The first time I remember being aware of weed as a thing adults did was at my parents’ friends’ New Year’s Eve party. Their friends were also the parents of my best friend. She and I wandered loosely around the party legs of musicians and young hip thirty-somethings, and my mom and her mom were definitely passing a joint to each other while trying to talk over the clamor of drunk men “jamming.” Everything was very crowded and warm and dark, and we went upstairs to her bedroom and listened the album Flood on repeat. We were ten, maybe eleven.
Later, at twenty, that same girl and I would sit in our apartment living room in Phoenix, smoking weed together out of our cheap glass pieces and talking about our frustrations with boys, and the future, and what the desert was like. There would be meth heads and strip clubs, but also thunderstorms and lightning over a hot night, and the roaring of motorcycles, and a lot of electronica.
In high school, I smoked weed with this theater-girl-turned-hippie who had beautiful hair. If we couldn’t get weed from the rich prep boys whose parents let them wear hemp necklaces before they shipped them off to the Ivys, (one of whom once ruined an entire ounce by putting wet cleaning sponges in the jar, because he’d heard the thing about orange peels and thought he could do better), then we got in her little blue Toyota and drove from her parents’ suburb all the way into the city. We’d drive to the very poorest part of town, listening to Dave Matthews at a decibel level only 16yr old girls can stand, and drive very slowly down the poorest street, until one of the men that stand on street corners – those fleeting, haunting, nameless ghosts – would sidle up to the car window, and sell us a dime of shitty brick weed all twisted up in plastic wrap. Then we’d drive back out to the parks, and sit in the sunshine by the river rapids, smoking, talking about school and problems with our mothers. We both fought with our mothers a lot, but didn’t like getting wasted, or hanging around the goths at the coffee-shop, so we spent a lot of time in the woods.
In college, I lived in a dorm that was co-ed. On the floor above us was the boys’ hockey team. The girls on my floor were mostly members of the Dance Team, which was a slightly different way of saying the cheerleaders. The three other girls who, like me, were not members of the Dance Team, or really into Aerosmith, and I started hanging out every day. Two of them shared a room, so that was the place we all came after classes, to drink forties from the gas station down the street, or boxed wine with Sprite, and get high. One of the girls, A., sold weed, and we became her de facto posse. When she got called out to a frat party or someone’s house to make a delivery, we all came too. We went everywhere together. All parties. All concerts. We were safe in a pack. One time, A Tribe Called Quest ended up at someone’s party in town, and A. got called to make a delivery, and as we all sat around this living room smoking blunts, we were the coolest girls in that town – young, pretty, smart, and we brought our own shit.The whole year we were together, none of us had boyfriends. We didn’t need them. We slept with them, and then went to hang out with our friends.
When I moved in with The Boyfriend finally, it was above a storefront that had two apartments in it – us and another couple. The other girl and I became best friends, because while our relationships were disintegrating around us and the boys were drinking 24 packs of cheap beer every day, we smoked in the sun on the porch, talking to each other. Consoling each other. A few years later, when I wanted to kill myself and she hated her life, that same girl and I went to down to the beach every day, got high, and lay silently in the sun and water, praying to anything that would listen, until after several months we felt better enough to change our lives and leave the memory of those men behind.
When I moved to another state, I had no friends, no family. I met people easily, but had no intimates. Then one Halloween, I was at a small house party, and there was this girl there in a dress that had LED lights strung up through it. We ended up sitting in a corner of the room, smoking and talking about David Foster Wallace for the rest of the night, and in the morning she was my best friend.
There was another girl, who worked with her, she was the perfect stoner version of a true Southern girl, and we became a family. I lived with one, and then later the other. We sat in living rooms together for years having conversations, and our favorite thing to do was be around each other in the beach sunshine, or cooking dinner together. We drank with the boys, but when we were by ourselves, we just smoked and talked – about families, drug addiction, brothers, ex-boyfriends, current boyfriends, poems we had read that day, things we had written, songs we had heard, weird pieces of town history we had learned, things our mothers told us, food we wanted to cook, projects we wanted to make, places we wanted to go to. Emotions we couldn’t quite define and weren’t sure of. Things that fleeted in and out of our hearts, and the things that got stuck deep down in there.
The second girl, the one who now has a husband, had an older lady friend up North who she used to sit in the kitchen with and smoke weed and talk about God. She was raised very religious, this second girl, and the older woman helped her talk through how that felt to come to terms with, and how to be a decent person no matter what you believe. Whenever she went to visit, she would bring this woman weed, because as you get older it gets harder to find in places where it’s illegal. When she got married, this lady came up to see her in the dressing room before the ceremony, and they cried so much as they hugged each other, they were so happy.
The girl with the light-up dress now lives in Colorado. All three of us, plus a husband and a friend, went into the mountains last summer, and saw moose together. We went to the dispensary together, where a very posh, tall girl with long, honey-blonde hair took our paperwork, and walked us back to the counter. The hostess laughed with us as we got excited about new kinds of edibles and funny pot names. We walked through downtown and my friend told us what living there in the mountains was like, how beach people and mountain people are different, how they are the same.
L. and I used to smoke like we were sipping sweet tea while we sat in her backyard, her in a white linen dress and me full of ideas about books. She worked on cookbooks, and made us plates of things in her retro Alabama 1956 style kitchen all in gleaming steel and tile white – homemade pastrami and Norwegian strudels. Small bowls of olives, and slices of cheese. Good coffee. An off day with her was a perfect fusion of magnolia trees, long open rooms, mid-century furniture, and Brooklyn Etsy culture.
I live with another girl now, a roommate, and on days when I find myself not caught up in my five jobs, and she’s home from the restaurant where she works, we smoke and talk. We talk about politics. We talk about immigration a lot in particular, but also IUDs and reproductive rights, and conspiracy theories about the Denver airport. We both go out drinking with boys sometimes, and later we come home to smoke with each other and talk about what went wrong with those boys. We watch Broad City and hang out with the dog, and it’s safe, and cheap, and no one interrupts us or gives us orders.
I go drinking with men, but I smoke with women. Women I’ve worked with, the ones I’ve met at school, the writers who don’t like leaving their houses, and the comedians who want to hang out, the women I meet at yoga class – I almost exclusively smoke with women. I don’t do that on purpose.
But look at all the things we talk about. Look how close we get. Look how when we’re smoking with each other, there isn’t a constant patter about movies or pod-casts happening above our words, from guys who want to fill up the whole room with what they know. Alcohol makes your thoughts and emotions blunt, like big heavy sticks. But to sit in a sunny room with smart girls and get giggly, to talk about weird, random, sometimes very dark shit – all the things most of us can’t get a word in edgewise about with guys, and can’t just say to random women we don’t know because it goes against those ingrained codes of what kind of women we should be coming off as – this is my favorite thing. This is a thing that has gotten me through the worst times of my life.
This 4/20, I am grateful for the society of women who smoke weed.
Editor Bridget Callahan thinks a lot about the fact that in states where weed is legal, artists are free to attach their names to pieces like this with no risk, and how that creates a kind of topic and icing gap between the circles. She currently lives and writes in North Carolina.