We had been dating for a couple of months when Landon invited me to a house party hosted by some of his best friends from high school, several of whom were girls, and several of whom belonged to a friend group self-dubbed “The Butterflies,” of which Landon had been an honorary member.
Like any self-doubting, occasionally petty-minded girl in her late teens, I was instantly suspicious.
“Girl friends…?” I trailed off, feigning calm, preoccupying myself by studying a few strands of hair for split ends. “You had…you were a part of a group of…girl friends? Called…the Butterflies?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged. A silence pooled between us.
“That’s cool,” I said, the words wooden and false in my mouth, as my mind got to work determining how best to sleuth out the names of these girls and whether he had been romantically involved with any of them. I opened my mouth and closed it, not wanting to seem “thirsty” or jealous when there was no reason to be, but inwardly convinced — already — that these girls a) had been involved with him before, b) wanted to be involved with him, or c) were going to make me feel horribly excluded in the way only girls can, by taking hearty advantage of years of formative high school memories in order to put me in my place as “the new girl.” I could almost imagine it: “Lan, Lan,” a tall, leggy blond would say, swirling her red Solo cup of beer in front of him “–remember that night you told Vicky that the party was a block away and she got lost?!” Peals of laughter, lots of name-dropping, and then me, staring blankly with an awkward grin glued on my face as I pretended to understand the joke. “Oh, that’s funny,” I’d nod eagerly, to no one.
As the party approached, I decided there were two routes in front of me: I could either feign illness and skip out or I could attend and try to win them over. Because I was convinced by the end of our first month of dating that Landon would be my husband one day, I decided that these friends of his were probably worth the effort. I blow-dried my hair, put on my favorite sundress — a pale pink floral strapless number from Ralph Lauren that tied at the bust — and my requisite pearl earrings, and applied a spritz of Coco Chanel Mademoiselle. I was tan from the summer and I looked in the mirror and thought, “You look pretty. An approachable version of Charlotte York, if I don’t say so myself.” I had baked cookies for the occasion — who can have beef with someone who bakes cookies? — and then waited at the foot of the stairs in my childhood home for Landon’s black Jeep to come roaring up the drive. He was polite enough to cut his music before turning in between the stone pillars at the foot of the driveway, but I could hear his bass from down the block.
As a teenage girl, there is nothing in life more attractive than a teenage boyfriend with a deep tan and a good car swinging by to pick you up for a date. I still get a somersault in my stomach thinking about it — the headiness, the promise, the dewiness of youth.
“I’ll be back later!” I called over my shoulder, practically skipping out the door. Landon always put the car in park and jumped out to get me when he’d pick me up. I loved this — I still love this — gesture of chivalry, especially after growing up in a sprawling, busy family, where my parents routinely dropped us off a few blocks from our destinations to avoid creeping carpool lanes or one-way streets that would add five minutes of navigation to their return trips, and where my brother would often sit, fuming, in the front seat of the car on carpool days, waiting for his four tardy sisters, honking his horn irritably as an accelerant.
And then we were off — zipping down the incline of Tilden Street to take a right onto the winding coil of Rock Creek Parkway. He turned the bass up, rolled down the windows, and idly propped his elbow up in his window, his fingers drumming the roof. He was blond and tan from the summer, freshly showered and shaved, and he smelled like soap and Altoids. He wore his oxford shirt rolled up to the elbow, but — as always — tucked in at the waist. My God, he was something to see. It was too loud to speak, the wind whipping through the car and the music blaring, but at some point he grabbed my hand in the console between us and smiled at me. Something passed between us then, some invisible dynamic in the evening shifted, and the knot that had been forming in my stomach ever since he’d informed me of his tribe of lady friends dissolved. I saw him as mine, and he saw me as his. I felt an implicit, unbreakable alliance between us, butterflies be-damned.
The Butterflies, as it turned out, were nothing like I’d imagined. They were warm — introducing themselves, unprompted; offering small talk; fawning over the cookies; admiring my dress. And though they trotted out inside jokes, I couldn’t fault them for it — what else do high school buddies do when reunited at the dawn of long summer together back home? One of them, E., was especially attentive to me, offering to find me wine when I declined the keg beer, showing me to the bathroom, asking where I lived, laughing politely at my attempts at humor. As the evening wore on and the wine settled in, she introduced me to other friends as Landon’s girlfriend, and I flushed at the label, and also at her tacit, easy acceptance of our relationship. She could have just introduced me as “Jen,” but she made the effort — then, as many times later — to show her support for our relationship, even in its awkward toddler phase. It made me feel sheepish about my suspicions about these gals and their intentions.
I grew to have deep and meaningful connections with many of these girls, all of whom were genuine and down-to-earth in a way that Landon often describes as “OG Arlington, Virginia” — chill and pretense-free, but they’ll call you on your B.S. Still, it took a couple of months — maybe years? — for me to cement my friendships with them, and I remember the exact day I did: my friend E. was going through a tough time with a gentleman she was dating, and one of her closest friends from the Butterfly group, K., pulled her into a bathroom, where I had been reapplying mascara.
“Oh — do you want me to leave?” I asked.
“No no no,” said E. While K. consoled a tearful E., I silently applied 432 coats of mascara, not wanting to interject myself but also concerned for E. and curious about what was going on. I was flattered at their candor in front of me: K. was empathetic, knowing, understanding as she listened and offered her advice to a heartbroken E., and, before I could do anything about it, I found tears slipping down my cheeks.
Yes — as these two girls engaged in a deep moment of friendship and heartache, I awkwardly, quietly bawled in the corner.
It was only when they were cleaning themselves up to return to the party that they noticed a sniffling me with rivulets of mascara streaming down her cheeks.
“Oh honey,” said E., laughing and hugging me.
We’ve been thick as thieves since. It was a bizarre rite of passage, but I think she must have seen that beneath my occasionally aloof exterior was a highly emotive, deeply loyal soul who could be so moved at the pain of a friend that she would wordlessly sob her heart out in the shadows of a bathroom during a house party. On the flipside, I discovered how much I cared for E. in that moment — and how badly I wanted to key or torch or otherwise destroy the car of the gentleman in question.
I realize now that the fact that Landon had a group of close girlfriends in high school was a harbinger for good things, a signal of his maturity and his ability to appreciate women as more than just potential suitors. I’ve still not ferreted out whether or not he dated any of them, but that’s beside the point anyway — his friendships with these “butterflies” meant that he understood women as friends, and was generally unphased by some of the occasionally nutty things young girls do in relationships, like that time I threw a fit at a wedding and smashed my camera on the ground and then ran through the rain like I was Rachel McGoddamnAdams in The Notebook or something. (Hint hint: it’s not as cute as the movies make you think.) And so –I am grateful to these women and for their friendships with Landon for affording me certain allowances along the way. But I am also grateful in a different sense: I am the fortunate beneficiary of Landon’s friendships with these women — these butterflies whom I originally feared and mistrusted, whom I originally approached with the practiced, knowing cool of Baroness Schraeder when she discovers Captain Von Trapp dancing with Maria in the backyard and smirks knowingly at the duo (does anyone else love “The Sound of Music”?), but whom I gradually came to claim as friends of my own. E. was my bridesmaid, and I will be hers this upcoming October. And how lucky to find that in gaining a boyfriend, I had also gained a clan of friends to call my own. I think they call that kismet.
Catch up on the full M Series here.
If I were to go back in time and plan a meeting-the-butterflies outfit all over again, I probably wouldn’t stray far from my original choice (florals are still my thang), but I also like the way this LWD blurs the lines between sweet, sexy, and demure. I’d love to pair it with these slides and this personalizable (!!!) tote.
This floral dress with its cut-outs and ladylike midi length achieves a similar effect.
All that said, Landon’s friends were always on the more casual side, and even though I’ve never minded being the dressiest of the group (would much prefer to be overdressed than underdressed), a statement top (I’m obsessed with this, this, and this) and some white skinnies would have been right on the mark.
Finally, because we’re nearing Father’s Day and I’ve received a couple of emails on the topic and this post is Mr. Magpie-focused, a few ideas for gifts for the dads in your life:
+For a techie: Ring, a wi-fi enabled video doorbell — my dad just got this and it’s pretty nifty — or a set of wireless earpods. I mentioned this recently, but Mr. Magpie is obsessed with his Hue lightbulb system — you can control your lighting from your smartphone and, now, with our Homepod, we can just tell Siri, “Turn out the living room lights.”
+For an outdoorsman: Gardening gloves, a pocket-knife (I once gave a similar style to my brother and he loved it), or Danner hiking boots (I love the styling on these, and they’re supposed to be incredible). I also wrote about this in a recent Magpie Micropost (you can get these delivered to your inbox by signing up here), but these windbreakers are truly the best, and are currently on sale. Every man in my family owns one.
+For a fashion-interested gent: I recently bought Mr. Magpie a pair of navy Tretorns and I love the way he looks in them. A nice alternative to his go-to boat shoes. My brother-in-law showed up at our family reunion in a pair of these Vejas and he looked FUHHH-RESH. Either would be good picks for a well-heeled dad. Polo is also having an incredible sale, with an extra 30% off orders over $150. Mr. Magpie snagged a couple of items, including this textured linen shirt and some polos.
+For a foodie: a box of Ample Hills ice cream (OMG OMG OMG you must try the peppermint pattie!) or a REALLY good bottle of bourbon and some luxardo cherries (for old-fashioneds). When we were in Aspen, Co a few summers ago, I bought Mr. Magpie a calf-hair beer coozi that I had branded (yes, hot branded!) with his initials at a little boutique and he uses it pretty much daily. This needlepointed one would have a similar heirloomable quality. A new cookbook is also always a good pick, and this is beautiful and well-reviewed — or how about a box of high-end dry pasta? Mr. Magpie loves the brand Rigarosa, but we also get a lot of Afeltra in our house — you can buy both here.
+For an athlete: A Klean Kanteen with a sports nozzle (have written about this extensively, but it is simply the best bottle for an athlete or a mom with only one free hand) and/or an Aquaquest pouch. I know the pouch might seem dubious, but it is probably one of the handiest things I own. It’s waterproof, large enough to stow a cell phone, keys, and some cash/credit cards, and stays in place.
+Splurges: I contemplated buying Mr. Magpie one of these awesome Yeti coolers (I’d have gotten it in the blue or coral) — I love their styling and the reviews are nutso — back when we lived in Chicago because Mr. Magpie loved nothing more than smoking something all day long with a cooler of beer in our backyard. I would have also loved to have bought him one of these classic Craftsman rolling tool chests in cherry red for his mounting tool collection in our garage.
+Miscellaneous: These are kind of cool if you’re planning a move or keep a lot of stuff in boxes in a basement. I wish we had found these before our move!