Dinners with "Mars"

Mars, or mare is short for kumare – technically the godmother of one’s child, or the mother of one’s godchild. And since you only get your closest friends to stand as godparents to your children, it follows that your kumare is also your very good friend.

Popular culture has given us the stereotype that a kumare is some female chatterbox with whom one discusses recipes, detergents, meddling mothers-in-law, child-rearing techniques or the tell-tale signs of a straying husband.  But they are just that – stereotypes. My kumares are so much more.  

I feel extremely lucky to be single and thus free to choose however I want to spend my evenings. One is normally mentally drained (all that editing and writing) and physically exhausted (all that walking and hopping from one form of transportation to another) after a day’s work and would simply want to go home and rest.  

There are the children to attend to, too.  You don’t necessarily have to change their diapers or mix their milk formula, but you do have to listen to them about school and friends and other concerns. There’s grad school and all your other “raket”. All these could overwhelm a girl.  

Some evenings, though, I choose to claim a night out with my “mars.”

On Tuesday I had dinner with Rose – Elmo’s ninang.  I met her in ’01 when we were working for a small PR agency and I had just discovered that I was pregnant with Elmo.  Our PR gig did not last long, only months, but we have been friends ever since.

Rose is a widow. Her husband Arthur died last year. She has 3 children with ages close to mine.  Our favorite restaurant is Aveneto – we never get tired of the seafood parmigiana. This week we tried the anchovies-and-garlic pizza as well. It was, as expected, divine.

But more divine was our conversation.

Rose and I trade stories about jobs and kids, but also the several members of the male species in our periphery. (Operative word: periphery).  We worry about growing old alone but soon decide that when our kids leave our nests we would still be friends and, because we would both be fabulously rich by that time, we would travel the world.  I feel like Rose is my older sister who tolerates, indeed, celebrates, my non-lucid episodes. I am myself when I am with her. Crazy and smart and feisty and fragile all at the same time. It feels good to know your friends accept you, warts and all.

And then last night (Friday, because it’s past midnight and thus Saturday already), I had dinner with Bates, who has been my friend since Grade 2.  One memory from Miss Bigaw’s class:

She and I receive our corrected quizzes. I got 6/10.  Bates (looking at me, alarmed): Adelle, bumobobo ka na… (You’re getting dumb…)  

More memories. In the third grade, she and I made a pact that if I ever had kids she would be ninang. And vice versa. A mere nine years later, when we were both only college freshmen, that pact was sealed during Bea’s baptism.  Yes I was a young mother at 18, living with my in-laws, when all of my other friends were just experimenting with liquor and sleepovers.

Fast forward to 1997, when we had both graduated and were employed in proximate offices in Makati. I went to her office to pick her up for lunch. I gave my ID to the guard, who issued me a visitor’s pass. That he did so was totally blocked out of my mind (bad sector of the brain, I guess). After lunch, I was asking for my ID and was insisting the guard never issued me a pass. He did not agree. I argued in earnest, even calling the building manager. Bates suggested we go to the ladies’ room to cool down. In there, I found the pass in my bag. The color drained from my face and I could not even look at the guard straight in the eye. She did all the talking after that.

And now we have dinner every two or three weeks. Last month we watched a John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo movie on its first day – I even reserved tickets online. And boy, do we love to eat – when she is with me, her doctors’ orders take a backseat.  Last night we split ribs at Racks. Ribs! After a week of walking nonstop, of scrimping and making do with simple meals, it was time to love myself a little.

That was just this week. On some other weeks I see other friends – the Young Wives Club (http://adellechua.blogspot.com/2010/07/young-wives-club.html). Sometimes I see Jenny, who is not a kumare for the plain fact that I met her too late – in ’05.  

In each of these occasions, I go home thinking how my life is so much richer because of my friends.  I am sure that I would not be able to nurture these relationships if I were not single. There would always be somebody to tell where I would be, when I would be home, who I would be seeing.  He would most likely enjoy my confidence, so that I would be less willing to reveal myself to my “mars.”

I enjoy my freedom and the gift of friendship so much that I wonder if I would even be willing to give it up if and when -- in the words of Anthony Hopkins’ character in Meet Joe Black -- lightning strikes.