My bioethics paper is late. And I’ve decided that the reason I’m having trouble writing it is because I have to write this post first. It’s been on my mind a lot recently and, frankly, I’ve been avoiding it because I honestly don’t know how to begin or end it, or really what should go in the middle. It’s on the topic of a community of friends that is rooted so snuggly into my semblance of self, I can’t comprehend how any facet of my life could be complete without it. Maybe it’s arrogant of me, but I’ve come to believe that a group of this kind is far from commonplace, and I never cease to be bewildered by the luck I have to be a part of it.
You’ve seen/heard me reference them before, often calling them the Y’s or the Y’s & HMC for short, largely because I didn’t want to take the time to explain the meaning, but partially because I didn’t want to have to defend the name. We are the Ya-Yas & Handsome Men’s Club, proudly.
Ten years ago, at the urging of two of my closest girlfriends, I read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. I won’t try to pass it off as “high-brow literature,” but I think it should be a must-read for all adolescent girls. Unlike any story I’ve known, it depicts what sensational relationships can exist between women. I think it’s the first book that ever made me cry, although that’s now a regular occurrence. (For those of you that have a copy, turn to 217 and read to 230, when Sister Solange and Genevieve save Vivi from Saint Augustine’s. I think reading this passage might have also given me my first inkling that I wanted to go into medicine, as well as my affinity for lavender.)
And so, at the end of our senior year of high school, Erica, Liz, Stephie, and I formed our own Ya-Ya sisterhood, and soon our own listserv (because nothing says commitment like an electronic mailing list). Within a year it grew to include a small handful of other women we love from high school, and then our men (best friends and/or life loves). We became the Y’s & Co. and remained so for a long time. But when the men equaled (or surpassed) the number of women, when they independently created “man adventures” and contributed to/facilitated/took part in leading group-wide events (like our annual reunions at Thanksgiving, New Years, and Beach Weeks), “& Co.” just didn’t cut it as a title. “HMC” it was, although, for the life of me, I have no idea how we came upon that name. I think our little group is something around 30 strong at this point.
These are the friends you write home about, the people you can literally trust with anything, who will always be there when you absolutely need them—I know this all sounds so hokey (are you vomiting a little in your mouth yet?), but it’s very much true. When I was heartbroken and sobbing over the telephone, my closest friend nearly drove to the airport to catch a plane in order to be with me, and I’m sure he would had if I had asked. When I needed a place to stay one summer in college, more than one ya-ya family gave me the key to their home, my own bed and drawer space. On the day my MA thesis was due, Y’s & HMC far and wide sent me funny pictures, heart-warming articles, inspiring videos to get my spirit up. Although John was inducted into the group years prior, I needed the approval of the Y’s & HMC to marry him, it simply wouldn’t have felt right otherwise. (Incidentally, John, when you do finally read this book, you’ll be pleased to know that for years the ya-yas referred to you as “such a Chick,” Teensy’s husband, who’s kind of the only husband who really gets the ya-yas, who makes them dinner while they have their much needed sisterhood time.)
Members of this group have written term papers on the nature of our friendship, have visited each other across the continent and overseas, have been sounding boards or active influences in most major life decisions. We look each other in the eye when we toast. (“Otherwise, the ritual has no meaning, it’s just pure show. And that is something the Ya-Yas are not.” p. 16) We spend hours curled up on each other’s bed, beach towels, or kitchen floors (often with brownie batter in hand in the latter setting). We rent out entire inns when one of us gets married. And year after year, for ten years now, we plan our vacation days around Beach Week, one designated week of the summer during which we all descend upon a house in Corolla, the Outer Banks (or a suitable alternative site)—might sound simple, but many google spreadsheets are involved in this organization.
We are screenwriters, physicists, music directors, rocket scientists, paleoanthropologists, musicians, graduate students (you name it, we’ve got it), physicians, yoga instructors, teachers, consultants, government employees, military officers, peace creators, freelancers…and the list continues. We are foodies, world travelers, readers, athletes, adventure makers, sharers, lovers, and listeners. We are strong, creative, thoughtful, beautiful, courageous, and simply better because we have each other. We are so much more than I can express in words.
Happy ten years! Ya-Ya!
(I guess I should get started on my paper now?)