It was frigid, midwinter 1991. I was 35 years old. The all-women’s party had been on the calendar for weeks. These parties, dear reader, were underground celebrations. Dozens of women from all over the area and all walks of life could stand around with a beer in one hand and talk softball, politics, work, tell jokes that we all would get.

We could dance – together – slowly.

My partner was late getting home to pick me up. So I called her at her friend’s apartment with a knowing dread.

“Hello?” she answered her friend’s phone.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “Remember, we’re supposed to be at Juliette’s.”

“Yuh,” she said, “I don’t feel like going.”

The last strands of hope, loyalty and responsibility that had been frayed and weighed upon for the last, oh, it seemed like forever, let go. A final snap of release, you know? And with it those first few inches of separation on suddenly still waters.

I was used to the disappointment of a plan being set aside. But this time was different. What I feared deep down came into consciousness and I took a quick breath. “Oh, you don’t feel like going?”

“No, I really don’t,” she replied listlessly.

“OK.” I began to drift away. “Maybe we’ll talk tomorrow or something.” I steadied myself.

“Well,” she tossed out, “maybe I’ll come over later tonight. I just don’t feel like being around a lot of people.”

Here was her familiar line being thrown, but I didn’t grab for it. One hand still held the phone. The other, fisted, lay in my lap. “Oh, of course you can come home any time you’d like, but I won’t be here this evening.” My fist opened. “I’m going to the party.”

Silence on the other end of the phone. I drifted even further.

“What?” she sputtered. “You’re going to a party without me? We’ve been together for 15 years. What will people think?”

With calm knowing and a splash of rage, I picked up the oars. “They’ll think that you’re across town with your friend. They’ll see that I’m stepping out by myself. So, have a nice evening and I’ll do the same.”

No response.

“So, I’m going now.”

No response.

“Say goodbye so I don’t have to hang up on you.”

Silence.

“Don’t make me be rude,” I said.

A beat of silence.

“Bye,” she barely whispered.

And out I went. It was my debut. This was me presenting myself to my community as a suddenly wiser woman. I was rowing my own boat of life for all I was worth.

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