Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? & Girlfriendships
“We tiptoed back to my room, trying not to squeak the floorboards and bring one of my parents down to lecture us for staying out late and being generally inconsiderate what was it with us girls.”_Lorrie Moore, Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?
Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? is a novel about girlfriendship by Lorrie Moore. One of my best and very favorite girlfriends Lindsey Gates-Markel wrote a story called “But Nobody Did” and it was published over @ one of my favorite little spots for fiction called Little Fiction. (LF is run by one of my favorite editors/writery people/just plain ol’ cool cat and sweetheart Troy Palmer. You should def check it out btw!)
When I read Lindsey’s story for the first time I told her it reminded me of Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? Because there is pregnancy and jealousy and a super-intense girlfriendship. There is also emotional, stomachachingly good writing, rich description…excellent storytelling. And I lovelove reading about girlfriendships.
I have a tween daughter and I love how well she and her girlfriends love one another. One time my daughter literally broke her glasses rushing over to me as fast as she could so she could see a new picture of her BFF. I mean, these girls go hard. They are so obsessed with one another in the best possible way. They root for each other, they get sad for each other, they really love each other. EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE WORLD = EACH OTHER.
“I like people too much or not at all. I’ve got to go down deep, to fall into people, to really know them.”_Sylvia Plath.
Last week I wrote about Taylor Swift and going through a girlfriend-breakup. This week I am writing about girlfriend-goodness, sisterhood. Leslie Knope and Ann on Parks and Recreation. Ilana and Abbi on Broad City. Celie and Nettie from The Color Purple. Berie and Sils in Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? etc. etc…I love those girls, those sisters. I have an older brother, no sisters. But I’ve had and continue to have a lot of amaahzing friendships with some amaahzing women. These are the girls I tag on Facebook whenever I read a new something on Buzzfeed or HelloGiggles all like YOU KNOW YOU ARE BESTIES WHEN or 25 WAYS TO KNOW SHE IS THE BEST BESTIE. I have a lot of really great girlfriends. Girls who held their arms out for my tiny teeny baby right after she was born, girls who drove for more than four hours to surprise me @ my book party. Girls I’ve been pregnant at the same time with and we’ve already decided our children will be friends forever, there is nothing they can even do about it. Girls I’ve traveled across the country with and camped in the desert with and shared a bathroom with and camped with and cried with and fought with and loved and continue to love so much. I’ve got to go down deep.
I’ve also had some really awful friendships with some girls where it just didn’t work out.
I think I’m a good friend! I really do. I get happily “obsessed’ with my friends, wanting to tell them everylittlething, wanting to know everylittlething going on with them. I write their doctor’s appointments on my calendars so I can remember them, I check up on them and remind them to be kind to themselves when they are going through a rough time. I also leave them alone when they need to be left alone. We all need quiet.
But also, I don’t necessarily think I’m an easy person to be friends with, although I know I seem like an easy person to be friends with. I’ve been called a social tease because I come off one way, when really I am 99% housecat. It’s pretty hard to get me out of the house to like, go Do A Thing. And I am private to a fault, sometimes. It is very hard for me to share my heart and even when I do…even when I trust someone fully and share my heart, I am very sensitive to how I am listened to and how the person responds. I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time and energy. And I don’t like or participate in snarky friendships. I’ll maybe let one comment slide (but probably not even, if it is really nasty)…and after that, I’m done. I don’t mean I won’t/don’t forgive them. My relationship with My Maker commands me to forgive people, even when I don’t feel like it. But my heart door doesn’t always open and close the same way once it has a big ol’ dent in it. Depends. And I won’t always be upfront about stuff like that. It really just depends on whether or not I think the friendship is worth it and not all of them are/have been.
I had a lot of frenemies in high school, before I even knew what a frenemy was. I just (sadly) got used to knowing my “best friend” would say something mean to me or embarrass me in front of other people or wouldn’t have my back. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how abusive and awful and crappy all of that was and now I’m admittedly hardcore about being treated kindly in my friendships. I am very careful about who I share my heart with. And I try my best/make it my mission to honor the women who choose to share their hearts with me.
“Girl friendships are spectacular and all-encompassing”_PBS
In high school, it was talking about boys and talking about girls and sharing cigarettes and sharing clothes and taking bathroom breaks together and being honest about not feeling like doing anything because we were on our periods. It was little fights and big fights and crying and saying sorry and making up. It was going to the pool to read Sassy and Seventeen and driving back together in our wonderfully crappy first cars in wet bathing suits in the summer sun, putting towels down on the seats so we wouldn’t get them too wet. It was obsessing over Eddie Vedder and Michael Stipe and 10,000 Maniacs and getting Rally’s fries and milkshakes and making lists of the boys we wanted to kiss (etc, etc).
And it was kissing some of the same boys and liking some of the same boys srsly THESE BOYS, these baseball-playing, truck-driving, skateboarding, hoodie-wearing, guitar-playing, tall, smell-good boys we couldn’t stop thinking about and talking about. It was all of this and all of us being vulnerable and skipping church together and being awful and so good together. One of my best high school girlfriends, who is thankfully still one of my friends and I love her always…Amy—Amy and I always stayed up too late in her bedroom or mine and made lists about boys and listened to the same songs over and over and went on youth group trips together with our church and it was one of those friendships where I didn’t even really feel like I could process something until I told Amy about it. We still have the same inside jokes we had 20+ years ago. She is and always will be one of the definitive girlfriendships of my (teenage) life. And even when things weren’t perfect, I would fight you/anyone for her. Simply put, I love her.
And girlfriendship is so much about that feeling when you’re like OH I CANNOT WAAAAIT TO TELL HER THIS. About prettymuch everything, anything. I love that feeling. And can I borrow this necklace and okay so then what did YOU say and wait a second go back WHAT HAPPENED. It’s also being on the other side of the bathroom door while she’s on the outside explaining to you how to put in a tampon because it’s your first time and you really wanna wear your new bikini and walk down to the beach. I still know these girls’ parents’ addresses by heart, their home phones, their middle names and birthdays. Their favorite Bath & Body Works smells because we totally all had different ones. Girlfriendship is scream-singing together to “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb.
In college, I met a couple girls who became my friends and I will love them forever. My Besties. Christian, Sarah, Sarah. And later, I met some girls on LiveJournal who went from Internet-friends to best friends in real life-friends. Elisabeth, Lindsey, Lydia, Marisa, Sara, Frances, Sarah, Corina (I have a LOT of friends named Lindsey and Sara/h!) And later at church, Stephanie. This is just to name a few. I LOVE YOU.
There are a lot of really great passages/quotes about girlfriendship in Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?
“At Storyland, when Sils—Cinderella herself!—came to fetch me for a smoke, I would shut down my register, let one of the ticket tearers watch it over for me, and then go off with her, into the alley between Hickory Dickory Dock and Peter Pumpkin Eater’s Pumpkin, where we’d haul out a pack of cigarettes and smoke two apiece, the Sobranies and Salems that made us feel gorgeous and wise.”
“We’d list against the other gravestones, lean forward and brush hair from each other’s face. ‘Hold still, you’ve got a hair.’
“The night Sils met Mike, she was wearing a fake peony in her hair and a long sleeveless tunic and jeans. She wore all her rings and bracelets on one hand, one side, skipping the other, leaving it bare.”
Friendships that hang on even when one girl has a boyfriend. That jealousy, that fun. It’s kind of everything and all that is inbetween, this.
“Sils was not really in love with her boyfriend, Mike, I was sure of it. I could tell it.”
“She was a high school girl and this was the first sex she’d known. It drugged her with secrets. It had stolen her away, left her smile deranged, her hair a mess.”
“She was wearing her best blue jeans, and her white sleeveless shirt under a jean jacket. I knew her clothes by heart.”
And when Lorrie writes about how fifteen-year-old Berie knows her best friend Sil’s clothes by heart, I think I closed the book because it was too emo for me and so true. I knew my best friends’ clothes by heart too. We dressed alike. It was the 90s. Mary Janes and Birkenstocks and overalls. Band t-shirts and LipSmackers. We wore CK One and friendship bracelets, Body Shop lotion and political t-shirts too. Earrings made by African women and hippie oils from the hippie store. We danced to “My Sharona,” always, and listened to Collective Soul in our ripped jeans and flip flops. We went bra-less to Lilith Fair together! We were CLOSER TO FINE! We were, we are.
Things change and life moves us all. Some of us get married, some of us have babies. Some of us remain close, some of us don’t. Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? catches those teenage girlfriendship feels like a lightning bug in a jar and reading it feels like holding that cool jar in my hands, watching the titchy neon-green blink off and on. And because I love these things I want to write about these things and keep writing about these things for as long as I can. Lightning bug in a jar feels forever!