My friend Rachel suggested it. We planned it for Friday the 13th, mostly because that sounded like a special day.
“I could really use a ceremony. Do we get to dress up?” I asked, half-joking.
“Of course we do!”
The Ceremony we planned wasn’t affiliated with any religion or spirituality. It was anything we wanted it to be. The theme, we decided, would be “renewal.”
When I was a kid, I had a great imagination. I loved the idea of magic. I saw it everywhere. Trees were magical. Pretty dresses were magical. It’d been a long time since I felt like anything was magical.So I was a little nervous when the day of The Ceremony rolled around. I am 25. My girlfriends and I don’t play dress up together. We talk about real world stuff. None of us wants to be a princess anymore. Or at least, no one would admit to it.
Rachel and I wore long dresses to The Ceremony. Gowns, really. Mine was white and filmy. I’d gotten it at Zara on sale, years ago. I also wore a cheap gold circlet necklace and dangly earrings and a feathery shawl. Rachel wore a pale blue, gauzy dress with embroidery and sparkles stitched into the fabric. We decorated our faces with tiny plastic jewels. We lit rows of yahrzeit candles (they were the only ones she could find at the convenience store, and she was surprised when I told her they were Jewish memorial candles, for the dead).
I chanted a little in Hebrew. We had a moment of meditative silence. We wrote down good things that we wanted to come into our lives. More confidence. Appreciation for tiny instances of great beauty. Trust in the future. More attention to the love around us.
In the flickering, mysterious candlelight, in Rachel’s apartment, sitting on the floor in our princess gowns, we shared our secret fears. We talked about failure and we talked about how much we wanted success and we talked about what we should prioritize and what keeps getting in the way. We were vulnerable.
When I was a kid, my girlfriends and I used to share our deepest secrets and fears. We used to play Truth Or Dare and pretend to make out with pillows that we were pretending were the boy we had a crush on.
Later on, when I was a teenager, my best friend ran off with my ex-boyfriend (just barely though), and she was suddenly drinking a lot, and suddenly, she had no time for me, and my ex-boyfriend hated me anyway, so there was no more room for me in their new, shared life. I was baffled. My best friend and roommate in college went off her meds and threatened to stab me in my sleep. I moved out, quickly. Of all the bridesmaids at my wedding, I am still talking with only two. I try not to think about it.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to let myself be too open with my women friends. I’ve learned to be careful, because sometimes they just stop talking to me. Sometimes they leave and never come back and never take the time to tell me why. Sometimes their jobs take up all of their time and they get engaged to guys who take up all their time and guys who don’t like me and guys who I can’t stand to be around. Sometimes everyone is just too busy.
Over the years, I’ve learned better how to play it cool and how to protect myself and how to say the funny thing instead of the true thing. I’ve learned to laugh at myself when other people tease me for saying something earnest.
At The Ceremony, I surprised myself. I didn’t know that I was able to solemnly pluck the petals from a fresh rose and scatter them into a deep bowl of water while reciting a list of things I wanted to remove from my life. Jealousy. My terror of failing. My difficulties with the way I look. But there was Rachel, letting her own petals fall softly into the water.
And when we talked about what we wanted from life, what we wanted to “invite into our lives,” as she said, we both talked about friendship. About letting ourselves be close with other women, after a history of painful separations and cruel silences. I felt suddenly bashful. Was I confessing to Rachel how much I cared about her friendship?
I was. So instead of pretending to be cool, I said, “I’m really glad that you’re my friend.”
And she said, “I’m really glad you’re my friend.”
And we smiled. And then we went on with The Ceremony.
Maybe that’s where the magic is, I thought. In creating our own ritual. In trusting each other. In being willing to wear princess gowns in front of each other, unironically. In being able to be exactly ourselves, together. Because really, I’m still like that, underneath. I’m still full of magic.