Saturday, June 17, 2006

In the Company of Mothers


I saw her in my pediatrician’s lobby: blonde and good-looking, too much make-up covering her 30-something magnetic face and slight jowl. Fighting time. As she leaned over to read to toddlers milling about, I surveyed the scene – and the dad who honorably gazed away from the fleshy humps uncovered by her deep V-neck. Another fair-haired lady threw her guarded glances.

This kind of vixen pops up often in my observations, student of human nature that I am. One surprised me with a honeyed lilt in her voice and never-before-seen smile in her eyes as she joked with a married man, ignoring the wife at his side. A different one angered me with her pink-bowed, charcoal-black unmentionable (with an intriguing cutout design, I must say) on display above her belt loop for all of Chuck E. Cheese to see.

Truth be told, I readily spot her type because I once was her – a vamp more concerned with the stomach-flipping advances of the male species than the soul-nurturing companionship (or glaring rage and hurt, for that matter) of their better halves. On my bad days, I still am her. The demons she fights are my own.

However, leaving the testosterone-rich soup of corporate America and becoming a desolate housewife helped change all that. In the ghost-town still of these mid-days, all my colleagues are women. Beholden to this corporation of mothers, my need for genuine female friendship (which requires being a respectable female friend) has swung the pendulum in estrogen’s favor. It’s a hard thing to look at your own ugly ways and yield to change, but that’s exactly what I did.

My reward has been a bevy of mommy buddies that I’m grateful to call friends, who reflect my own personhood. Distancing myself from the haters, gossips and fakes, I prayed for divine connections and got them in the following crossover, archetypical characteristics. I hope every woman – be she a mom or not this Mother’s Day – enjoys the same:

Fun-loving and Forgiving
Babs Uhl belongs on a Broadway stage, belting out her soaring soprano range beneath plumed headdresses. Our get-togethers are impromptu and varied, wherein she regales me with tales of drama. She is the paprika in my salt-and-pepper days. My other friend guffaws outright. Often accompanying this joyful quality is a turn-the-other-cheek nature, which forgives my judgmental, inconsiderate and self-obsessed faux pas.

Smart and Soaring
One has her doctorate, another is in law school. Others rest in the higher rungs of billion-dollar firms. But there’s also brilliance in my hausfrau comrades. Take Diane Vrobel, a former chemist who continually feeds the right side of my brain. Mention Proust or Keats and she won’t bat a hazel-brown eye. She easily discusses everything from mob mentality to DNA structure. These aren’t folks that raise my ire with icky feelings of one-upswomanship, but instead are the dangling, delightful carrots whose own intelligence and accomplishments show me what’s possible.

Thoughtful and Trustworthy
Without my day-to-day buddy, Erica Brown, Sgt. Paula’s Lonely Housewives Club Band (featuring moi) would be a whole lot lonelier. Her kind acts are numerous – from the first time she gave me a tape of the sermon I had to flee because of my wiggly kid to her babysitting rescues, Erica has truly come through for me. It’s beyond nice to have friends like her who ask, “How are you doing today?” and then listen to my response. A real woman’s woman, Erica’s pretty gorgeous on the outside, only made more beautiful by the heart within.

Honest and Honorable
My pal Maia Randle is good at telling me the truth, seasoned with love. Like a couple of other women I know, months may pass before we hook up, but when we do, there’s no need to pretend our lives are perfect. Maia’s best quality is her integrity; doing right is first nature to her. Female allies like her are the best because they don’t undercut your value to try and elevate their own positions in life, and they don’t seek opportunities to canoodle with your man.

A Comfortable Confidante
Being with friends shouldn’t be a chore. I like the relationships that grow and flow easily, like ripples over smooth rocks. They return calls. They initiate calls. We click. And though we all might leak minor tidbits on side roads, we don’t blast each other’s juiciest secrets on Front Street. Mine are locked in their vaults and their secrets in mine; we don’t hear our personal business repeated to us from other folks.

Sisterly, with Staying Power
Last but most cherished is my sister, Amber Dobbins-Jones. I love that she’s my best friend, but doesn’t have to be – one of the few long-term companionships I haven’t burned by relocation or backstabbing. I can be my real self in her presence. Everyone should hold dear -- and be -- a friend like all of the above: Someone who forgets who you were, respects who you are, and champions who you’re becoming.

Paula Mooney is a freelancer writer who lives in Akron with her husband and two young children. Visit her blog at www.paulamooney.blogspot.com

This essay was originally published in the May 2006 issue of Akron Family and is available for reprints.

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Paula Neal Mooney