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Wine, Cheese, Cupcakes — and Books

6 March 2008

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I am stuffed to the brim with cheese, swimming on two delicious glasses of red wine, and satiated by hours of girl time. Earlier tonight I ran a short and sweet three-miler (am breaking in new shoes. ouch.), battling gusts of occasionally fierce wind as I crossed Masonic and hoping I made the right decision re: shoe purchase. Now I am home, wishing a little for another cupcake even though after last week’s sweets overindulgence, I really think I need a wee break.

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Two years ago this July, I took an early morning flight back from DC in time to make it in to work; I was exhausted, but knew I was meeting up with a potential book group for the first time that evening, and drank extra coffee in hopes of keeping myself going. I remember taking the bus up from the court building where I was working to Hayes Valley, where I’d never been before. I stumbled into the cafe where we’d agreed to meet, jetlagged and woozy. I tried not to be too quiet, and ordered a pint of Sierra Nevada and drank about half of it before I dragged myself home to pass out.

The reason for this half-dazed attempt at being sociable was that a few weeks before, I’d come across an ad for a book club on craigslist:

This book club is for girls who want to read books that aren’t too heavy after work, and you should like to talk about books and drink wine, the posting read. I was intrigued, and emailed that I’d like to join up.

At that point, I’d only been living in San Francisco about four months, and while I was slowly finding my way, and reconnecting with old friends, I wanted to make some new ones. I’d always wanted to join a book group, and while I’m quite shy at the heart of me, I decided to take a chance and meet up with a bunch of strangers to talk about books and, yes, drink a bit of wine.

That first meeting was packed — we joke about it now, because so many faded away — and one girl who only came to a couple of meetings suggested “Oh, the Glory of it All,” which we ended up reading as our first selection and I hated it (sorry; I did). Those first get-togethers blur in memory, but I know they were full of cheese plates and fruit salads, numerous bottles of wine, and lively conversation. The group was quickly wittled down to seven, which has remained; we now meet monthly and read books from T.C. Boyle’s “Drop City” to Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” (note: I couldn’t get through this one) to Candance Bushnell’s “Lipstick Jungle.” Some of us get together to run (we did a half-marathon last February) or attend the opera on discounted tickets, or just go for champagne happy hours every so often.

The core has held, but finally the group is dispersing a little, and I am sad. One of the girls is moving to New York, and while I know it’s a fantastic opportunity for her, I will miss her, and she will miss the Bay Area. Tonight we took one last group photo, and wished her well after gorging on the aforementioned cheese, and cupcakes.

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I deeply appreciate my women friendships — this is not to devalue my male friendships, because those too are true and lasting and lots of fun, but the dynamic is different. We can sit around and debate the Democratic presidential candidates for an hour before quickly shifting into a discussion about our city’s mayor and is he really marrying her? quite seamlessly. There’s just something about a pack of girls giggling about silly movies that is so much fun; at the same time, we can have very meaningful conversations about life, love and happiness that are truly satisfying.

So now I am home, tired after the long day and the red wine, thinking that the cupcakes were a wise decision, because sometimes a splurge is not only necessary, but essential. And I think we’ll have to take a field trip to New York pretty soon, to get the gang reunited again.

Bon soir.