I have this straight friend. We’ll call her “Babs”. It’s not her name, in fact it’s a nickname for “Barbie,” which isn’t her name either, it’s just a description.
I love this woman dearly and as far as I can tell, there’s no one else on the planet like her.
We’ve known each other a long time. She knew me before I came out, and we’ve been through some times together.
Because of her, I know to never eat cheddar cheese squares in your car on a summer night. If they get inadvertently tossed around the inside in a laughing, drunken frenzy, you’ll wake up on a warm summer morning and unlock your car to find blobs of orange cheese melted all over your interior. Because of her, I also know that melted cheese makes a wonderful polish for the dashboard of a BMW 320i, one that actually smells better than ArmorAll.
Did I mention that she looks a little like Ivana Trump, wears her hair in an upsweep, and actually wears heels with shorts?
Babs is a series of contradictions. She’s smart and observant, but can play the blond role like Marilyn Monroe herself. She’s brave and anxious. She’s been sober for years but collects over-the-counter medications like trading cards. She looks like a society girl but hails from a small snow-laden town in the northern part of Minnesota, where she left serious assprints on the barstools of the local VFW club, back in her drinking days.
When she married (perhaps the nicest guy on the planet, who’s also my good friend), we wrote her wedding announcement for the hometown paper, describing her outfit as “a white, double-breasted Chanel suit with gold buttons”. Of course it wasn’t anything close to Chanel, but we had a good laugh, the paper ran it verbatim, and I’m sure the yellowed clipping is still tacked to the bulletin board of the VFW club.
We met when we worked at an ad agency in our youth, and have traveled together on business. In fact, I shared the most luxurious hotel room of my life with her, and ever since I came out, all she has done is bitch playfully about how I wasted the room by never making a move on her.
I once followed her through an airport on a business trip. I say “followed” because it went like this:
Me: “Don’t you think we should use a skycap to carry our stuff?”
We were both dressed for a meeting we’d be heading to directly. I was in a black suit and flats, she was in a white flowing pantsuit with a deep v-neck, and heels. Who the fuck travels in white? Or heels?
“No, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Inside the airport, she pulls out a cigarette (this tells you how long ago this was) and just stands there, holding it.
A businessman appears.
“Can I light that for you?”
“Oh, thank you.”
She’s always very warm and gracious.
He looks down at her overstuffed suitcase.
“You’re not going to carry that are you?”
She smiles and blows a little smoke.
“What gate?” he asks and picks up her bag.
She smiles at me and he takes off with her luggage, Babs following behind, leisurely smoking, heels clicking.
I lumped along behind with my bag, like the last porter on a safari.
But there’s this other side to Babs. She’s raunchy and fascinated by the scatilogical. She’s a huge proponent of good bras, a special fan of Wacoal (which I’d like to point out, I introduced to her), and is always trying to get women to try hers on. I haven’t quite figured out the motivation behind this. But, as the saying goes, best to not look a gift horse in the mouth.
However, I was once at a gay woman’s birthday party where Babs organized an all straight-girl bra exchange in the backyard. She had quite a circle going out there, and in the kitchen, the birthday girl was heard to say, “Straight girls exchanging bras on my lawn. I can die happy now.”
Babs is the only woman I’ve ever heard use “mani-pedi” and “hemmoroid” in the same sentence.
Her fascination with what she calls her “unit” is so great that it’s taken on the personality of one of those miniature dogs. Since she moved to Southern California (really her rightful home), her phone conversations are peppered with descriptions of waxing, clipping, and inspecting, not to mention evaluations of what kind of “work” she’ll have done when the moment is right.
She once drug me to a party in honor of someone’s new, fake breasts. Did I remember to say “huge” and “shiny?”
She was the first person I called when I heard about the butthole bleaching trend. This is what real friends are for, after all.
She was pleased to know I was thinking of her.
Babs leaves me phone messages unlike anything I get from my lesbian friends. The last was a breathy account of how she was walking her son to school, – fast, for the exercise, of course – and had left the house in yoga pants without underwear. Between gasps of laughter and air, she described her unfettered ass moving around “like two bulldogs fighting under a blanket,” among other things. I made the mistake of listening to this on speaker phone and my 12-year-old son almost lost control of his bladder, he was laughing so hard.
So, Sunday I get a call. She’s met one of the Real Housewives of Orange County and can’t wait to tell me. This is sort of lost on me because I don’t have cable television, but that’s not stopping her. Driving down the highway, I get a blow-by-blow description of how the woman looks, what “work” Babs thinks she’s had done, what she thinks she weighs, and what she was wearing.
Don’t ask me which woman it was, like I said, I don’t have cable. (Actually, shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County are behind my refusal to sign up.)
She thinks she could be on the show herself, with about $10,000.
“You have to pay to be on the show?” I ask.
“No, work,” she said. “$10,000 in work. Maybe some botox, some filler, a little lipo…”
“That’s it,” she says. “The whole story. I’ve got to go now.”
“Okay,” I say. “But wait. Does this mean I’m only one degree of separation from the Housewives of Orange County?”
“It would seem that way,” she said.
You should know, I’m thinking this is quite an accomplishment for a Northern California lesbian.
And ultimately, this is why I adore my straight friend Babs: Somehow, she keeps me grounded in reality.