By Lauren D. Weinstein
Bette Midler belts out, “You gotta have friends!” but what do you do when you realize they lack balance and no longer serve you or your lifestyle?
Most of my friends are married, have children and some work outside the home, as well. I am a single freelancer and I am not a parent. Being a wife and mother definitely has a different set of responsibilities and priorities.
I’ve noticed that maintaining these friendships has become frustrating, exhausting and, frankly, apparently on life support. I totally understand that these friendships, realistically, are not able to be the way they used to…they dwindle due to a difference in investment of time and energy.
I nostalgically miss the days when my gal pals were each other’s “go-to”, with seemingly endless conversations on the phone, when we all were single and calling each other up to ruminate, lament our romantic relationships—or lack thereof—giving intricate details about disastrous blind dates, Bumble swiping, rehearsing break up speeches, sexual escapades, (who got the crabs on vacation from the hot guy in Club Med, or who’s anxiously reading the pregnancy results from Clear Blue Easy), pep talks, career advice, navigating family dramas, struggles with the Keto diet, sharing beauty tips from Botox to boob jobs, and which psychic to consult.
Our conversations are now sound bites, prefaced with: “I only have a minute! Sorry, I can’t talk...I have five minutes before I have to take Suzy to band practice. I’ll call you back later…I promise!” (Which is actuality is six months from now.) Unfortunately, it’s a case of good intentions and bad follow through.
Daily conversations soon became weekly—then monthly, or not at all—unless I reached out.
Being the single one meant I was the one trekking to New Jersey or Long Island for a get-together (meeting me half-way would be in Staten Island, G-d forbid), the assumption that it was easier for me, since I didn’t have to pick up kids from school and take to soccer or to a play date…or cook dinner...pick up Fido from the groomer or plan the upcoming fundraiser.
I would hear them lament endlessly that they had no time to spare for themselves (let alone me!), how play dates with other moms meant Pinot Grigio drunk secretly from sippy cups.
The only time I seem to get a call or text is when they need beauty advice, or to happily tell me that their daughter got engaged, or sadly share the loss of a parent, or they have last-minute tickets to a show that their husband doesn’t want to see—then they are able to find me.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am grateful to receive these calls. The calls are rarely to commit to an actual plan or time carved out to connect and spend time together.
(Whatever did happen to that girls’ weekend we vowed to take for the last 10 years?)
Excuse me, am I not busy? Being single means it’s all on you. There isn’t anyone to pick up your laundry when you are stuck in rush hour traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway—I guess I will have to wear the same sweaty underwire bra two days in a row. If the car needs to be shoveled out from under a foot of frozen snow, there isn’t a “strong man” to dig it out. If I am sick with the flu, I crawl to the doctor, runny nose and sore throat in tow, and make my own Jewish penicillin. On nights when I am lonely and sleep escapes me, there isn’t anyone to spoon with or wipe away tears made of fear and anxiety.
Ironically, it’s only for those monumental milestone moments in their lives that they seem to be able to reach out. When I’m invited to attend these events, it’s usually solo. I wonder…do they need to save money on the tables? Why do they choose to seat me next to their long-lost cousin from Milwaukee?
Sometimes it hits me in the gut that I just don’t feel like I belong to that group of friends anymore. We share a past and have wonderful memories. I guess for now, that’s it. It saddens me, I feel cut off from them and myself.
Friendships, if they are to flourish, need to be tended to and cultivated like a garden or the soil gets dry and it no longer produces the best fruit for consumption. I still want to lovingly water that garden but I wonder…do they?
I am a social creature, yet I find it difficult at this age to develop new friendships. How many MEET UP groups can one join? It takes a lot of effort and mental energy to show up and continue to try—courage and many deep breaths (hyperventilating, actually) to walk into a room of unfamiliar faces, put on a smiley face and strike up a friendly and benign conversation. I find these meetups to be like scanning for a prime table in the junior high school cafeteria…you want to fit in with the cool kids and fear sitting alone—or worse—with the so-called outcasts who might have cooties.
My old friendships felt so much more inviting and cozy, like my worn grey sweatpants. They always make me feel like home the minute I slip them on.
My friends have witnessed the history of my life and they know me…so it’s sad to see these once close relationships reduced and feeling empty.
I know I deserve to have friendships that are valued and reciprocal. When we do get together, on rare occasions, it is both familiar and strange.
What I find comforting about these old friendships is…it’s life-affirming to be with people that knew you when: when you wore braces, had pimples, failed your algebra exam, nabbed the lead in the school play, learned how to use a tampon, had your first kiss and were there to wipe your uncontrollable tears when your grandmother unexpectedly died. I undeniably treasure those memories.
Is it time to put them on the shelf of my memories and appreciate them for what they once were? I guess I bought into the notion that true friendships lasted forever. Perhaps they can if the parties involved are willing to show up, cultivate, accept and adjust to the changes—or it won’t survive the ebb and flow of life. I question if they were this way all along or if it’s me that has changed. Do these friendships continue as long as I make it convenient? The reality that this may be the truth doesn’t sit well with me. I am no longer willing to do all the heavy lifting in order to keep a friendship alive. Keeping healthy friendships requires communication and a mutual understanding of each other’s human limitations if we are to successfully transition through life changes that threaten friendship stability.
I am now choosing to look at my past friendships with some healthy distance while validating their purpose, undeniable influence and importance to my growth.
The beauty of friendship is that it’s a relationship I can choose to have or not. Now, as I open myself up to see what new friendships can add to this stage in my life, I feel cautiously optimistic that there are other friends out there waiting and eager to meet me halfway.
The Crush Letter
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