For all of the hype about being young and carefree, I find that my life only improves in quality with the passage of time, the accumulation of experience, and the increase in responsibility.
I met a new friend quite recently and it stuns me how this process has evolved over the years. From the cutthroat jungle of “Mean Girls” at lunchtime, forging new bonds has blossomed into a calm, unexpectedly fun journey.
One of the very first things I mentioned to this new friend, as I mention to everyone, was that I am married and have a daughter. And this aforementioned person, despite being single and male, is still interested in getting to know me.
I don’t know if the weight of this is apparent to you, but this is like the coolest thing that’s happened to me all week. To be fair, I had kind of a crappy week, but you get the point. I can’t count the number of times that the ring on my finger and the picture of Zoe as my phone background have stymied all further interest in me– in men and women, alike. Some of the men may have had some romantic interest, but more than that being married and having children signifies that I am settled, that I take my life, and therefore my friendships, seriously. Many people don’t want anything to do with that and would rather shoot the breeze with chit chatting about their neighbor’s dog and what Jennifer Lawrence wore to the academy awards. Hey, to each his own.
Actually, there’s no need to blame this on my marriage. I’ve been sending out these signals strong enough long before I was married. People might take an interest in me from afar, but as soon as I open my mouth they feel like they just swallowed a gallon of motor oil and back away, gagging and sputtering. No complaints here. I don’t want to have to shackle and handcuff my friends to a bathroom sink every time I want to speak to them. I prefer the company of people who prefer my company and who also search for some meaning in life.
I don’t resent the fact that many people dislike me but I do get excited when someone does. So when a single man shares my values and knows me as a wife and a mother, and wants to get to know me better, there’s no possible motivation besides him liking me for me. Wow, how neat.
Of course there have been men (who do not share my values) that still attempt to hit on me after all that. But that’s such a subtle thing that it takes about a grand total of oh, I don’t know, thirty seconds to discern. Don’t worry; give it another five seconds and they’ll be chugging motor oil, too.
So often people have ulterior motives or veiled interests. I think it is equally cool when I befriend single or childless women. It simply makes it more plain to see that someone really gets me, and isn’t simply making small talk about stroller brands because we both happen to have extracted a child from our uterus around roughly the same time. Of course it’s entirely possible for people of all kinds of marital status and gender to accept me for who I am, and many, many wonderful people do. I differentiate this particular circumstance because it is more obviously the case; when there is absolutely nothing I could offer someone besides my company, it is more apparent that no one is being used.
So here is someone that clearly shares the same values as I and is interested in getting to know me for me. What a delight. Talk about an easy, breezy, drama-free life. And he doesn’t know my high school GPA, or my list of entertaining and useless talents (including my record-setting time for consuming an entire cake… no, wait, actually I think he knows that one).
Gone are my younger days of trying to do the friendship equivalent of playing hard-to-get. Gone are the days of “playing it cool.” Nah, I think this friend is a catch and have essentially told him as much. I don’t know how many days you’re supposed to wait before inviting a person to hang out again and I don’t have any intention of finding out. I just explained to him simply that I’d like to see him often and since I don’t know how much personal space he likes, I’d wait to hear from him whenever he wants to hang out.
I must be going through shock for the lack of stress with this way of life.
His response? A simple, “Sounds great!” None of the, “Oh you’re not a bother, Veena.” Because maybe now I’m not, but spend another five hours with me and then we’ll reevaluate. We’ll get there fast enough, friend-o.
You’re thinking, “You guys may learn to hate each other yet, Veena.” Yeah, maybe. But so what? Maybe after he reads this he’ll realize, “Wow this chick is way crazier than I thought,” and I’d have no argument with that. But I have a whole network of people that really care about me AND already know how crazy I am. Many of them may not live within subway distance or even within this state but it doesn’t make our relationships any less meaningful. The confidence that accompanies this knowledge lends me a peace and lack of desperation that I haven’t known much in my life.
In the past I had such yawning unmet needs that I would immediately pin on every potential friend. My hopes and expectations of them would skyrocket and after I’d smothered them with an uncomfortable amount of attention, I’d experience the bitter crash back to reality upon learning that they were indeed, only human.
Now I experience just a mild, pleasant bubble of hope. No matter the outcome, there’s no longer any sour aftertaste.
The last time I saw this new friend, he seemed slightly irritated at something I said. I don’t have the need to become irritated in response, to try and hide or change who I am or angrily stomp out of the budding friendship. It’s small enough that I could easily let it go, or I might mention it the next time I see him– if indeed he decides that he still wants to see me. Could be an interesting conversation.
It’s wondrous having the freedom to talk through fears, hopes and insecurities with not just my husband, but with every relationship in my life. I have a good friend who lives in another country that I skype with fairly regularly but have never met in person. Every now and again I get an email from her saying that she’d like to talk more often and asking if I’m interested. Yes, the answer is always yes, and that I’m just an idiot about responding to emails. I’m so glad that she gives me the opportunity to tell her how much I enjoy her company as opposed to simply assuming that I’m no longer care.
In any relationship, anytime two people interact, there will be unforeseen circumstances and hiccups that arise out of the fact that we are all unique individuals with our unique abilities and failings. It’s been my pleasure to see others clearly, be seen myself and to just work through all the rest.
And now , we wait and see.