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Small Talk: My great good friend

I have this friend. You have one just like her, I know. She is the friend I always marvel at, gently envy and love despite her shortcomings.

Her shortcomings? Well, we all have them. Hers differ because they aren’t really shortcomings — more like longcomings, I suppose. This is that friend who seems to accomplish everything I do — kids, school, job, house, car — yet she lacks the wear and tear I seem to so readily display.

Invariably, she is up and out early, even when she doesn’t have to be. And she’s cheerful. And she has read her morning paper cover to cover. Women who can do that will someday rule the world. When I finally give in to the alarm, I am lucky to get out the door with my contact lenses in the right eyes.

She gardens. Not because she has to, but because she finds serenity in it and loves the feel of the earth between her fingers. She and her yard have stuck a truce.  I am still at war with mine.

I can handle dirt under my fingernails. It’s the 45 minutes in line at the garden store, the battle to attach the anti-fungus sprayer and the ant nest I invariably upend that I’m not so thrilled about. I’ve never heard my friend mention any of these things, though, including the asparagus fern thorn in your thumb.

Speaking of fingers: Her nails are always beautifully manicured.  Mine are reasonably manicured every six months or so, last about two days and then fall prey to tape that must be scraped loose, splinters that need removing and tacks to be pried out.  Next thing I know, every nail is a different length.

My lovely friend never has a bad hair day. She even looks good first thing in the morning, which is hard to forgive. She probably has naturally curly hair. Left to its own devices, my hair would prefer to lie down and die. I feel rather like a wrangler with my coif, applying mousses and gels like sheep dip, chasing it around my head with a blow dryer, whipping it along with oddly shaped brushes and branding it with a curling iron.  Even then, it remains full of maverick cowlicks that stray from the herd without warning.

Her clothes stay pressed all day, never showing a seat-belt wrinkle. She never has surprise grease stains that show up when she is already 20 minutes late. She doesn’t seem to need clothes for fat days, and she always has the right color sweater to match her shoes. I’ll bet she doesn’t even own a sweatshirt with a white stripe across the stomach from leaning over the bathtub and scouring with bleach.  (I have six of them.)

The final test of our friendship? Her shoes are always polished. She has mastered the skill of keeping white shoes white. I know there are products that claim to do that, but using them requires almost as much time as shopping for a new pair. It also calls for removing the laces. I can kiss off 30 minutes of intensive shoe-lacing in the time it takes a muddy dog to plop down on my instep.

So why do we keep this icon as a friend?  Well, invariably, she is the one who makes you feel like you’re still really great, even as you crash through life.

I don’t know how she does that, either, but I guess I don’t really need to.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who knows you can forgive a good friend anything. Contact her at [email protected]

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