Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship…


You know how you have some friends who seem like they’ve been your friends forever? And you never have that awkward “getting reacquainted” moment if you haven’t seen them in months – or even years? Well, I am blessed to have a lot of those kinds of friends.

The other day when we went to Cleveland for the wedding, we got together with several friends I categorize as my “OSU friends.” Most of them went to Ohio State, which explains the category. (Duh.) Some of them, however, did not – but I categorize them that way anyway because I met them through my Ohio State friends.

I believe we are all friends for life. (If they haven’t kicked me out of their friendship circle after 30-something years, well, I guess I should be pretty safe…unless, of course, they read this and decide to be funny…!)

Anyway, it’s a little hard to believe that our friendship deepened to the point that today we consider one another family. Why? Well, because my introduction into the group started rather inauspiciously.

It was my freshman year at Ohio State when I met the first of these characters – let’s call him “Adam.” It was the middle of winter and we’d recently had a record snowfall that even closed down the university, which was practically unheard of. So what else were cooped-up college students to do but head to the bars? (We could, by the way, legally drink 3.2 beer at age 18 back then.)

At the end of the evening Adam gallantly offered to escort a couple of us back to our north campus dorm from the Thirsty Eye. He was, as you can guess, interested in one of us, otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have made an extra stop.

He was doing the guy thing of trying to win over his potential target’s friend, which was me. And to clarify – I was the friend; not the target. But I was also not (at that time) a beer-drinker, so I didn’t have that magical layer of beer protection where the wind chill factor isn’t, well, a factor. My teeth were chattering so much that I was a little concerned about breaking a tooth. All I wanted to do was get back to the warmth of my dorm room. But he was laughing and joking and trying to get me to smile. What he was rewarded with looked sort of like a set of those fake chattering teeth. Not a good look – and not exactly sincere.

So how did Adam respond? He pushed me into a snowdrift!

Now anyone who knows me would understand that this is hardly the way to win me over! As you can guess, I was not pleased, nor did I think it was cute. But he helped me up, which was a point in his favor.

The next time I saw him, he forgot my name as he tried to introduce me. Strike Two.

But, actually, it wasn’t really a strike. He was so funny and a genuinely nice guy that I didn’t really get mad. He introduced me to his twin brother and all their friends – and, believe me, there were a LOT of them – and that was our first tentative steps toward a blossoming friendship.

…Until the next time I saw them. I walked into a party he’d invited us to and I was greeted with a loud chorus of: “Jane, you ignorant slut!”

I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed. I’m quite sure my face turned a bright shade of red in complete and utter mortification. I didn’t even know these people and they were calling me a name I’d never spoken aloud in my life, let alone done anything to earn the title!

As I wheeled around to march right back out of that party, Adam ran after me and said, “Haven’t you seen Saturday Night Live?” Uh…noooo…I hadn’t. We were not usually at home watching TV on Saturday nights and this was before the advent of VCRs or DVRs or any other television recording device.

So he explained the whole Jane Curtin/Weekend Update/Point-Counterpoint thing where she played the earnest television anchor stating her opinion about some current event. Dan Aykroyd, her co-anchor, would begin his rebuttal with, “Jane, you ignorant slut!”

Oh.

But doesn’t it figure? If the role had been played by Gilda Radner, I wouldn’t have had to live with such a greeting all these decades later whenever my college friends see me.

Not only that, but then they proceeded to combine it with the Jetsons line, “Jaaaaannne…Stop This Crazy Thinggggg…you ignorant slut!”

Cripes.

Up to that time, I was rarely called anything other than “Jane.” Sure, I got the occasional “Plain Jane” thing thrown at me in grade school. (Grade schoolers are not exactly known for their creativity in schoolyard taunts.) I also had several nice nicknames, too, as my cousins or a teacher might call me “Janie.” And in high school a bunch of us high school friends decided to end all our names with “ers” – so my name became “Janers.”

All of those nicknames I could handle. Being basically called a woman of ill repute? Not so much.

But, anyway, it was all done in fun – and if I’d really objected they would have stopped…

…Oh, who am I kidding? Knowing them, they would’ve used the phrase louder, more often, and probably under the most inappropriate of circumstances.

By the time they started translating the phrase in Italian, I gave up trying to stop. This. Crazy. Thing. (Hey, if you can’t beat ‘em…)

So, do you see why it’s a little surprising that our long-lived friendship had a chance given that kind of beginning? But our friendship did grow and, through them, I’ve met many other forever friends. Their 80-and-change mother even calls me “family,” which is, indeed, an honor.

No matter how close or how far away we live, we somehow manage to come together for happy occasions like birthdays and weddings and baby christenings. And sad occasions like funerals. And every other occasion in between. But no matter what the occasion, when we see each other, it is a celebration. Of the best kind.

One of these days, I’ll tell the story about our infamous ski trip to New York. If I can remember the details…

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