Last night was my monthly book club meeting. And by meeting, I mean getting together with great friends, sampling delicious cheeses and different kinds of wine, sitting down to a beautiful meal, catching up on our personal lives, teasing, laughing, participating in a deep philosophical conversation, and oh yeah, discussing the book we read. I love my book club. We meet once a month and sometimes in between club meetings to go to a movie, attend a lecture, go out for tea, or even spend a day at the hot springs or a weekend in a mountain resort. I have come to love my book club ladies. I look forward to seeing them, and I never miss a meeting, even if I didn’t finish the book. We are all teachers, or former teachers. My book club ladies are very intellectual and wise, and I have gained a lot of insight about life from them, but most of all, they have become the best kind of friends anyone could have. We all fit together so well even though we are quite diverse in many ways. We range from various denominations of Christian to Atheist to New-Ager, and we encompass all the political parties, including Socialist. I’ve often wondered why we work so well as friends, and I figured out we share some very important qualities besides a love of books. Here’s what I came up with:
We are open-minded. We not only listen, but we consider each other’s opinions and value our differences. We respect each other’s thoughts.
We share ourselves. We don’t just share the flattering things that most people would want others to know about themselves, but we really let each other see our true personalities—our quirks, our insecurities, our flaws, our confusion. We really know who each one of us is. I can tell my friends anything, and I do.
We like each other anyway. The more I know about my friends, the more I respect them and care about them. Knowing their problems, insecurities, their frustrations, and the mistakes they make, allows me to see things through their eyes and not get upset at them when we have disagreements or don’t see eye to eye—and we don’t. As I said, we have varying political, religious, and philosophical ideologies, but we completely accept each other anyway.
We can trust each other. This is a rare gift. We have been through a lot together and have been friends for many years. We’ve shared secrets, and our confidences have never been betrayed. Our friendship has been tested and passed with flying colors.
We listen to each other. Not only do we share ourselves, we are interested in what’s going on in the lives of each one of us. We take turns talking and make sure we all get a chance to tell about what is going on in our lives. We may offer advice, but we don’t judge. I always leave book club feeling completely accepted and listened to. In the past, I’ve had many friends who only want to talk and never listen. Even if I am having a serious problem, they turn it around and make it about them. Not these ladies. My book club friends are sensitive to knowing when someone needs a friendly ear.
We can count on each other. I know if I had a problem, they are only a phone call away—a ride to the airport, help moving, a place to stay; we aren’t fair-weather friends.
We are honest. We tell each other how it is and call each other out when necessary. I think I have been told, to my face, that I am full of shit by these ladies more than by any other people I have ever known. But that’s okay because we can say that to each other without getting angry, and then go on having a lovely evening. But we take each other seriously as well, so if one of us says we are full of shit, we take the time to consider whether or not they are right.
We challenge each other. Like I said, we are very different people. We have different views, different ways of looking at things, and different ways of doing things. We give advice and kick each other in the butt when necessary.
We encourage each other. Even though we call each other out when necessary, we are the first to offer words of encouragement, truthful compliments, and uplifting advice right along with our criticisms. Besides my husband, I feel like they are my most enthusiastic cheerleaders.
We inspire each other. I have often heard horror stories of women who constantly fight, are jealous, or in competition with each other. I am lucky to never have experienced this in my friendships (I’ve had many wonderful girl-friends throughout my life and am still friends with them today), and it couldn’t be further from the truth with these ladies. We support each other in every endeavor, share ideas, and help each other succeed. When I published my book, they were right there to share in my joy. They read it, helped me with editing, came to my book signing, and helped me promote it. Two of the women in my book club are writers as well. We read each other’s writing and do whatever we can to promote the success of all of us, whether it is a new job, a new relationship, or a writing project. We share genuinely in the joy of each other’s success.
We don’t have to be perfect for each other. We welcome each other into our homes even when they aren’t clean or we haven’t showered. We walk in without knocking. We are the kind of friends who have keys or garage codes to each other’s houses in case we show up before the owner arrives. We’ve stripped naked to change or take a dip in the hot springs without worrying about cellulite or being judged. We are comfortable with each other, and that is nice.
We don’t have to feel bad when we don’t see each other for a while. Many of my book club friends travel frequently. We may go a couple of months without seeing each other certain times of the year, but nothing changes. Whenever we get back together, it’s like we never left. We pick up right where we left off. We are not needy or demanding with each other. If we can make it to something, we do. If we can’t, we understand. No pressure.
But we are thoughtful. We bring each other thoughtful gifts for no reason sometimes. The other day, one of my friends brought me a vegan cookbook because she knows I am interested in changing my diet along those lines. When one of us goes on vacation, we often bring back a souvenir for the rest of us. We may show up at each other’s house with a bottle of wine or a homemade loaf of bread just because.
We make each other laugh. We always have the best time when we’re together, often giggling uncontrollably. Once two of us went to the movies and had no idea what we were seeing. It turned out to be a very stupid and vulgar teenage boy-type thing. Being teachers, we slid down in our seats, unable to control our laughter while trying desperately not to be seen by any of our students. We’ve laughed at each other and with each other, but I would feel equally comfortable crying with them. In fact we have while attending too many funerals of former students who died way too soon.
I am a little bit of an introvert. I’m somewhat of an intellectual, I’m a bookworm, and I’m way too serious. But this group of friends brings me out in a way for which I am so grateful. We never need to make meaningless small talk, which I despise. For an introvert, it is highly important to feel comfortable and accepted in order for me to be my natural self. I think this is why I never miss an opportunity to hang out with them if possible, while I turn down other social engagements all the time. The best kinds of friends are the kind that let you be completely you without worrying about it. And more than just putting up with you, they actually enjoy being with you. We should all have friends that make us more of who we really are instead of less, and I am so grateful for mine. And the books and wine are bonuses.—Christina Knowles