Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Can't Complain But Sometimes I Still Do

My wife and I got together with her girlfriend Kris and her girlfriend's husband in Harvard Square this weekend. We all have kids, but they have parents that gladly take the kids for the night. We have a babysitter, a cute teenager--on her way to a very nice and prestigious college in the area--upon whom both the boys have a major crush.

Finding friends as couples is such a hard thing to do. There is always a pairing that doesn't fit. Kris's husband has no personality at all. Once the obligatory talk of work is past, there is nothing left to talk about. Kris used to bitch about her husband to my wife, and they both had a good laugh about him. But Kris has pulled back, saying that things are better now with a dramatically brave face; and we know now to avoid the subject.

When anyone asks me about my work, far from going into major expository, I say "Couldn't be better." When pressed, I say that I'm a computer programmer. That usually shuts them up. When pressed further, I say that I work on web applications that provide dynamic content. That usually shuts them up. But, when pressed further, I lay out a scrolling space list of all the technologies I've ever known or heard about. That always shuts them up.

What we need, my wife and I, is someone we like to spend time with. Good friends are hard to find. If you have them, I urge you to recognize the miracle. What happened to me? I've turned inward, focusing on this blog, on writing at lunch, on mowing the grass and cleaning the pool, on reading books, catching up on shows.

I stepped out of my car this morning and opened the back door to retrieve my backpack. A beat up Mazda at the other end of the parking lot, fifty yards or so from me, beeped its horn at a few of the cleaning staff that were arriving too, walking to work as they do every morning. The girls wore tight Capri jeans and white tank tops. I often imagine what they do for fun on weekends, because they are always smiling and animated with one another. The car beeped its horn and the driver popped out. The girls screamed and hugged the man who stepped out, like one would greet a brother who has just come back safe from the war. While one was kissing his face, the other ran off and got a few more of the ladies. Soon our Latin Casanova had four ladies in his entourage as he strutted with a gait that could not be mistaken for anything but pride.

I leaned against my car and smiled, unashamed when one of the girls saw me looking. She smiled back.

But I will not let my own gifts in this life be diminished. I almost forgot my gym bag before I left for work, so I snuck back up the stairs. The kids had since woken and were in the computer room. My two year old stood next to his big brother, who was sitting on the chair. "I want to sit on your lap Jackson," Emmett said. Jackson rolled back and swiveled toward him and opened his arms. When I looked again, after I had gotten the bag from my room, Emmett was perched and chattering atop Jackson's lap, with Jackson's arm around him.


Jaye Wells said...

Ah, the old couple-friend conundrum. It's frustrating. The worst is the anticipation when you meet someone new. They seem so cool. Will they like us? Will we vacation together? Will our kids grow up to be best friends?

Then they turn out to be assholes, and you're back to feeling like a loser.

The Jackson-Emmett story was sweet. Those kind of moments make it all worth it--usually.

Flood said...

We've got couple-friend troubles too. Our best couple friends are gay men who love football. Not the good kind of gay in which I can discuss hair and shoes.


I hope Jackson and Emmett will always be so close.

Jada's Gigi said...

Good friends are SO hard to find!...Especially the couple thing that ends up working for everyone...almost non-existent in this day where most of haven't lived in our hometowns in 20+ yrs. and even family is hard to come by.
I wish you well on that one...but you could be a bit more forthcoming in your conversation, then maybe they'd talk back...:)

Your little guys are precious!

Writing Blind said...

What a sweet story. It's a trade-off, I guess, when you get married and have kids. You lose some benefits but you gain others. And it's hard to find one person you can be friendship-compatible with, let alone two.

Tee said...

I loved this post because I really identify with the problem of finding "couple friends".

We don't have any because we have so many requirements and hurdles.

First most couples are age are just now having babies or have no children at all. We have an 8 and almost 5 year old already. (We want a couple with children their age so they can play.)

Then there's the fact that both my husband and I are shy and anti-social. LOL... I only look for friends because I feel lonely and know it's not healthy to have any. My husband is content to not have a single friend in the whole world.

They should create something like a dating service for couples to find other couples.

I just read an article a few weeks ago about the "changing face of friendship" (wish I could find it). It isn't just you and it isn't just me. It's a major issues for nearly everyone. Part is blamed on computers, of course, but other things in society have changed, too. Friendship just isn't the same.

I'm also reading a book right now called, Friendship An Expose, by Joseph Epstein.

I loved your description of how you talk about your work. And the story about the cleaning staff.

I've witnessed similar situations - especially with the latina women. I often feel jealous at how easily they bond. (Remember my MIL is one of them.)

My only comfort is knowing that they viciously backstab each other. Of course, I can't say this of all Latinas but my MIL would appear to have 20 great friends on the surface, but they aren't really. They all gossip about each other, fight with each other and dislike one another. LOL.

When I actually went to El Salvador I was really struck by how perfect strangers would just start talking to each other and become friends. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Either way, it makes that "friend void" I have feel that much emptier.

Friendship is such a stressful thing here in the US. There are obligations to keep up with - there's maintenance that's expected. I don't know if I even have the energy for it now with a husband and 2 kids.

It's an interesting topic which deserves a part II, in my opinion :D

Loved the ending about your boys. It's so nice when they get along. And siblings can be the bestest (lol) friends ever. I know my 2 sisters are mine.

mainiax said...

my husband and I have the same problem around here. Alot of our friends are single or have no kids so they can go out whenever they want after awhile they just stop asking us to go. Hey we are only a couple of hours away want to hook up with us.:)

Bernita said...

This is familiar.
One problem we found as a young couple - we'd be getting along like a house on fire then either the couple would break-up out of the blue or one of them would put the make on one of us.
Some people's definition of "friendship" is dilluted, casual and social.
If one defines it as a relationship where you'd go to the wall for that person and count on the same in return, then your selection/choice of friends is dramatically and automatically reduced.

Scott said...

Jaye - I'm careful not to let a failed friendship reflect on my feelings about myself. There are too many variables. Still, I know what you mean.

Flood - Funny, I once asked a gay man what the score of the game was, and his eyes shot venom darts at me. The gall of me!

Cheryl - It should be noted that I understand that I am part of the equation. Someone who is not interesting is someone who probably feels the same about me.

Rebecca - You nailed it. Sometimes I really like the other wife, but the two ladies hate one another. Somtimes we just miss.

Tee - Thanks for such a thoughtful reply. My wife probably has some tendencies to stay close to home and not worry about other people, but lately she is of the same mind that life is about friendship. Let me know on that link if you find it. As far as siblings go, I felt a surge of pride that the two of them sat together. Reminded me of the few unguarded moments I've shared with my own siblings. I tell my oldest all the time that he will someday appreciate that he had a little brother.

Mainiax - That's the worst! We had friends like that--completely disowned us until they had kids of their own. Which was extra sweet, because they recognized what back turners they were and were sorry.

Bernita - Need I say more? That is way more trouble than I've ever been through. I would like to have a friend that has my back. I had that once upon a time, and let it all go for a disagreement with one of the group. I don't think I made a mistake, but I did what I did. I don't hold any new relations to that standard, but I do hope to someday find it again, and preempt any problems of the nature I have endured.

fringes said...

I really enjoyed this post. When/if I get back to my blog, I think I shall respond to it there. Bravo on going back in to get the gym bag. Some of us would have used the forgottenness as a sign that we weren't supposed to work out that day.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I think I'm missing something here..

Where does the Latin lothario fit in?

Am I being naive?

Scott said...

Erica - Some of us are reminded by shortness of breath and widening midsection that it's time to quit making excuses.

Toast - The idea is that he is adored by a bunch of people, ie, he has friends. Nobody is jumping up and down glad to see me when I show up anywhere anymore. Sort of.

magnetbabe said...

Wow! I'm relieved to see so many people have this issue. Dean and I met in college so we initially shared a lot of our friends. But as we grew together we also grew apart from them. The guy friends he has maintained seem to now be with women that I have no idea how to talk to. The other problem is that I have mostly guy friends so going out with their SO's as a foursome ends up tense because Dean and the other girl end up feeling jealous that their partners are so connected. So for the most part Dean and I have a somewhat active social life- separate from each other. The closest we've come to having another couple we like is my college roommate and her fiance. But they're in Minnesota so that sucks. And, as we get older we're finding it's much easier to just stay home and be anitsocial. Thanks for writing about this, I'm glad to know I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have utterly struck out in the couple friends department. Utterly.

Moni said...

Well you read how my attempt at couplehood friends went. But then again there is no law saying that you have to have friends as a couple. You've got your wife, who's your best friend and she's got you. Then you've got friends by yourselves, so don't stress out if you don't have "couple" friends.

Does that make sense? Probably not.

Your boys seem like wonderful mini people, that's a testament to their parents. :)

Valannin said...

Conversely, you have someone like me is repeatedly thrust into social situations where I am the only single one there. Everything I ever wanted to know about marital bliss I learned from watching my once-cool friends now talk and interact like my parents. And strangely enough, many of my friends have married each other. Still, that was no consolation; They have become distinctly and completely devoid of all individuality and have transformed themselves into a "Couple", a singular entity capable of droning on and on about their remodeled kitchen in a singsong voice until you run screaming from the bar...

Tee said...

Scott - I can't find the exact article but all the articles about "American social isolation" and "Americans report fewer friends" are based on the same Duke university study.

Here's one of the articles:

Lonely Nation at CNN.com

Claire said...

Finding a friend for ourselves is so hard and rare, that finding them in tandem to match ourselves in tandem is exceedingly hard! Lately, my boyfriend has decided it's time to fish or cut bait in our relationship and that's one problem we're having is finding people we both enjoy hanging with and that make us both feel comfortable.

Anonymous said...

We don't even try. My husband is anti-social and I have a handful of friends that I've had for years. He gets along well with all of them. After ten years we've figured out a rhythm. I go out and socialise and he stays home. Works for both of us. Might become an issue when/if we have kids, but probably not. He'll be my babysitter while I continue my social life.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I suspect they are on the inside, Scott.

Not everyone likes to make a show of it.

Scott said...

Nat - Very interesting. I didn't realize what a common occurance this is amongst couples. We are close with two couples in California, which doesn't help us around here. Still, it's nice they are out there.

Jason - Sounds like a post in the making, if you care to share something so personal.

Moni - Having your spouse is not enough in life, in my opinion. Life lived well for me is about being part of something larger.

Valannin - Ooh, this might be impetus for another post. I am a hundred percent with you. What can be more boring to a single guy than the mundane banter of a married couple, especially one with kids? Believe me, I've been there, and totally understand. That's the tragedy. Once you've crossed over, you can't blame your single friends for dropping you.

Tee - Thanks for the link. I'll read it and probably post what I think.

Scott said...

Claire - Welcome to the jungle baby. There is something to be said about finding a mate with similar interests.

Amra - Hey, as long as he isn't holding you back then more power to the both of you. I tend to let my wife figure out who she likes and try them on for size.

Toast - Thanks. I'm oversimplifying, as I do have a great many friends that are glad to hear from me. I've become a boring married guy however, and don't have as big an upside anymore.