You can keep your Keep Calm And Carry on tea towel and your lunchtime yoga sessions- jigging about very, very slowly in lycra doesn’t lower my stress levels, it raises them. As for mindfulness, the only things I’m mindful of are uneven flagstones so I don’t look like a dick spilling my latte over myself in the street. Nope, when it comes to my mental health maintenance all I need is Friday Club with the girls.
The first rule of Friday Club is that there are no rules in Friday club. If Julie Andrews lived in Belfast and enjoyed the company of awesome women on a sofa and a collection of garden chairs with alcohol and chat, Friday Club would be one of her favourite things. The only brown paper packages tied up with string that Friday Club ladies are interested in come from ASOS. Or Everything £5. Or the Chinese.
Friday Club has no dress code. Coming straight from work, the gym, a tantrum from a snottery toddler? Fear not, everyone’s welcome. There is no agenda. Conversational topics can range from economics to the career arc of Enya, from how you like to know where you are with a cat to abortion, spirituality and how many bottles of good wine you can get from Lidl with a tenner. A tenner! And it’s award winning you know. One member described the group as ‘dynamic’, but that was probably the wine talking.
The government would probably be concerned, as statistically we could be described as binge drinkers. Toot, we are almost middle aged and we do have edible accompaniments – Rosetta Tapas (garlic bread, cheesy puffs and perhaps a solitary finger of fudge divided equally with a pair of kitchen scissors) . Our group is varied and wonderful and no two weeks are the same. The only thing you can put your money on is that you come out a lot happier than you go in, even if you are a right perky sort to begin with…
It was after one of these cultural gatherings I met Sad Taximan.
Buoyed by carbs and Chardonnay, ladychum and I enjoyed the usual journey home. We relived the laughs, planned coffee dates and then we enjoyed the traditional female ritual of trying to shove the first to be dropped off out on the pavement without her getting her purse out. Picture Mrs. Doyle and Mrs. Dineen. But younger. And drunk.
Once alone in the back seat, pretending terribly hard to be a lot more sober than I was, Sad Taximan started sharing his woes. I didn’t even need to start the conversation by asking him had he been busy, he just launched straight into a dissection of the sexes. What was even more surprising was he didn’t slag. According to his very scientific method of driving people about, women are way better than men at one thing (only one??!) – friendships. His friendships had slipped throughout the years, leaving him sad and lonely. He said he picked up hundreds of women who knew each other from school, uni, work, met accidentally at the school gates, wherever, and on the way home they were always looking forward to the next time. And the next time was going to be soon. With men it was just ‘see ya mate’. I realise it’s a sweeping generalisation that men aren’t as good at friendships, but I don’t know many who would send a group whatsapp photo on a random Tuesday morning taking the piss out of themselves or sing vocally into a hairbrush in a kitchen at 10pm for no other reason than it just feels good.
The other half may describe the interactions I have with my friends as ‘babbling crap’, but this crap is worth it’s weight in gold, has endured more births deaths and marriages than a registrar and has the ability to make you laugh til a little bit of pee comes out in even the darkest days. So to the boys I say lighten up and enjoy, being silly is the new chic. It’ll do your mental health a power of good.
To the girls I say see you later, I’m bringing two bottles. And some cheesy puffs.