Friday, May 22, 2009

Hanging Out

Photo courtesy of BrotherMagneto

I don't like the word "Entertaining" as it applies to the concept of getting together with friends and family. It conjures up images of a Martha Stewart perfect table, perfect meal and well-ordered life. I picture well-dressed ladies gathering around a garden table for a luncheon or an overstuffed holiday meal with a million relatives in Christmas sweaters and a host so stressed out from the effort she'd rather be napping than socializing.

I don't like the pressure to clean the house, make a gourmet feast and essentially put on a show. I love Ina Garten, but I don't live in the Hamptons and I don't employ a florist. That style of entertaining is not where I'm at in life. Don't get me wrong. I love to cook and I love a fresh bouquet of flowers and a nice table setting. There are times I like that sort of thing, but it's not a prerequisite for time spent with friends.

Some of the strongest friendships I ever had happened when I was a kid, when Hanging Out was the order of the day and Entertaining never crossed our minds. A couple of years ago, in the throes of isolation due to a move and two babies, I decided that I didn't want to entertain or be entertained, I just wanted friends to hang out with. People to roast marshmallows with over a bonfire or sit on the back porch with drinking a beer and discussing theology, politics or the weather. I was lonely and isolated, complaints I hear from a lot of moms. I wanted friends, not just dinner guests.

I was thinking about this last night as three of my old childhood friends and I sat around a bonfire with our families eating hot dogs, sharing stories and discussing the nitty-gritty of Life, The Universe and Everything, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams. I feel so grateful to have these people in my life. People I don't need to impress. People who have seen the worst of who I am and still love me. People I can hang out with. There's a real sense of security in that.

This, I think, is the good stuff in life. The stuff I want more of, more nights spent reading each other the latest passage from our homemade novels, more days spent swimming in the pool or lounging at the beach or drinking coffee on the couch in my less-than-perfect living room free of pressure and pretense. This is the life.

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