And yes, I actually celebrated the occasion this year. I wrote up a list of a couple dozen people to invite over for a birthday bash, began by calling my three closest women friends in town, then realized I was done: those three were the people I wanted to spend the evening with. So I had a small, intimate kind of bday party, with candles and wine and laughing and talking late into the night.
They made me a shiny birthday crown! (Illuminated herein to show full magical effect.) I wore it all night and woke up with a pict-y blue forehead in the morning.
I don't really have a group of friends. I'm not a posse person. I like the idea of someone saying "Hey it's Saturday night, let's get the gang together!" where, in this scenario, I am part of The Gang and can rely on being included in all gang-related activities. That sounds like a great life in theory. In reality, I know I'm not wired for it, and get uncomfortable in crowds. What comes naturally for me is to move among lots of different social circles without fully belonging to any of them, and get to know a few people individually, one on one.
Because of this, I've ended up with a wide variety of friends scattered all over the place, hardly any of whom know each other. (The exception is in the SF writerly field, where eventually everyone knows everyone, largely thanks to the aggregated clusterfuck of conventions.) To be honest, I can't imagine some of my friends in the same room; they have such diverse styles and interests and seem to inhabit different worlds. That makes them all the more interesting to me, but previous attempts at mix-n-matching my social circles have made clear that sometimes, it just doesn't take.
So this was an experiment, putting the four of us together. But it wasn't long before they dispensed with polite conversation, and went straight to trading hilarious and devastating life stories. It's beautiful to witness your friends in this new light, to listen as they sift their messy raw experience and frame it within a narrative of chosen meaning. To see how they've mined and polished, from the dark passages of their past, these glowing gems. I love the strength in that act, the artistry. So much humor and toughness and grace. I know some awesome women.
Of course, Madison being the cosy li'l town it is, turns out their lives were already intertwined all over the place even though they hadn't met before. And they will surely bump into each other again, but I hope in the future they'll meet as friends, because for one night, they were part of my mini girl-gang. It was a very good birthday.