Tabada: Girlfriends

Mayette Q. Tabada

MY MARRIAGE may not survive without my girlfriends.

The good Father who counseled us before the boyfriend and I tied the knot 28 years ago never anticipated a pandemic and lockdowns as potential storms threatening the safe harbor offered by marriage.

Yet, like lighthouse keepers obsessively watching the scudding of clouds for a clue to shifts in weather, the spouse and I, during the past three months when our place shifted from enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ), have seen rising levels of intolerance as our eyes clash across meals or over laptops.

It began as a squabble over the charging bay when our gadgets needed to be simultaneously charged. It is not that the house did not have other outlets; the contested bay just happens to be the closest to our common working area and requires no relocation for the victor.

Victor? Domination and conquest? Power play over power?

Time to defuse the inner hellcat. Before quarantine became a way of life, I remember meeting up with friends, who are invariably women. We may not see each other for years or weeks. We may have planned only to meet for coffee and then, still having untouched topics, move on to early dinner.

Marriage demands monogamy. Friendship—thank God—not.

Notwithstanding differences in age, status, temperament, and even politics, it is easier for me to hang out with another woman.

Women are expressive, with a loquacity that sinks deep into genuine expansiveness and kinship. I find myself spontaneously unspooling with my girlfriends about what is on our minds and in our hearts, as well as what we had for breakfast.

What quarantine has made me appreciate most is that while my girlfriends and I still chatter through Messenger about the children who grew up while our backs were turned, the diets we know will not work again, music for our souls and prayers for our bodies, pets and gardens we baby, and the ageing that makes us enter and leave and enter a room without accomplishing anything, I can also talk with my girlfriends about politics in these impolitic times, without fear of a rape joke pouncing from nowhere.

Social media tethers us to the essential relationships that have to remain virtual while the pandemic rages on. Yet, a treacherous undertow of intolerance singles out and pulls down many navigating online.

Much of this small-mindedness is gendered and misogynist. To counter this tendency to shut down and silence expression, I hum this Beatles ditty, with a bit of my rephrasing at the end: “What would you think if I sang out of tune?/ Would you stand up and walk out on me?/ ... Oh, I get by with a little help from my (girl)friends...”