The Old Friend

Definition: The person who convinced you that you looked beautiful, even with braces, on prom night -- and the one you still yap with on the phone for hours. Vickie has been my protector and guardian since the third grade. Together, we blazed a ridiculous style trail from poodle skirts to tie-dyed T-shirts, without ever reporting each other to the fashion police. Well, except that one time. As a skinny teenager, I was desperate to transform myself into a Marilyn Monroe pinup. I took the do-it-yourself route: I stuffed every pair of athletic socks I owned into my bra and panties, hoping to fill out my chest, hips, and backside. With my new headlights positioned under a royal-blue angora sweater, I thought I was one hot mama. That is, until Vickie informed me that the other kids were writing in her yearbook that I looked like a walking sock puppet. Mortified, I tossed my socks back in my drawer -- and I became as God intended me to be.

The Vault

Definition: The friend in whom you confide your online dating disasters and the exact number of unpaid parking tickets in your glove compartment. My best friend, Mary, is the keeper of all my secrets. In good times, our private language allows us to finish each other's sentences; in bad times, we require no conversation at all. Just when I hit rock bottom, Mary moves with the speed of a freight train to make sure that everything in my life is in operational order. After I got divorced, Mary single-handedly packed up my home and moved me into a new place -- all in less than 12 hours (as I watched, paralyzed, on a recycled Piggly Wiggly box). Later, as I sat eating powdered-sugar donuts on the sofa, she and my daughter Dany unpacked, turned on the stereo, and sang show tunes all night long. Whether we're engaging in retail therapy or inhaling macaroni and cheese in my kitchen, Mary's the pal I want to share everything with.

The Personal Coach

Definition:Your one-woman cheerleading squad who never attempts to look better in a short skirt and pom-poms than you do. She's our glass-half-full friend who may drive us crazy with her cheery optimism but never lets us shortchange ourselves. She encourages us to dream the impossible dream yet remain fully awake and solvent. In the eyes of my friend Jillian, I am always capable of doing whatever it takes, if I just put my mind to it. Her positive outlook is not only infectious -- it's inspiring. Jillian's can-do voice pops into my head during a crisis. In her high heels and classic suit, she strides ahead, leaving negativity in her wake.

The Party Pal

Definition: Always makes you feel as if you were the guest of honor. Her enthusiasm is unconditional. When we're determined to be depressed, she shows up at our door, ordering us to ditch our big bag of M&M's (and our bathrobe) for a night of embarrassing karaoke. My friend Donna gives me permission to leave my work and family behind and join her screaming in the front row for Elton John or the Rolling Stones. Always insisting I wiggle into last year's jeans, she paints my face with lots of goop and sets my eyes with three layers of thick black mascara. Before I know it, I am dancing in the aisles, arms flung heavenward, underarm flab be damned. Not only is Donna a great listener, she is also the queen of clothing sales, always finding glittery tops and satin shoes for me to wear. Every girl gang needs one member who gets you up and running and keeps you in a festive, feel-good frame of mind.

The Navigator

Definition: The one who actually remembers to bring a map when you're heading off on a trip together. My friend Tina knows everything truly important in life: how to find great deals on airfares and whether to wear silver or gold shoes with a champagne-beige suit (I'm never sure!). When I'm having a really bad hair day, Tina slips me the latest concoction that her star hairdresser has whipped up, even though it's not officially on the market. I wouldn't even try to get through life without her.

Girlfriend Glossary

"I need to talk."

Code for: Drop everything and come over immediately. If you must speak over the phone (clearly a second-best choice), make sure I can't hear you opening your e-mail or washing dishes during my catharsis.

"I have nothing to wear."

Code for: I'm stressed and cannot tolerate standing under fluorescent lights to try anything on. What I want is for you to lend me a perfect outfit with matching shoes.

"Do I have food in my teeth?"

Code for: You are so close to me, you can actually tell me the truth about that little piece of spinach caught in the gap between my front teeth. This code also applies to your honest opinion about my wearing anything luminescent and pink. The colors may be in style, but you have permission to tell me I look like a psychedelic ice cream cone.

"Don't tell a soul."

Code for: Includes your husband or boyfriend. No exceptions!


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