About the Writer
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. She lives in Boston with her husband, son, and pug. Find her at thelegitkar.com.
Zoear16: Hi, you there?
My Squad1997: We’re always here.
Come ovverrr for a girl’s party!
Auto response from Zoear16: BRB,
hanging out with my BFFs!
Here’s my 1997 goal: I sign off AIM and go to a frosh year Valentine’s Day party where my squad’ll get me drunk. We listen to Shania Twain and exchange gifts: blue eye shadow sets and hoodies from that store that pipes hot guy cologne through the AC so you’re high on some Drakkar Noir knock-off and forget those boot cuts are California-inspired and not California-made.
My squad isn’t a top-shelf squad. We aren’t those red bow rides you see in a Christmas commercial. We’re the midsize sedan your cousin Abbie drives to her job at that Catholic school parents send the I-went-to-prom-and-all-I-got-was-my-stomach-pumped kids. We’re not fancy. Please. We get off on Hidden Valley ranch dressing. We’re just a girl gang in California-inspired clothes talking prom, munching on crudité.
“Of course there won’t be boys,” we assure our parents before the party.
I like boys, especially the blonde one who can dominate an “Ice, Ice Baby” sing-a-long. But I like the idea of belonging to a squad more. The right squad gives you hallway cred. And confidence when you have none.
“Here,” says Kristin, Katie, Caitlyn, Kerry, or Kym, handing me a glass of spiked punch.
“Sit,” says Kristin. Or is it Kym?
We sit. We drink. We contemplate more Hidden Valley but does that really go with rum? We giggle. Then we go around in a circle and say one thing we really like about the person to our right.
“Like about looks? Or deeper?” I ask.
“Whatever,” says Kristin or maybe it was Katie.
Kristin likes Katie’s loyalty.
Katie likes Caitlyn’s smile.
Caitlyn likes Kerry’s mind and how she’ll probably be a lawyer and wear pantsuits someday.
Kerry likes Kym’s motherly instincts.
And Kym likes my eyebrows because they’re pretty and what do I even do to get them to look this way?
“Nothing,” I say and take a swig of punch.
“A natural beauty!” says Kym. “And what about Kristin?”
“I like Kristin’s big heart,” I say.
There’s a group hug. Everyone’s weepy. Our friendship is the kind you only see on TV. We’re grateful. Then Kym starts telling the story of the Victoria’s Secret undies Scott bought Kerry.
“He wants to get in your pant-ies!” yells Caitlyn.
None of our moms will let us shop at Victoria’s Secret so Kerry’s new undies are a big deal, but I can only think of is one thing: my eyebrows. My only redeeming quality is the thing I’ve paid zero attention to? What about that sense of humor my grandpa loves so much? Or my ability to make sweet video projects about the fall of the Roman Empire? And why do I feel like crying? And God, is it hot in here? And maybe this is why drunk people end up dying in a ditch.
“Guys. I’m drunk,” I say.
Silence. Then: “OHMYGOD. We are too!” says Caitlyn.
Then my dad’s there to shuttle me home and Kerry whispers, “Remember don’t say too much. Chew gum!”
“Oh, and don’t sleep on your back in case you puke,” says Kym, before pushing me out the door in a nice way.
In the back of my dad’s cool-ass minivan, I focus with the intensity my French teacher says I should’ve brought to my Huis Clos essay. When asked, I say, “Sure, it was fun,” and while my dad returns to singing the golden oldies, I grip the seatbelt and wonder whether to be scared or excited.
The next day Kristin brings me a yellow PowerAde and says, “Remember that time we got drunk? Ya. Well. You weren’t drunk.”
“I was, I was,” I said, but she shakes her head.
“Nope. That punch was just punch. And you were just you. And because you’re you, you believed us. Hilarious!”
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is not finding this hilarious, Kristin.
Facebook allows for the self-publishing of emotions so here’s a 2006 goal: I make legitimate excuses for not joining post-workshop happy hours with fellow MFA writers -- a different breed of squad than bored suburban girls, though an intimidating, Mary Gaitskill-reading squad nonetheless.
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is terrified of the squad.
Instead of stalking Facebook albums of writers having fun (surprisingly, it’s a thing), I binge on Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, comfortable with my new squad: the couch. A couch, FYI, does not care if I cry when L.C. and Stephen kiss.
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is quitting Facebook.
Here’s a #squadgoal circa now, which cannot be told in 140 characters or less: Mindlessly stalking Taylor Swift’s social media, I try not to be hypnotized by her long-legged, cookie-baking, pool–partying supermodel squad and refuse to think too hard about select existential questions (e.g., if a girl drops out of a squad and no one cares, does she even exist?).
Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice is
Well, she’s a thirty-two-year-old mom who goes to the gym and is 100% intimidated by groups of college-aged girls in geometric print leggings. And though Kaitlyn tries to find her spirit animal, to warn her, to tell her to run, to assure her there’s life beyond the squad, Kaitlyn doesn’t. She’s chickenshit, accidentally bumping into the prettiest one, saying “I love your leggings!” (when she doesn’t) and “I’m sorry” (when she’s not).