Fourth of July weekend, Megan and I took a spontaneous road trip upstate. We were with two friends, boys, and we were on the hunt for swimming holes (we’d later take this terrifying leap). Hours after leaving the city, we found ourselves in New Paltz, hiking through the woods. We climbed over rocks. We crossed a river. We tramped through grass that left a mess of tiny cuts on our ankles.
Megan wore sandals with leather straps and a chunky heel. I wore a dress.
Later, sweaty and with mud-caked toes, we sat on a metal railing by the side of the road and looked out over the trees. The boys explored the hillside, in search of blueberries. In their absence, we relived the day and our unexpected adventure. We discussed our need for a shower. We examined our bruises.
We took pictures of the sunset, of birds, of each other reclining on the hood of our station wagon; then, in the reflection of our iPhones, we put on lipstick.
I’ve always been hesitant to talk too much - or to write at length - about things I consider girly: fashion, shopping, beauty. I'm afraid that the people who read my writing won't take me seriously, or believe that I can write about other things, too - books, and culture, and people.
Weeks after New Paltz, I was back in Brooklyn, getting dressed for a dinner party while Megan sat and watched. I showed her treasures from a recent trip to my favorite thrift store: a satin slip; a vintage apron with yellow detailing; a red gingham dress that looked - somehow appealingly - like a tablecloth.
I put on make-up and a perfume that reminded Megan of her mother. Squinting into the mirror, she tried a neon pink lip stain sitting on a saucer on my dresser. We compared it to the purple I was wearing. Pink won.
“I could do this all day,” I said. “Sometimes all I want to write about is nail polish and long dresses and Mermaid Spray." (Mermaid Spray is a rose-scented sea salt concoction meant to recreate the effects of the ocean on one’s hair. We discovered it one afternoon in a neighborhood jewelry shop, while taking a break from our writing.) "But I'm afraid to."
Megan - who has a passion for poetry and performance art, as well as a penchant for vintage dresses, blush pink sweaters, and No. 6 clogs - understood.
I spent Labor Day, as I mentioned here before, at a summer camp wedding in New Hampshire. Over the course of four days, I learned to shoot a bow and arrow, paddle a canoe, balance on a tight-rope. I slept in a cabin that smelled of mold. I accumulated mosquito bites, stained my fingers blue with tie-dye.
I felt abundantly, unabashedly happy.
I shared my cabin with another writer, a fellow New Yorker who, when I met her, was carrying her laptop under one arm and searching for wifi on the campgrounds to submit a story. She wrote about art, I learned. She was fiercely smart. We found we had friends in common in the city.
We shared other interests, too. We’d both littered the shelves next to our beds with an array of serums, soaps, and lotions. We’d packed dresses to eat dinner in a summer camp mess hall. (“Can I tell you a secret?” I said to her one night. “I brought a blow dryer.”)
Each night, we’d meet in the cabin before dinner (while everyone else hiked or raced kayaks) to shower and change our clothes. Then we’d read, or write, or sit on our beds and talk - about our work, about traveling, about relationships, about beauty. “I’m so glad you’re here,” we told each other.
Late on the night of the wedding, a small group of us gathered by the lake. A storm had just passed, and some of us had gotten caught in the downpour. I'd been out on the water when the rain had started, in a boat lit with glow sticks. I'd gotten soaked and loved every minute of it.
After, as I started back up the hill to my cabin to change, I caught sight of my new friend, heading toward the water for a late-night paddle, oar in hand. We smiled and waved.
I was drenched, but delighted. My hair dripped. I was sure there was mascara pooled under my eyes. I imagined I looked terrible.
But it didn't matter. I let it run.
But it didn't matter. I let it run.