Fits of Giggles

tuck shopThere were two teenage girls helping out in what I would call a canteen or a tuck-shop but my American friends refer to as a Concession Stand. One of the girls had the giggles and then the other joined in, and before you knew it they were both in hysterical fits of laughter until they couldn’t stand upright. I stood with the other volunteers at the softball tournament, most of us were women who had children at the school, we were all looking on affectionately while slightly bemused.

It was infectious as it always is, heads thrown back, sides grabbed, one of the girls fell to the floor. Her laugher beginning to cause her pain, she shook her head in a make it stop motion to her girlfriend. They looked beautiful, innocent, childlike but almost grown. A couple of minutes later they were still trying to regain their composure and it was all starting to get a bit awkward. “Are you girls okay? Don’t hurt yourselves” one of the mothers who also doubled at the school as a teacher asked. They pulled themselves together, got back to it.

I miss that teenage laughter. G and I have a giggle and there are definitely alcohol fuelled moments of hysterical laughter with friends, but I’m not sure if there’s anything better than being caught in a natural high. I have it often with my girlfriend Cath, I dropped her at home recently after a fantastic day out together in Australia. I can’t even remember what it was that had us in fits of giggles but as I parked in her driveway to drop her at home I looked in her direction and said with tears of laughter streaming down my face “you, it’s only you I have these conversations with.” And I don’t mean something deep and philosophical, I mean something stupid and ridiculous. We specialize in stupid and ridiculous. We have a certain way of saying goodbye, the little travellers imitate us when we’re on the phone. “Boi Boi” they call out as I wrap up a call. Occasionally I forget and do it on a call with someone else “Mum, you just did your Cathy goodbye, those people are going to think you’re really weird” one of the little travellers will offer.

Recently a girlfriend admitted that she was really struggling with someone she’d just met. Someone who she’d have to see on a regular basis. “I don’t know what it is, she just really annoys me. I really dislike her.” She was apologetic in her explanation. “It might change, I’ve been wrong about people before.” We all agreed. We’d all done it. Taken the worst from a first impression. I thought back to when I first met Cathy, my maid of honour, my confidante. How much she’d initially annoyed me when I met her. We hadn’t become instant friends. I realize now it was jealousy. Two boys who were mine in a purely platonic way had both told me she was fun. She had what I perceived to be a great job, she seemed confident, and she definitely wasn’t in need of my approval. Over time we were almost forced together, mutual friends and a short list of options had us playing mid-week tennis, there were beers afterwards. On weekends we eventually began to gravitate towards each other but we both have agreed that the true friendship started when we began making joint road trips. Music was key, stories were shared and songs were sang at full volume. Cigarettes were lit, pit stops were made, all the while we were unconsciously learning the truth about each other. We were two flawed individuals who knew how to make each other laugh. We’d eventually shared enough that there was no going back, we were going to be friends forever.

In my travels I’ve had those moments so many times now. When an acquaintance becomes a dinner invite and turns into an emergency contact for school. In the expat world we sometimes need to skip the informalities of getting to know someone over time, we have to speed it up, there’s no time for road trips and tennis games. I’m never sure when I meet someone in my travels on how its going to work out, many times I’ve gotten it wrong. There’s nothing quite like discovering that your new found friend and her husband are actually homophobic racists as you finish your dessert.

We all tend to fumble around for awhile trying to find a comfortable place to sit our true personalities down. That first impression which irks is often just a mask that’s covering a world of insecurities about being away from home. Our travels have provided us with friends for life, saying goodbye to some of them has been heartbreaking sometimes devastating – but having not met them along the way would have been the true tragedy. I sat this week in fits of giggles with a friend as she explained an encounter she’d had over the weekend, as the snort escaped from my nose and tears ran from my eyes I realized how lucky I’d been to have met her. Lucky that she gave me the time to find a comfortable place to sit my personality down.

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