Tuesday, November 22, 2016

my girls

I have never wanted bridesmaids. Even as a child, it seemed like a not very nice thing to do to people who are supposedly your best friends.

And then I grew up and had it affirmed approximately 27 times that it is not a very nice thing to do to people who are supposedly your best friends. It's expensive and time consuming. It is often humiliating. [Cue the bridesmaids' luncheon I attended where the mother of the bride described my hair as a frizzy perm (because it was August!) and accused me of having collagen lip implants (false).] It requires you to get on stage in a costume you probably aren't comfortable with and recite lines you haven't memorized, wearing stage makeup that sometimes you've had to pay for yourself.

But, in one of our first compromises, Beau said I needed a bridesmaid. He said it would look dumb for us to stand up there by ourselves, and it made sense to have someone to hold our rings and the flowers... and he's right.

So then I had to choose a person. This gave me a lot of anxiety, because I have a lot of beautiful, talented, supportive women in my life who love me really, really well... and choosing one of them wouldn't be fair to any of them.

Case in point: I have 16 other females getting their hair and/or makeup done with me the morning of my wedding.

I don't have a sister. I don't have a best friend from third grade, although the two best friends I had in third grade are still my friends, and one of them will be present. My college roommate/sorority little sister is swamped with a career and family in another time zone; she's never met Beau.

But I do have a female cousin with whom I have always been close, so she was a natural choice. Carolyn lived in Austin while I did, and we saw each other frequently. I have traveled internationally with her. We have each spent time with every idiot the other has dated, going back 20 years. I gave a great toast at her wedding and then shared the honeymoon suite with her the night before her wedding. I have had more slumber parties with her than any other female.

When I called to tell her I was engaged, she was already happy crying when she answered the phone. When I asked if she'd be our best maid, she screamed "of course!!!!!"

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, "How many girls do you have?"

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about my girls, the day after several of them threw me a bridal shower.

Brooke is my oldest (longest) friend in the bunch. We both attended Wake Forest but didn't meet until after graduation, when we were both being 23-year-old idiots in Washington, DC. We were making no money and spent a lot of Friday nights consuming pizza and two buck chuck on her couch. This worked out really well, because both of us like mushroom pizza and cheap wine; we would rather have been with each other than the ridiculous men the greater DC area offered as dates. One night, she programmed herself into my phone as "hotilishous." That's what her contact name remains. Her husband described me as the person Brooke would call if she needed to hide a body. Totally accurate, and it goes both ways. She arrives in New Orleans on her birthday, four days in advance of the wedding to help out wherever she can. She's throwing a luncheon for me on the Friday before we get married (you know, what would be the traditional bridesmaids' luncheon) and has been an absolute joy to vent to, because we have essentially the same sense of humor/sarcasm.

Brittany is my newest (and youngest!) friend in the bunch. She is my current work wife, as we see each other nearly every day for work and, if not, then for coffee. She got married in the French Quarter in August 2015 and has been an invaluable asset to me as I navigate the logistics of getting married in New Orleans. She's also very fashionable and opinionated, which helps when making nearly any decision.

Joy is my previous work wife. She is the Executive Director of CASA New Orleans, and I was the Executive Director of CASA Jefferson. We didn't know each other before I started working there, but we immediately liked each other and had standing meetings every other Thursday afternoon. She helped me write our major funding grant not quite three months into my position while her husband literally nursed Beau, who had just gotten out of the hospital with six broken ribs and two broken bones in his hand. Yes: I had *just* met these people, and they were in my home helping me through one of the most difficult times in my career/life. And, afterwards, they took home a load of our laundry to clean! There has never been a time when I have needed Joy that she hasn't made time for me; she often shows up often before I even ask for her help, usually with booze or flowers or both.

Julia has seen it all. I thought about this yesterday as I stood at her kitchen island, where I have stood 100 times before celebrating 100 different things, big and small. One of the first times was when she was distracting me with cheese and wine while my ex-boyfriend moved his stuff out of my house. Then she kept making me come over, even though the last thing I wanted was food or company, for the next couple of months. Her parents have included me in their Thanksgivings and birthdays. When my mother asked me if I had put together a vetting committee for my next boyfriend, I nominated Julia as President. She is judgmental but fiercely loyal. I've visited three time zones with her; we've shared clothes and more bottles of wine than anyone need count. She told me she couldn't let me get married without a shower, so she galvanized my other New Orleans' girls and hosted 20 women, many of them strangers, in her home. That's who she is: a generous host, a rallying cry, a champion for the people she loves.

Maggie and I met in the all-girls dance troupe we were both members of. Both of us have chosen terrible men as partners (although *fingers crossed* that phase of our lives is over!); both of us have experienced similar professional challenges; both of us love to travel, learn, adventure; both of us practice yoga and spend a lot of time self-reflecting; both of us feel a lot of guilt for being so far from our families, but both of us have parents who visit often. When Beau and I talked about someone to read at our wedding, we wanted someone who believed in the same kind of God that we do. Maggie was the immediate choice. She loves her neighbors in ways the rest of us should strive towards.

Meredith was my grad assistant at Tulane, and then we learned we were both in the same sorority alumnae group, and then we learned that we were both in the Junior League, and then we learned that my best maid was her best friend in elementary school. Obviously, the universe meant for us to be friends. (She has also worked for me in two capacities since Tulane.) She is one of those people who says yes to everything and somehow manages to diminish none of it. She uses her talent to improve her community, of which I am blessed to be a small part. She excels in making everything feel like a celebration, proving that every day is a holiday. She defines commitment, and I am grateful to be one of hers.

They are all strong, smart, amazing women. They have all held integral behind the scenes roles in creating the woman I am today, supporting my relationship with Beau, and this wedding. I couldn't be more excited for them all to meet, to celebrate with them, to laugh too hard.

May they, and the world, always know how special they are to me.

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