own in return. But of all these loves, there are a few that go even deeper. There are a few people that have seen all sides of me; when I’m green with the stomach flu, when I’m bloated with pregnancy, when I’m near catatonic with depression, when I’m sparkling in my new dress from the Anthropologie sale room.
The lights came up after “Wicked” and the three of us moved with the crowd towards the street. I was still a bit lost in the story, contemplating my friendships, particularly my bond with Megan, fighting back tears in the crush of humanity that is Manhattan. Megan and Mae were chatting and then fell silent. Megan sighed, “Good friends.” That’s all it took. I was flapping my hand before my eyes, blinking furiously, trying to swallow the sudden obstruction in my throat.
Good friends. I am so lucky. To find these friends, to find them in my daughters, even. I’ve got jazz hands just thinking about it.