If there are any benefits to moving six times in seven years, it's having cardboard boxes in every imaginable size and girlfriends all over the country. Some are Christmas-Card Friends. Others fall into the Cheerleader category — those who've supported every ridiculous decision I've made. ("What? He's in a band and has no car? He should definitely move in with you!")
But when the chips are down — or in my belly with 16 ounces of French onion dip — I reach for the phone and call an Asswiper.
The Asswipers are women I've known for decades. I could call any of them and say, "I'm so sick I can't wipe my own ass," and they'd be at my door soon afterwards, latex gloves and toilet paper in hand.
Luckily my asswiping needs have been more metaphorical than literal. For example, I recently texted my Asswiper Linda:
Are you around today? I have raging PMS, can't stop crying and need to vomit every ugly thing inside me onto you.
Any woman in her right mind would ignore me, then reply later: "Sorry I missed this! Feeling better?" Linda responded within seconds: "I'll call you in five."
Twenty weeks into my first pregnancy, I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix (the least friendly medical term ever created) and went on strict bed rest. Upon hearing the news, my Asswiper Sherrlia offered to quit her job in Chicago to take care of me. I lost my first son shortly afterwards, and there are many things about that situation I'd like to forget. But Sherrlia's selfless offer is not one of them.
Asswipers aren't created overnight. It takes years to establish trust, emotional intimacy and endless inside jokes. Hell, it takes six months to stop being polite and eat the last bite of queso. Making friends in general requires a lot more effort now that I've passed the go-out, hang-out stage of life. But after my last move with my husband and newborn son, I found myself in new territory in more ways than one. I didn't just need friends; I needed Asswipers.
When I met my original Asswipers, I was young, single and able to speak in coherent sentences. Now I'm in an unfamiliar city. I'm new to motherhood. I have a strained relationship with sanity and need the following friendship requirements met:
1. Be available to get together around my child's nap schedule, which changes at his whim. Know that all plans are tentative until I'm actually standing in front of you.
2. If you ask me to do 25 things and I say no every time, keep asking me.
3. Know and understand everything about me without asking me to explain it. That way I can unload my deepest fears without wasting time explaining where they came from.
4. Be understanding when I don't invite your family over for dinner because I don't have the energy to clean my bathroom for company.
5. Don't be put off because I am rarely presentable in public. If I show up with diaper cream under my fingernails, pretend it's a bad French manicure with a faint medicinal smell.
As with dating, I had to kiss a few frogs first. A mother I met in a Whole Foods parking lot never returned my calls. (She did, however, invite me to join her network on LinkedIn.) When I asked another mother over for a play date, she ducked me repeatedly, then asked to borrow my lawnmower. Before giving up for good, I followed a few mothers around at a local farmers market, praying they were too distracted to notice my rusty social skills.
Fortunately, they were. They invited my family to a backyard barbecue where I met Carrie, a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She works during naptimes. She has no idea what she's doing and doesn't pretend like she does. My mind raced as we chatted and chatted. Could Carrie be my new Asswiper? That's when she mentioned she doesn't eat cheese.
[Insert sound of record scratching here.]
Besides love and common experiences, a shared obsession with cheese is what binds my Asswipers together. Under normal circumstances, this is where I'd politely end our conversation ... but then she mentioned an upcoming trip to Nashville, my beloved hometown. Did I know of any cool restaurants she could hit up?
Did I ever. I went home and composed an alphabetized list of my favorites, complete with directions, links and which dishes to order.
That scored me an invite to her holiday cookie party, where she sent me home with triple-decker maple peanut butter pretzel fudge. I returned the favor by having her over for dinner and serving a truly horrible wonton soup, which she pretended wasn't horrible.
And somewhere between our meetups at playgrounds, story times and toddler swim lessons, I just knew. Carrie will never want to trade recipes for cheddar au gratin. But she's a good woman with a big heart and an even bigger diaper bag ... you know, should she come across any asses that need wiping.