litmus tests

I was out shopping with my sister, M, this summer and as we were flipping through the clothing racks, I sighed a little too dramatically and said, “What’s the point of getting anything new? When I get back to London, I’ll have no social life.”

My sister picked up a shoe from a display and threw it at me.

“No social life? Are you kidding? You go out more than any other woman I know. You could give classes on how to socialise. Now quit being so histrionic and find me that shoe in my size.”

So it got me to thinking about my social prolificacy. Hmmm… what if all over this great, big, badass planet, we could all somehow do a cocktail night around the same time—put ourselves out there collectively.

Let me take a step back. You know what I find the hardest about going out? That half-hour before I’ve even started to get ready. I think, “I don’t want to do this. I’m at one with the couch and this big bowl of Doritos. I’d rather get into my PJs and watch re-runs of Dexter.”

Then I imagine calling my girlfriends or whomever I’m planning to see to inform them I’m bailing. Then I imagine how annoyed they’d be about me doing so. I can’t stand when people bail on me.

Then I have guilt. My husband and I have a debate about who brings more guilt to the table – the Catholics or the Jews. Doesn’t matter.  The guilt is enough to get me off the couch and into the bathroom to tart myself up. Once I’m dressed, and the lippy goes on, I’m fine. Later when I’m out with my friends, for cocktails or dinner or whatever, I berate myself for ever thinking I didn’t want to come out in the first place because I always end up having so much fun.

Besides, I can wear PJs and watch re-runs when I’m retired.

But back to the Girls Night Out (GNO)—how do you find those women if you’re just starting out at a new place?

If your kids are still in school, attend the class coffees or newbie luncheons. If your kids are grown and have moved out, maybe join a local women’s group or the gym or volunteer at a hospital. I’d welcome all of your collective input here.

Here’s the trick: once you’ve secured a place at that first social gathering, conduct your own series of personal litmus tests.  If, say, gardening does it for you, show off your gardening prowess by remarking loudly on the flowers on the table at one of the coffees or the foliage outside the restaurant and compare it to your own recent landscaping projects. Maybe it’s sports? Look at your watch and say, “I hope my husband remembers to record the Giants game for me.” (I’m reaching here since my ignorance of plants and sports is truly unparalleled). I promise I’m not trying to be facetious. I just think women should connect over whatever it is that connects them.

My litmus test involves swearing. Sometimes at one of those coffees or newbie breakfasts or ladies luncheons, I will knock something over “accidentally” and then drop the F-bomb with a little extra enthusiasm. Whoever seems horrified and moves away uncomfortably cannot be my friend.

My girlfriend tried this in Southern California at a school get-together when she just moved. She called me and said, “Catherine! It worked! I said, ‘Oh F-ck’ when I spilled my drink and this mom came over, sat beside me and said, ‘I have a feeling you and I are going to get along very well.’”

My personal criteria also filters out the overly happy and outwardly cheerful. I can’t do that either. I tend to veer towards the damaged and internally conflicted. Birds of a feather …

And as part of my personal litmus tests, let me acknowledge the elephant in the room… I like nice shoes. Shoot me.  Or better yet, stop reading if this blog offends you. My shoes comments have ruffled a great many a feathers — I had one woman ask me if I would take a look at her shoe closet and vet which ones would pass as appropriate for “going out shoes”.
You know what? I would rather a woman show up in Crocs at a one of my cocktail nights, walk straight up to me, and say, “Catherine, I LOVE my Crocs and if you have a problem with that, you can EFF off but I’m staying.”

One word: Respect.

I would tell that woman to pull up a chair and I would buy her a drink…or five. My personal litmus test also includes having a deep affection for the eccentric, the underdog, the cast-aside, the outcast, the misjudged and the misunderstood (see above reference to damaged and internally conflicted).

Okay, so lastly, what if you’re totally new and know no one?

Just keep in mind that all you need for a girls night out (or in!) is two participants.

Your social outing could be a FaceTime “date” like I had with my girlfriend, Kristine, over the summer.

I mixed myself a vodka gimlet and double clicked her number on the FaceTime screen prompt. I got that “connecting” message for a few seconds and then the fuzzy image of Kristine came into clear view. She was sitting on the back stoop of her house with a glass of wine in one hand. She peered cooly into the screen and not having seen my glass yet, held a cigarette to her lips with two straight fingers, took a drag Greta Garbo style, turned her head to exhale away from the screen and finally said, “Where’s your drink, Babe? I thought this was a date.”

We had a blast. Best part? No one had to catch a cab home.

I heard the coolest quote the other day: “You start living when you step out of your comfort zone.”
Okay so perhaps reaching out to an old girlfriend isn’t exactly stepping out of your comfort zone but maybe sharing a glass of wine with her when it’s 10 am your time is.

So start living. Take that first step. Mine will be in nice shoes…

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