How Friendships Change

The worst part of this moment, as the urine runs down my girlfriend's leg, is the fact that the dog who put it there is mine. He's never done this before, and as my husband will probably set him loose on the expressway when he hears about this episode, it's unlikely to happen again.

But here, in this moment, while my girlfriend laughs and tells me it's really okay that my dog has peed on her, I know this will forever be “the time my dog peed on your leg” and our friendship will never be quite the same.

With four kids, a job I do at home, and an unpredictable, if not deceased, dog, it's a miracle I have girlfriends at all. The reason I have friends, however, is that I've chosen the kind of women who don't expect much, and if I don't come through with the meager acts of friendship they do expect, they forgive me.

Case in point: a recent lunch date with my two closest gal pals, which I missed while writing a column, or checking email, or folding laundry while avoiding writing a column and checking email. I can't recall what I was doing, but I wasn't at the restaurant with Cathy and Theresa at 12:15 where I said I would be, and when they called at 1:15 and asked, “Where are you?” I gasped a combination of air and guilt that became a lump in my throat.

“I'm so sorry,” I said. But it was too late. This would forever be “the time I stood Cathy and Theresa up for lunch” and our friendship will never be quite the same.

It's not that I want to use my life as an excuse for neglecting my girlfriends. It's that my life is the real reason I neglect my girlfriends. Or more specifically, it's the season of my life that keeps me from being the friend I want to be, and certainly the friend they deserve.

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, when it comes to girlfriends, I'm going to burn. No doubt about it. Case in point: A dear friend recently gave birth to baby number eight, a boy. I've decided to get him a few lovely children's books, since they don't need baby clothes and I heard she got so many casseroles she gave some to her neighbors. I figure new books will have fewer teeth marks from his older siblings and will be appreciated by a mom who can recite “Good Night Moon” in her sleep. But I have yet to go to the bookstore, purchase the books, wrap them and deliver my gift, and by the time I do, my girlfriend's new baby probably will be reading Harry Potter. To himself. There's a good chance this will be “the baby gift I forgot to deliver” and our friendship will never be quite the same.

I know she'll understand. She told me once, “I'm committed to being the best wife and mother I can be, but that means I won't always be able to be the best daughter, or the best sister, or the best friend.”

And yet, this is the woman who once tracked me down at an auto repair shop to give me a post-operative honey-baked ham, apologizing that it wasn't a home cooked meal, but since her kitchen was under construction, was the best she could do. In my mind, that became “the ham I got from Joanie at the Sear's Auto Center while getting a new battery for my car,” and our friendship has never been quite the same.

I think this is what it means for women to be friends. Living parallel lives — over-extended and over-baked — we give each other the gift that keeps our relationships alive from year to year: forgiveness, born of knowing what it's like when your eyes pop open in the middle of the night and you realize, with untold regret, that yesterday was your girlfriend's birthday and you forgot, but you were at your son's soccer game, and then you ran to the grocery store before taking your dog to the vet because of his incontinence problem, and by the time you got dinner on the table it was ten to eight.

I'm so glad my friends forgive me, because every time they do, our friendships are never quite the same.

(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 17 years and mother of four children from second grade to sophomore year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She also has worked in marketing and public relations positions in corporate and agency settings. Mostly, she spends a lot of time in her mini-van, where the real work of parenting actually happens. Learn more about Marybeth and her column at

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