Four Myths of American Suburban Life ~ #4


Myth 4: A packed social calendar with many different groups of friends makes for an exciting & adventurous life.










I was a Ferris Bueller type of kid in high school.

You know… “Friends with the sportos, motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, *#&%-heads…” (love that secretary). I was one of those singer/actress girls who had a core group of friends I ran with, but I was very comfortable at whatever lunch table I chose.  Because of this there were a lot of people swirling around my social vortex ready for adventure with just a phone call from my pink push-button phone. Being an only child, it seemed that I was always craving conversation and interaction, something my sea of stuffed animals on my bed just didn’t provide.

Fast forward to my young married years— I found that my husband fulfilled a lot of my social/adventure needs. I am lucky that I married someone who also enjoys random past times like bowling (really bad bowling, mind you) and hunkering down with a bowl of mac and cheese & sun dried tomatoes and the Sunday paper. Yee-haw, we were animals in those days! Phew! Yet as the years sauntered along, I found that (sigh) my beloved did not fit the profile for trolling boutiques and haunting scrapbook stores (a pastime that has all but disappeared several thousands of dollars later). I realized that there was hub/wife fun and then there was girlfriend adventure fun. After the kidlets’ arrival  I craved the latter like a carnivore plunked down in Northern Cal vegan café. It meant the difference between a balanced existence and a maniacal homemaker with bald spots acquired from continual head-banging. It was that important.

I was a bit green in my new found suburban predicament. Meaning, I grew up a city girl and I didn’t quite understand the rules (translation: drama and chaos) of living in a neighborhood where everyone was the same age and the women stayed home to do the mom-thing. I never thought I would do the mom-thing. In fact, the very thought of losing my identity (5th grade teacher at the time) and being famous for burp towel folding and blah-meal making gave me deep-down GI pains. It was challenging and I pretty much relied on proximity for the friend-making process in such foreign territory. Let’s just say I didn’t know myself at all and in turn picked people to be in my corner that were dealing with their own issues. No self-righteousness here—I was just as lost as the rest of ‘em. There were a few lucky wild cards in there (“Sainta” Maria is in my life and heart to this day).













and some amazing women from my Far-Away Church (these women lived Far Away as well) including Shari, my Frenchie partner in crime.













I was heading down the road of a “crowded lunchroom” of acquaintances and only a couple of sister-friends to show for my social networking efforts. And this was before Facebook! Sakes alive!

Then it hit me.

The process of forming meaningful girlfriend relationships should not be a hustle. Beyond the “meeting a friend through your kids thing” and “I totally want you to meet ___________! You would love her!” connection, the process of creating a tribe is organic, sometimes taking years to morph itself into existence. I can safely say that I did not have a firm grip on what I desired in an uber-posse until I turned 40 (a miniscule year and a half ago, lovelies). I know that a few superstar-mature-beyond-their-years ladies (phbbttt!!!) got lucky and met their soul mate friend in 9th grade and have shared the flowering joy of every major life milestone since, but I’m thinking even those women might re-evaluate at some point. Adding that spicy friend they didn’t even know was missing could be a good thing.

Spicy is a perfect adjective for Elida, my friend and Ignite the Heart business partner.














We’re just different enough (hello—she’s 15 minutes late for everything  vs. the freak-out tirade I go into when I’m late) to make it interesting and similar in the core stuff (values, faith, kid-raising principles) to make our bond meaningful and significant. I also know that I can tell it to her straight : “Salsa dancing until midnight and getting up early is probably not a good idea for maximum art-making energy”.  I can take it as well: “Good grief, Lara, put down that planner and loosen up!”  It’s a good balance and I’m not sure I would’ve recognized it for what it was 10 years ago. She might have salsa danced right past my anal retentive ways and I would’ve missed out on serious growth as a woman and artist….and spontaneous traveler.

I guess my point, however meandering, is that you must know yourself to find a tribe of girlfriends. I’m not just talking about the “trip to Vegas posse” or the “our kids play while we drink sangria on the porch neighbors” or even (heaven forbid, please say it isn’t so) the “let’s have coffee every Friday and bash everyone we know crew”.  I will tell you one tidbit I’ve learned about myself: if a friend is heading over to the abode and it’s a festering mess complete with mountains of whitewash and a smelly guinea pig habitat (AKA my utility room) and I’m totally down with not lifting a finger to clean it, I know that this woman has taken up residence in my heart. It means that I’m more interested in getting out her favorite crackers or cueing up the new John Mayer CD for us to share. This says that she knows me, warts and all, and still wants to sit at my sticky counter. I love it when girlfriends cop a squat at my island while I pretend to chop vegetables like the Susie homemaker she knows I’m not. I like being understood. I like not having to explain my randomness to anyone. A good girlfriend does not care if you are void of makeup and not sporting the latest on your jeans-wearing tush (and also won’t point out that it’s getting larger as you progress into 40-dom).

So I ask you this:

Why are so many women wrapped up in girlfriends who produce Oscar worthy performances? Why do women keep score? Why, oh for the love of Starbucks, do women continue to spend oodles of time with someone who makes them feel bottom-of-the-basement horrible?

This troubles me.

More than global warming even.

Goodness, ladies, what the heck is going on in the lives of unfulfilled and restless women?

(Soapbox alert)




We do not need trouble piled onto our already full plates by our own species…there should only be empathy, sympathy, love and kindness.  These qualities must be sprouted and nurtured in our own lives and families so that we know how to dish them out in huge amounts when needed.

There are good things involved with this merciless aging process. I actually had a little glimmer of mature adult discernment (shocking, I know) when I moved to New York in ’04. Coming from our Northwest version of Payton Place, I was a bit gun-shy of forming new relationships, let alone with women in a totally different culture. Were these East Coast women going to be so direct that my fragile West Coast heart would bust in two? Would I be labeled the hipster-doofus-granola-fleece-wearing-girl on the block?  I used this fabulous paranoia to my advantage and made a couple of rules for myself. If I got together with a new acquaintance and they either  a) unashamedly bashed their husband or  b) let their children crawl up my door jams without reprimand, I was out…as in a cordial “thanks for lunch, see you around” out. It totally worked! I avoided a couple of disasters and I waited…waited for the heart tug when I was getting to know someone.

Kathy (of  “ I have my immaturity to keep me young”  fame) was the woman who held it together for me. She did such an incredible job of listening to my blubbering about my business and the NY adjustment….I leaned in as we talked about her being an adoptive parent and wife to a traveling husband. Our faith was a big part of it. We connected on a spiritual level, which is another whole article in itself—something that can really make or break a friendship, I’m finding. Most of my ambivalence about moving back home had to do with leaving Kathy. It was a very sad, sappy scene in our driveway the day we left (speaking of Oscar-worthy… “We’d both like to thank the Academy”)….BUT, I learned something very important: these types of friendships were possible and I would begin a quest of finding these women upon arriving home.

And I have.

The rub is that many of these creative vessels of awesomeness inhabit other states.

Double sigh.

Curse you time zone difference! You mess with my phone bonding time. Until I can prop up a friend’s Face-Time mug 24/7 in my car (we can suffer teen-pop sensations together!), the connections will be sporadic, something I’ve learned to deal with. And as these lovelies will attest, I have a very hard time reserving girl retreat time because I travel so much for work, so the I-can-actually-hug-you visits are infrequent. Sometimes you just gotta see someone’s fleshy face in front of you—even though Skype does such a stellar job of magnifying our natural beauty. Ahhhggg! Do I actually look like that?!

It’s truly wonderful to realize that with friendships it’s definitely a quality over quantity thing.  It’s true you only die with a few really good friends.

Thankfully, that’s all you really need.





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8 Responses to Four Myths of American Suburban Life ~ #4

  1. Holly says:

    Bravo, Lara! :) Looking forward to some quiet time together in Canada.

  2. Donna says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. Good friends are hard to find and so important! I love the part about the friend who comes over and sits at the sticky counter and doesn’t care. :)

  3. elida field says:

    Well, sista sue…I’m glad you caught me in a whirl as I danced by ya! BTW…it’s all in there, the shake, the shimmy, the rock and roll…you have it all! I witnessed you tuck your skirt into your panties and flick a hip in a kitchen full of Christian Egyptian cooks located in the jewish quarter of Rome, Italy. Yessssss ma’am! I saw it all! Love ya!

  4. Cecilia Scott says:

    I laughed and very nearly cried at the truths you touched on so vividly. You are brilliant!!

  5. Kath says:

    So far in miles, so close at heart. I miss you so. ..your sweet words reminded me why. Xoxo

  6. Christie says:

    Your series was really good! Lots to think about … simplicity, authenticity, richness. Good stuff.

  7. Tere says:

    Thank you Lara. For me, it’s a balance between generating those relationships I want and wanting to pull the covers over my head and vegging in the confines of my home with my kids. It’s comfortable and it’s where I feel I can be the most vulnerable without concern for judgement. I recognize the closest friendships require vulnerability, seeing me for who I really am, not a facade of everything is perfect. I am guilty of putting up a guard, wanting to “look good” with the thought “I can do this myself, I don’t need you”. It’s a conversation I have, I think about and continue to work through….thanks for your inspiration. xoxo

  8. Well hey, girl. It’s me again. (Met you through Jeanne-Jeanne’s-as I lovingly call her- business course. Your words here mirror my own thoughts of recent months…only more lucidly communicated. :). As the wife of a Preacher, I used to read books in my 20’s and 30’s that told me that a. You could not have a close friend in your church, and 2. Your husband is supposed to be your best fried, i.e. God made Adam and Eve, not Eve and Eva. I cringe when I remember that I strapped on a lapel mic (back before the behind the head and beside the cheek mics were invented) and TAUGHT THAT CRAP (husband-wife relationship is the primary relationship blablablah) myself. Oh, the fundamentalist hoo-ha we mistake for sound doctrine.

    YES, marriage is the primary relationship, but we older women are to teach younger women…and I no longer believe that is accomplished through our Western, cerebral, write a book or strap on a mic methodology.

    Rather, it is accomplished when we Over Forty Ones come together and dance and drink “not too much” wine, and speak of our husband and children with respect and tender affection….allowing the younger generation to watch us, long for our wisdom and safe relationships, and perhaps quest out a mentor and a few good friends of their own. It is accomplished when we Over Forty Ones celebrate our bodies, our jeans size, our wildly differing socio-economic situations, and one another’s gifts.

    It is accomplished when we Over Forty Ones refuse to get to this age and lose our freaking credibility. Having an affair, taking up prescription drugs, obsessing over our weight, and the brand of our handbags, comparing and competing…all diminish our beautiful credibility as Christ’s Image Bearers.

    Darlin’ there’s more where that came from…pardon the southern drawl. :)

    Lara, you so stinkin’ rock! Keep up the good and glorious work of teaching with your heart, soul, and life.

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