It’s the morning after Halloween. I’m 19. My three best friends and I squeeze into a diner booth with the remnants of last night’s mascara flaking off beneath our eyes. Yesterday’s chaos still clings to us, but we soldier on by ordering omelets and mugs of coffee. I ask, “How did we even end up there last night?” and the ritual begins.
We swap anecdotes like a deck of cards, recounting the conversations others might have missed. We piece together puzzles we’d be incapable of completing without each other’s help, like how that one recently broken-up couple wound up making out on the fire escape (Sarah saw them talking by the bathroom). The scandalous tidbits distract us from our pounding headaches. Somehow, Lauren is here instead of at her 6 a.m. shift. She confesses that she slept at her ex’s apartment and called out because a J.Crew sales associate couldn’t possibly show up in a miniskirt and pirate boots. Sam shrugs. “They could be rebranding.”
This is how the morning-after debrief goes.
Over the years, the subject matter has changed, and so have the settings, but what remains is that buzzy feeling I get when I’m surrounded by the women I’m closest to. The atmosphere is only comparable to the best parts of summer camp. It’s a valuable thing, and it’s grown rarer as we’ve grown ourselves.
We were once pre-teens, delirious and giddy the morning after a sleepover. My mother would always find us in the living room with an open phone book on the coffee table, impersonating the victim who’d answered last night’s prank calls. In our early 20s, we’d discuss the previous night’s bad Hinge dates while unfinished takeout lingered on the counter. We had other things to do — attempting Pilates via YouTube, half-assing job applications, debating which character we were from Girls — but the debrief always took priority. Everything else was just background noise.
We always had each other within reach. We had an eternity at our disposal. And yet, we wished for our futures, the lives we have today, without seeing what a precious thing we had in that very moment.
Now in our late 20s, life has taken each of us in different directions. Big nights out can be counted on one hand; moments where one finds themselves encircled by their closest friends past midnight are few and far between. We do grown-up things like wearing full-length tops and blaming our interpersonal behaviors on our attachment styles rather than our zodiac signs. It’s seemingly impossible to schedule a meetup, let alone convene the next morning, without sending Calendly invites months in advance and booking a flight across the country.
The last time we debriefed was on a girls’ trip. I woke up in our Airbnb, realizing I was the last one to rise. From a few rooms over, muffled voices blended together; laughs ricocheted through the walls. I could hear only pieces, but I knew the debrief was going down. I jumped out of bed, still wearing last night’s makeup, not bothering to put in my contacts. I was greeted with a cheerful chorus of, “Finally! You’re awake.” They were sprawled out on beds and hardwood floors, some in oversized T-shirts, some with towels wrapped around their heads. Recognizing how rare moments like this were, I silently promised to never be late for our next one.
Now, we’re all together again for a wedding weekend in a quaint coastal town. The waitress takes our brunch orders — which consist of ingredients like sage and brown butter — and the roundtable discussion begins: “Wait, are they on good terms?” “Did anyone see them talking last night?”
The memories aren't as blurry as they used to be, but still, the morning debrief breathes life back into the mess of it all: the dates, the awkward run-ins, the heartbreak, the confirmation that their side-eye was, in fact, a side-eye. This sisterhood ritual is fueled by humor, intimacy, and unwavering support, and it creates a type of catharsis you can’t achieve in regular conversation. For me, the real fun only starts once the party is over.
Sipping my lychee mimosa, I see who we used to be: self-conscious seventh-graders wishing for flip phones, then 20-somethings helping draft texts to each other’s flings. I see myself dragging the group to that Halloween party just because I wanted to talk to my crush. Our discussions were always about dating, weren't they? We cared so much about love without realizing we already had it.