Saturday night authenticity

Saturday night I go out to dinner with a friend. G asks what I’m up to, I say nothing, she asks if I want to get dinner. I say, “Sure!” because going out to dinner with her sounds wonderful. I know I’m in a vulnerable-lacking-sleep place, and eating early would be helpful for me. So I ask, “Is 6:30 okay?” and then ask where she’d like to go, or if she wants to cook-in. G says she has a jonesing for greasy food, and how does Friday’s sound? To be honest, I’m not in the mood for pub food, but I’m also feeling vaguely indifferent and open to anything, so I agree. I text back, “Sounds great!” and we plan to meet at 6:30 at Friday’s.

This arranging of plans, it feels easy. We say what we mean and mean what we say and it’s simple.

The bus gets to the restaurant about ten minutes early. The lobby is swarming with families, couples, groups of friends. I recognize that a part of me feels shy, and I acknowledge that shy part, tell her it’s okay. Then Adult Me walks up to the hostess and asks what the wait is for a table for two. She says twenty minutes and I say okay, thank you; I put my name down. After a few minutes, the hostess calls me back over and says we are welcome to wait or we can also just sit at the bar. I tell her that sounds great, though my friend isn’t here yet, so I’ll wait for her and see what we want to do; I don’t have a preference, but maybe G does. It’s simple, this asking questions and answering them. It’s communication– practical, clear, communication. I feel present.

G arrives and says the bar is fine, so we sit and order drinks. I open the menu and one jumps out right away as something new and fun to try. G orders a beer and I order my drink. I have had a lot of beer lately and I choose what I choose without feeling swayed by G’s decision, the people around us, the atmosphere of Friday’s, or any whispering “should” inside me. It feels easy. I listen to myself and it’s simple.

I do the same thing when we order dinner: I choose a chicken Caesar salad because that’s what my body is saying it wants; I am not concerned with what G orders or what Friday’s is “known” for and I order because it feels right for tonight. I have nothing to justify; I listen to myself and it’s simple that way.

We talk all night. About her job, about mine, what we’re learning, what is challenging, and also what is stagnant and may require a shift. We swap awkward stories from the week and laugh at the absurdity of metal detectors, landlords, and our own tendencies to panic and make situations worse. Everything is compassionately hilarious as a story, after the fact.

Briefly, we update each other on former coworkers and friends; we share concerns about a few people in rough patches and share excitement about an upcoming engagement party.

And we keep talking. Deeper. About books we’re reading and movies we’ve seen. About the vaccination/autism debate, the measles outbreak in California, upcoming closings in our public school system, and the recent violence at a local high school. I share with her my thoughts on early childhood trauma, its prevalence in impoverished families, and how that connects with the challenges we’re seeing in our neighborhoods. Our give-and-take feels genuine, honest. I have no anxiety when I am this authentic. We are both present and it all feels straightforward. It all just is.

This is friendship. We are both introverts — brainy and goofy and serious — and it is friendship.

Saturday night with G is easy. We are both open to learning, hearing each other, adding books to our to-read lists and movies to our to-watch lists. We follow each others’ trains of thought and laugh at all the right places. It’s an ordinary evening- dinner, drinks, conversation. I know we will have many more, and it feels just right.

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