A dear friend of mine started up a poker group, consisting of eight women all of whom work in or around advertising. We’re all roughly the same age, give or take, and I’ve known them, some better than others, for over 20 years.
Like members of any book club knows, just as the “book” part becomes the excuse to get together and eat, drink and gossip, “poker” is our excuse to meet once a month to put our emotional cards on the table.
We represent many types of women of a certain age, all struggling with “growing up” equal parts terrified and amused, laughing while switching decks to the one with larger fonts so our old eyes can discern a diamond from a heart. We slide in and out of our sweaters racing the hot flashes that come and go, our version of “burn and turn”, not missing a beat when upping our bets.
I am called “Aces” because I drew four during our first poker night, yet my nonchalant expression belied that fact. I realize that I’ve had years of practice hiding what’s going on inside, no matter how scared, or sad, or elated I am. I’ve perfected my Poker Face.
When a client asks, “Can I please have x, y + z tomorrow” for something that takes a week, my face says, “of course! no problem” while my brain says “you must be #$%^&*!#@%! kidding me.” When a waiter asks, “how’s the ahi” my face says, “it’s the best fish that ever swam across an ocean,” while my gut says, “I’ve tasted better Chicken-of-the-fucking-sea out of a can.”
But really, my Poker Face is critical to my survival as a normal, functioning member of society. Because I suffer from depression, I have spent decades perfecting the “everything is fine” facade while a wrecking ball of bad knocks the tar out of my insides. I basically walk around like I have a full-house, not a bunch of crappy cards.
So it was that my Poker Face left no clue that I held four aces in my hand.
But what I truly love about Poker Night, and this group of girls, is that I don’t have to use my Poker Face outside of the game. We all support and relate and love each other unconditionally as we individually struggle through divorces, getting kids into college, life with no kids at all, staying relevant in a young industry, love and lack thereof, menopause, men in general.
Unfortunately, my aces do not help me win that first night of poker, nor have they since. Maybe the joke is on me, as despite my Poker Face I’m still lousy at the game. Perhaps instead of “Aces” they should call me “Patsy.”