3998703052_6958c9ed71Last night, I got together with four girlfriends with whom I haven’t spent time in that particular assemblage since Informer topped the charts and the OJ Simpson trial preempted all the important fictional drama (like the first, the classic, the ONLY TRUE Beverly Hills, 90210) that we also wanted to see. For those of you keeping track at home, that would have been sometime in the mid 1990s.

Back then, the idea that we’d all have big careers and little children–two of the group had three kids!–would have been filed away in the “someday” area of our imaginations, along with all the other vaguely fantastical concepts, like having a husband or owning a home, the complexity of which no one ever really understands until they’re living them.

I was sitting next to the group’s (particularly) wild child, J., a woman who was an incredible dancer, tireless organizer of people and causes, and known for having had crazy sex with a mini-UN of men over four continents in her 20s. She looked amazing (nursing boobs!) and still had the astuteness, focus and energy that she’d had 20 years before. All of us, in fact, had retained our essential selves, even if some of us (ahem, me!) had less hair on our heads and bigger circles under our eyes than we had when last we hung out en masse.

So we’re gabbing and eating and drinking a glass of wine or several (we met at Juliet Supper Club, which had mirrored columns and latticed ceilings which screamed 1980s Morocco), when at around 9, the place began to fill up with men and women around the age we were when last we hung out.

“My God, look at them,” M. said, gesturing toward a trio of mini-skirted women in stupid shoes who were half looking over each others’ shoulders, scoping out the none-too-impressive men in the room.

“I know,” I answered. “You couldn’t pay me to be them again.” And I meant it sincerely. We’d spent the first part of the evening catching up, the second part passing kiddie photos around on our smartphones, and had tipsily moved on to dissecting how incredibly complicated parenting and marriage is. But even in light of all that was difficult and crazymaking and beyond exhausting about being wives and moms and working women, not a single one of us wanted to be in the precariously high shoes of the women in that room.

“YOU KNOW, I HAVE NO REGRETS,” J. shouted to me. Even though we were inches apart, by 9:30 the music was loud enough to compel us Formerlies to request the check, which, predictably, we did. “IF I HADN’T DONE ALL THAT I DID BACK THEN, I’D PROBABLY BE DOING IT NOW. AND I DON’T HAVE THE LEAST DESIRE TO.”

What J. said is one of the best arguments for making the effort to go out, not only with old friends but to a place where the 2010 versions of yourselves congregate to do more or less exactly what you did when you were their age. While there are, of course, things that I envy them–their elastic skin, their perky boobs, and their semi-delusional optimism about what a romantic partner can do to transform your existence–there is far more that I do not. Their anxiety about wearing the right thing, saying the right thing to the right guy, and whether their hair was behaving was palpable. They didn’t seem to be having a good time at all.

The four of us made our way out where there was less noise, said our goodbyes, and resolved to get together more often, which I think we will.

H. and I rode the subway home together, and while we were waiting on the platform, one of those funny yellow cleaning cars rolled by. (For you non-New Yorkers, they look like the Little Engine That Could, except in yellow with black streaks of filth, and they honk as they go by.) I hadn’t seen one of those literally in years, since they usually don’t operate until late at night, when there are fewer commuters on the train. I could remember many a 2 AM trip home, sometimes with H. and the crew, waiting for a half an hour for our train. Finally we’d see a light in the tunnel, only to be disappointed that it was one of those annoying yellow cleaning cars honking and not stopping.

I asked H. if she remembered those. She did. One of the many things that never change, among lots of stuff that does, for the better.

Photo by Thriving Ink CC