thankful for girlfriendsHow old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?  ~Satchel Paige

There’s a debate I hear about every now and then: Is it better to grow old gracefully or screech to the finish line all used up? Personally, I have a fantasy (right up there with losing 5 pounds overnight) of gracefully screeching to the end. Why not have it all? Truth is, no matter how I get there, I want to get there with my girlfriends.

Writter PHYLLIS COLETTA shares one of her stories about getting older with girlfriends in today’s guest blog. What are your plans and hopes for the future with your friends?

Women suffer from the mistaken belief that if they’re married they’ll grow old with their hubbies and never be alone. Truth is, not only do the guys die first, they die badly first and we end up spending about a decade changing old man diapers when we could be learning how to salsa dance. If you should have the bad fortune of getting frail or sick before your husband does, put aside the notion that he will dote on your sick self. He will golf, and put you in a home.

A girlfriend would never do this.

“Hey, will you come by the hospital when I’m old and sick and pull my long grey chin hairs out?” I asked my buddy Carol.

“Of course, you dork,” she said with her usual nonchalance, “And I’ll try to do something with your hair, if possible.”

“Above and beyond,” I said.

Carol and I once drove together from New Jersey to Colorado, like a middle-aged version of Thelma and Louise, without the sex or violence. That basically leaves two old broads driving around in a car, but we’re simple folk and that was fine. I was 48 and had quit my job and sold my house. Had no real plan, but I was going to Colorado to be wild and free and mate with a cowboy. Carol was worried about me.

“You’re an idiot for the most part,” she intoned as my planless plan progressed, “But I’m here for you.”

Carol is wire thin and about six inches taller than me and we look silly together. I’m all earth-dark, muscular and lithe like a cat while she’s sort of bone-white, scrawny and gangly with bleach blond hair and a “screw you” attitude that inevitably endears her to men, especially those drunk guys in the bar who love to hear her hold forth on any manner of insubstantial subject. We are improbable, all right, and impossible to screw with when teamed up. Brutal honesty and loyalty are the hallmarks of our bond.

“You can’t bring much on this trip,” I told her, “I don’t have room for your junk. I’ll have my whole life in that car so we can afford you space for maybe a paper bag with underwear in it.”

“No problem,” she replied, not skipping a beat, “It’s a three day trip, right? I’ll only need one pair of underwear anyway. You just turn ‘em inside-out.”

How can you not love her? So on June 19, 2005, after checking the air pressure in my tires under the watchful eye of her doting husband, Carol folded herself tightly into the passenger seat of my little Honda, squished like a slinky, uncomplaining, and we set out on our adventure. With my cheap and steadfast buddy by my side I felt safe.

We agreed that we would be sick of each other in no time. This is the cool thing about a friend you don’t have sex with. There’s nothing at stake. It’s honesty and love, as pure as it gets on this planet. Arguing about who would get to be Thelma (or Louise) and thus sleep with Brad Pitt, we hauled ass east on Route 70. Carol and I know that we share a destiny, and that this trip was just a blip on the radar screen. I have promised to take care of her when Roy dies and she gets old and saggy. It’s the “who’s gonna change my Depends” conversation we’ve had on several occasions. With no kids to catch her in old age, Carol needs that safety net. Her love and loyalty will not go unanswered. I will change her Depends.

By Sunday evening we had made it through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and most of Indiana. Terra Haute looked inviting, what with the strip malls and a Super 8, so we called it a day. Plopping into a booth at a local Applebee’s for dinner, I couldn’t help but be astounded at how innocent all the kids seemed.

“Hi!” the bouncy waitress yelped, “My name is Mary and I’ll be serving you tonight!” as if serving us was exciting, fun, an adventure of sorts.

“Geez,” I exhaled after she left skipping off to the kitchen to get our salads, “What’s the matter with the kids here? Nobody’s wearing body piercing. I don’t hear the ‘F’ word. The girls have their bellies covered and the guys are wearing pants that stay up.” I stared around warily, “Are we in the Twilight Zone?”

“Get used to it.” Carol snapped closed the little dessert book she’d been reading, undoubtedly discerning recipes for Bonzo Blueberry Pi. “This is the Midwest darling. The kids here say grace before meals. They have pep rallies where no one gets murdered. You’re not in New Jersey anymore.”

I was a little nostalgic let me tell you, for those murderous pep rallies. Fresh faced kids who obeyed all the rules made me nervous. I’d rather know the animal I’m dealing with. I could only hope as Bouncy Mary came hopping back to our table, pony tail swishing to the music, that she would find loud and crazy somewhere in her life.

The next day, Carol continued to educate me on life in the Midwest. We had a lot of time to waste watching highway so she determined that I needed a lesson on the proper name for all manner of livestock. This excruciating diatribe took place as we drove through Kansas, the Never Ending State.

“You think cows are cattle don’t you?” she queried, eying me suspiciously.

“Oh for God’s sake yes, of course I do jackass.”

“Well, you’re wrong my friend,” she gloated, as if I cared about the nomenclature for leather. “Ha. Very, very wrong.”

“Oh great. Do tell,” I said. It was 10:15 a.m. and we were in Kansas for the love of God. Talk about your personal hell.

“A cow, my friend, is a female. So is a heifer. Bulls and steer are guy cattle. Bulls have balls, steer don’t.”

“Wow, it always comes down to that, doesn’t it?” I asked.

“Can you just not make this about sex for once?” Carol responded. She was serious as a heart attack regarding this cow lecture so I sat up straighter and tried to be a good listener.

“Okay, all that leather is cattle,” I repeated. “Out of the four categories of cattle, three are ball-less. The bull is like a stallion. Cows or heifers are like mares in the horse world and steer are gelding, those poor guys who lose their testicles early on. See, it is all about sex. Why do we have to emasculate cattle and horses? Because left unchecked, all species would be running around getting laid all the time. Nothing would ever get done. I think it’s kind of the animal equivalent to our obsession with money,” I was on a roll. “If men didn’t have a reason to leave the house, why, I think they’d sit around all day whacking off, don’t you?”

Strapped in her little seatbelt, my lanky friend managed to turn full body towards me, jamming her spine against the door. She just stared at me until I had the heebie jeebies. I was a little worried about getting yelled at, because I had taken her lesson in animal husbandry and denigrated it into an indictment of all living things. I accelerated a little, thinking I could get through this god-forsaken Kansas a little quicker and then we wouldn’t have to talk about cows versus bulls anymore. But Carol was nonplussed by my conclusions. In fact, she was intrigued.

“I think men would whack off for a while,” she said thoughtfully, “And then go to the garage and do stuff with duct tape.”

Carol and I will no doubt go a long time without seeing each other. Neither one of us is a great phone talker and Carol has some intractable principal about not using e-mail so our communication will be sparse to say the least. But this I know: in six months or a year when we spend some time together somehow we will pick up exactly where we left off – best buddies forever, the same two friends who have been through birth, divorce, and death together. She is my wing man and I am her co-pilot. Like Thelma and Louise, we would drive off a cliff together if we had to, likely arguing the whole way down.

PHYLLIS COLETTA is a recovering litigation attorney, former high school teacher, current EMT, writer, erstwhile cowgirl, and soon-to-be Zen Buddhist chaplain. Her life has been full of adventure and her books are available at She raised three amazing sons as a single mom and now lives in the mountains of Colorado with her third and final husband, Cowboy Bob, and their dumb but faithful black lab, Chopper.

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