Saturday, July 25, 2009

My 43rd Birthday

Yesterday, July 24th, I turned 43. I am enjoying a middle-aged body, middle-aged loneliness and the desperate full-sprint to get some retirement savings in place when I only had a few thousand in an old 401k until I started socking it away a year ago when I got my current job. Today my retirement total stands at that same few thousand I had a year ago (and the entire planet knows why).

But at least my life has the newness of a one-year marriage and a one-year job, both of which I am still happy with. Bob and I celebrated my birthday with dinner last night at The Stained Glass Bistro in Evanston which had excellent food AND excellent service. That second one is rare, especially in a restaurant as busy as that one was last night. We sat near another birthday table and right next to another couple about our age. After I blew out the candle on my dessert, they wished me a happy birthday and mentioned that they were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary.

"Congratulations!" I said. "You're way ahead of us. We've only been married a year."

"Really?" the woman was surprised.

"Yes," said Bob. "First time for both of us."

"Late bloomers," she responded, warmly.

"Yes, definitely," I agreed.

"Are you having children?" she asked me, while the husband talked to Bob for a minute.

"Oh, no," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. She accepted this answer with a sympathetic nod. It didn't even occur to me to ask her if she had kids, I guess because once you ask someone that, they think you want to hear about their kids and I usually don't.

I guess people ask stuff like that all the time: they hear that you've recently gotten married for the first time and want to know if babies are on the way. Does it happen as much if they know it's your second marriage? Someone else has to answer that one.

But the way this woman asked about children seemed different from the usual inquiry. I get an attitude sometimes that women think I should have children and are bewildered by my lack of desire for children. Maybe sometimes it's envy or surprise because it never occurred to them to not have kids. But this woman, who has been married for 15 years, just seemed curious about whether a 43-year-old newlywed (because, of course, I also told them my age) is still hoping to raise a family. And she received my answer with complete acceptance. I appreciated that.

My restaurant district partner husband gave them free drink coupons for one of his restaurants as we left, as an anniversary gift. They see it as generosity, he sees it as marketing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Husband is Not My Best Friend

[Yes, I've given my blog a new look, but it's still me.]

When I was young I had a best friend. She was my favorite person in the world. We had lots of fun. Then a new girl entered the picture and my best friend eventually decided to be her best friend and to stop being my friend at all. I started high school as the loneliest person I knew and have spent the rest of my life looking for a new best friend.

I've heard women say their husbands are their best friends. I've always thought that sounded like a great situation, but how could a best friend be a guy? Best friends were the same gender as you, no?

I've been married a little over a year now and I still hear women say their husbands are their best friends, but I still don't understand it. My husband is not my best friend. He's my husband. I married him because he makes me happy, not because he'll listen to me go on and on about my family or politics or clothes or current events or the human condition. In fact, his capacity to sit and pretend to listen to me talk about those things is quite limited. He's a simple guy who just isn't that interested in what's happening to the Republican party or the best thing to put in a pasta salad. I need friends for that, usually women friends. And for the really tough life questions that I need to hash out over and over again, sometimes with tears, I need a best friend.

I like to talk for hours. Bob doesn't. He's not that big a talker or listener. I can get him into a conversation over a meal, but after we've finished eating, he wants to get up and move on. I cherish time with friends who will happily sit over a cup of tea for two or three hours just talking. And talking.

But grown-up lives don't stay the same. Over the years I've made friends with women who functioned very much like a best friend, until life changes caused one of us to move on, lose touch, drop the connection. This recently happened and I'm very much in mourning over it these days. I no longer have a best friend and I feel like the loneliest person in the world. Again.

Has anyone reading this had the experience of losing an extremely important friend because that friend began a serious relationship or got married or had kids or experienced some other huge life event, and that shifted their time commitments? Does this happen a lot to grown ups? Do we just have to get used to it?

I have to have friends. My husband just doesn't fill all my companionship needs. I'm baffled when I hear people say that their life partner is the only person they really need. Can that really be true? They need no other people in their life?

Maybe this makes my marriage 1950's old-fashioned. I remember watching the movie A Coalminer's Daughter when I was 13. Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline are best friends and when Patsy is killed in a train wreck, Loretta wails to her husband, "Now who am I going to talk to?" I watched that and thought, "What a harsh thing to say. How does that make her husband feel, hearing that his wife doesn't feel like she can talk to him?" Thirty years later, I totally understand it. I don't believe any husband will talk to his wife for as long as she needs, every time, no matter what's on tv. For that, we need friends.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Facebook

On June 20 I posted that Facebook fails to draw me because I'd rather talk to friends in person than online. That was a comparison between blogging/emailing and having live friends in the room with me. But it's damn hard to get live people in the same room with me. Grown-ups don't make much time for each other. I'm often left with email as my main way of keeping in touch.

But recently it's even become hard to connect through email because I have friends and family that don't check their email accounts as often as they log in to Facebook. I'm learning that can get their attention better on Facebook than I can with email or voicemail messages.

When the party moves to the other room, you have to move with it. Here goes my Facebook experiment. And we'll see if I successfully linked this blog to my Facebook page.