Sure, thanks to cell phones, emails, and Facebook, I don’t miss them nearly as much as I would have a 100 years ago when we could have only sent written correspondence that would take a week or more to deliver. Keeping in touch now is much more convenient and economical. But still, Skyping doesn’t replace sitting next to them on the couch, sipping a glass of wine, and laughing together. Or crying together. And I can’t do that from 800 miles away.
And I miss that they know me. Really know me. Know that I’m sarcastic, opinionated, and bawdy. Now that I am passionate about important things and irrelevant things like which peanut butter is the best. That I have the best intentions despite having a propensity for putting my foot in my mouth. That I love gossip, but not in a mean spirited way. That I often need to bitch and complain, just to get things off my chest before I can get any clarity on the situation. That I’m a loyal friend, but I also believe in being honest even though I know it’d be easier to just tell you what you want to hear. They know that I can be unintentionally judgmental, and they help me work on changing that about myself.
With them, I don’t have to act smarter than I am. Or to censor myself. Act more pious. Or polite. Or wittier. Or more informed. I can be exactly who I am, and they love me and accept me just for that. I feel safe and unjudged.
As a married mother/adult living in a university town, I have found it very hard to make friends. Sure, I have some wonderful acquaintances, but that is all they are. Nice people that I exchange pleasantries with in social situations.
How are you?
I’m great. How are you?
How is the family? Good?
That’s terrific! Man this weather is beautiful/terrible/crazy/unexpected.
Yes, isn’t it? But that is Indiana for you.
True. Well, it was good to see you.
Awesome, it was good to see you, too.
But for one reason or another it never seems to go past this very superficial level into any more meaningful relationships.
Part of the problem is that because this is a university town, most people I meet seem to see their time here as temporary. Just a bookmark in their life until they move on to their real jobs, their real homes, their real lives. They don’t seem interested in putting much effort into making good friends here, since they themselves are only here on loan until they finish their degrees or find permanent positions elsewhere. And I will admit, back when I lived here as a graduate student in the early 2000s, I was the same way.
The other problem is that when you were young, it didn’t take much to establish a connection. You thought they were fun and funny and they thought the same about you. But now, you might like her but your husband doesn’t care for him. Or your husbands get along but you and she have nothing to talk about. Or you both like the couple, but you can’t stand their kid and don’t really want them around your kids. Or worse…they don’t have kids, so they just can’t understand your schedule and why you always turn down their invitations to go meet for drinks at 9:00 pm on a school night.
Superman doesn’t seem as phased about not having friends as I am. Honestly, between having me and his parents nearby…he seems quite content with all of his acquaintances. But I want, no, I NEED some girlfriends! And not the kind I can only reach out and touch through a keyboard, but the fleshy kind. The kind that will show up at my house unannounced on a Saturday and sit and drink a cup of hot chocolate with me while we watch the kids play in the snow in the backyard. The kind that we have a monthly game night with, when you bring the kids’ pajamas, because you know the fun will go way past their bedtime.
Oh, and not to be too picky, but I want one that mothers similar to me. Someone that doesn’t feed their kids McDonald’s at every meal, but doesn’t think Ronald McDonald is the devil either. Someone who doesn’t put coke in their one year old’s sippy cup, but doesn’t feed them only organic seaweed juice. Someone who believes in discipline, but also believes that children are children and that 4 year olds shouldn’t be expected to conform to adult standards of politeness and properness. Someone who doesn't chronically read parenting advice books. Someone who I can ask parenting advise from, but isn’t offended if I don’t take it. A mother who is realistic about their love for their child, and doesn’t insist that they are god’s gift to the world and they poop skittles and rainbows. A mother who likes spending time with her children, not one who always wants to do “just girls” things because she is desperate to get away from them at every opportunity.
I know my list is not unreasonable. I know this, because I know these women. And if this were a perfect world, I’d live next door to them in Virginia Beach and still have my amazing in-laws living just 45 minutes away.
But until then, I can just say:
Dear Santa Claus,
Please, please, please bring me a friend this year. I’ve been very good all year and I think I deserve it.
P.S. She must believe in Santa Claus.