We run with a varied crowd, but it certainly ain’t cutting edge. We’re middle aged, but still fun most of the time. There’s us – no kids, but we do have pets. There’s some gay people, single women, a couple of bachelors, a few other couples with no kids as well and occasionally, we hang with folks who do have children. We love kids and love having them around, but let’s face it – the folks with kids aren’t running out for dinner at a moment’s notice or always available to drink wine on our patio till the wee hours of morning. They have bigger fish to fry.
So a few weeks ago, one of the gals in our group spent a day with a friend and the friend’s perfectly lovely nuclear family and came back the next day exclaiming about “normal” they were. She mentioned it about three times before I took some serious umbrage and called her on it whereupon she backed down with some lame explanation. No harm done, but it did get me thinking. For one, what does she think of herself if she was going on so blithely about someone else’s normality, and second, what the hell is normal anyway? I’m a little outside the lines, but I do think I am pretty normal and so is everyone else in my group. We all abide the law, are honest and trustworthy and try our best to be decent human beings. So we don’t have kids and a bunch of us are not allowed to be married by the archaic laws in this country, but still – we’re as boringly and blandly normal as any nuclear family around.
What’s normal for you?
I am a woman’s woman, always have been, always will be. I really value my woman to woman friendships. I love that I can find common ground with most women within five minutes or less of meeting. I am sure you are shaking your head in disbelief at my confidence, but I know that one of my few gifts in life is making and keeping friends. I know that when it comes to me, most people either love me or hate me. I am okay with that. I choose to recognize only the ones who love me! How’s that for you?
Anyway, lately I have had the most revealing and amazing conversations with two other women while we make weekly batches of lunches for some folks in Camden. One of the women is ten years younger than me. The other is probably about twenty five or thirty years older than me. I’m not ever asking her! She scares me a little in the same way my mother did. She’s a bit of a formidable character and does not show her soft side easily, but I like that. I don’t need coddling all the time. Sometimes I just want the blunt truth delivered on a cold hard slab. The younger gal is formidable too in a completely different way. We developed a language of our own almost immediately after meeting. She, like me, is working to find her meaningful way in this world and we’ve had conversations of amazing depth and also of stunning shallowness. That’s how I like my friends – serious and silly. She fits the bill. So does the old gal. Yesterday, we all talked about some very deep stuff and were able to really share some amazingly intimate stuff. We laughed and one and a half of us cried. Not the old gal. She ain’t shedding any tears anytime soon which is not to say she is unfeeling. She’s just of a different generation, the one where stiff upper lips were the part of the landscape. I like that she doesn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve, just as I like that me and the other gal do.
I’ve never really gotten it when I have heard women say stuff like “I like men so much better” or “I don’t trust women.” What the hell is that all about? What a sad commentary on your relationship to others when you state that you don’t trust an entire gender, particularly one to whom you belong!
I love men too by the way. But it’s different with women. And I’m glad about that.
We’ve become very close with our neighbors Jill and John over the past five years. Jill and I have particularly bonded since she became pregnant two years ago and had their daughter Josie in February of 2010. Even though she is twenty years younger than I am, we found a lot of common ground. It was an easy smart woman-to-smart woman relationship, two liberal hippie peas in a pod kind of deal. When John was offered a really great opportunity in Dallas, Texas, they had to take it, leaving us very sad to see them and their beautiful, spirited bright baby drive away from our street for the last time. Fingers are crossed for whoever moves into their house, but I simply cannot imagine feeling about them as I did about Jill, John and Josie.
I’m a kid of the sixties and seventies. I came of age when many of us were running around fresh faced, without make-up or any artifice. I’m always shocked at the war paint that young girls so happily don. For me, putting on make-up, keeping it on and refreshed and then taking it off is akin to human torture. Most of my life, I’ve been attractive enough to pull that look off much of the time except when doing something special and then I am just like the rest of my sex, in front of the mirror, crazily gussying up. One of my favorite song lyrics is from “Wild Night” by Van Morrison where he says “All the girls walk by dressed up for each other”. Van the Man is dead on with that assessment!
So, it’s funny that I am now a slave to my hairdresser and her magic potion of hair dye which is supposed to rinse away all my grays like rain on a chalked street. I tell myself that it’s worth the exorbitant amount of money NOT to look like an old hag. Plus, I simply cannot deal with the glares of my good friend Joanna, who puts herself together impeccably every day and is absolutely appalled at my lack of general grooming! She’s always trying to get me to go for a pedicure, a manicure and all sorts of waxing procedures that generally scare the daylights out of me! You want to apply hot wax to my privates and then rip it off – no sirree bob – the hair stays! Between us, I find it slightly creepy that men are very attracted to women who do so much pubic primping. ‘Nuff said! Different strokes and all that.
Lately, I’ve been applying make-up and getting rave reviews all around. My husband Chris likes it, but he likes my unadorned face too. Needless to say, Joanna loves it. The gays love it. My sisters love it. So now, at this advanced age, I’m wearing a bit more make-up. I still hate the whole ritual, but I love when someone tells me I look good. Can that be a bad thing?
Chris and I have had a long running joke about who would get which friends in the case of a divorce between us. Yes, that’s us – fighting about the division of the spoils even before there is any acrimony in the marriage! We think we’ve got it figured out – you basically get to keep the people you came with. For me, that really works out – I get almost everyone in the United States, but poor Chris is left standing with everyone an ocean away in Europe. I want his friend Lise, who after all these years, really should be mine, but he’s not having any of it. I guess I have to give her up, but it breaks my heart.
Two of our very dear friends have recently parted ways and we’re left wondering how to deal with both of them. I met them as a couple years ago and am very sad about this development though not shocked at all given their on-again off-again romance. They were part of our core group and it makes Saturday night dinners at our place a minefield. What do you do when this happens? There’s really no blueprint. She and I recognize how simpatico we are. We’ve become close over the past ten years, but I adore him and his completely irreverent and silly attitude towards life. He’s a decent guy who could be called on at any hour for anything and he’d be up for it. Loyal. So I feel pushed and pulled even though he is doing the extremely diplomatic thing by retreating on his own and leaving us for her.
Now another couple we know seems to be teetering on the edge and I’m not sure which way this will go. I want to just shake them and say “Buck up!” because it would the best thing for me, but that wouldn’t really be the best action to take. Still, it shakes your life up when a longstanding couple decides to go their separate ways. It makes me uneasy because then I begin to question my own seemingly solid relationship and see fissures where previously there were none. But that’s normal, I suppose. I’m hoping so at least.
A friend of mine who I met on the internet when I was blogging on Google about my whole expat experience in Germany has inspired me to get back on the blog wagon. Like me, she dropped her blog but perhaps not as unceremoniously as I did. When she resurfaced, she decided to make an entirely new go of it and she has inspired me to do the same.
Part of my problem with the old blog is that I never felt comfortable sharing certain things because of my audience. Until I can wrestle with that issue, I’m only going to share this blog with a few trustworthy and nonjudgmental folks who aren’t overly invested in my past.