I just returned from Yucatan, Mexico, where I machete-whacked my way through the jungles in search of freshwater cenotes and ancient Mayan ruins, subsisting on berries and plants and the occasional iguana that I had to fry over an open fire made of mangrove roots.
Oh, wait. No. That was my last trip down here when I was young and silly and thought eating fried iguana was exotic. In reality it’s just chewy and tasteless. This time I lounged around a nice tropical house with 8 of my best girlfriends from college. Go UCLA Bruins! We’ve known each other since we were 18 and we have a history and understanding of each other that is unique in so many ways. We travel together at least once a year (sometimes two or three times!) and every one of us attends, no excuses. All responsibilities, including kids, jobs, husbands and pets, are dropped for the week, and the only rule is that we have fun. Over the years we’ve gone canoeing, wine tasting, hiking, spa-ing, snorkeling, cliff-jumping, blueberry picking, played soccer, attended Spring Training baseball games, entered break-dancing contests, raced cars, and swam with dolphins.
The best part of these trips is experiencing the rapid regression back to our teen years. Although we’ve had our share of crazy life experiences over the last 20 years (marriages, motherhood, illnesses, divorces, Peace Corps, grad school, career changes), being together brings us back to simpler times when our greatest concern was fretting over what to wear for a sorority theme party. Every time I see these girls, I feel like I’m a freshman in college again. If I could go back to any age, I’ve decided it would be 18. We had infinite energy and freedom and very little responsibility, but just enough to feel grown-up. And there were so many major “firsts” for me that year. First real boyfriend that I actually loved (Hi Jimmy B!), first frat party, first road trip, first time living away from home with roommates, first hazing session, first beer, first hangover (blech!), first drive-by shooting (witnessed one, didn’t partake in one), first time really having to consider what the heck I wanted to do with my life. And these girls never let me forget who I was at that age (lively, sweet, trusting, naïve, perpetually optimistic and annoyingly cheery…of course I’m none of those things now!). So, I consider hanging out with them to be the best research for my novel, since my MC is 18. Doesn’t that make this trip a tax write-off?
The last day of the trip, I sat at the pool working on my computer and watching the girls slinging Corona, dancing around the hot tub and playing beer pong while the iPod blasted The Pussycat Dolls songs out over the beach. We even learned a few Justin Timberlake dance routines and practiced together in the living room, just like we used to do when the Fly Girls performed on In Living Color. We’re hoping it leads to our own reality show. Although, it will probably be called The Cougar Dolls for obvious reasons. It’s nice to see that as time passes and life becomes more hectic and less predictable, some things will never change. No matter how old or wrinkly or incapacitated or demented we become, when we’re together we’ll always be kickin’ it old school!