Category Archives: Friendship

My Forgotten Friend and Me

By now you must know, I don’t have much sympathy for people who get married and fall off the face of the planet. Let’s redefine “planet.” I don’t mean people who get married and stop going to parties every Thursday or Saturday night; I don’t mean people who get married and stop going to Shabbat meals with 20 people – these meals are generally made by singles, and if married people aren’t invited, I can’t hold it against them. I’m not even talking about people who get married and move out of Jerusalem – I can’t expect them to travel in all the time!

But I can expect them to pick up the phone. The people who don’t pick up the phone are the ones I have no tolerance for. Those that don’t go out at all, even with small groups of friends or one-on-one, because they feel the need to be home with their spouse every night. People who become completely absorbed in their spouse, so that they make efforts for his or her friends and family, but neglect their own. I understand it might be in the name of shalom bayit, of wanting to please your new partner, hey, maybe it’s even in the name of love. Whatever it is, it’s no excuse. (And might I add, though I’m no psychologist, it seems unhealthy.)

Where has my passion against these people come from? Obviously, my own experience! Interestingly enough (to me, at least), I wasn’t burned by a married friend when I was single; it happened once I was married myself. And perhaps because I took such efforts to keep in touch with my single friends once I got married, the burn stung so much more.

I was going to use this as an opportunity to vent. To go through the whole sordid story of my friend who got married and dropped off the planet and blahblahblah.
But I’ve decided to take a different path.

I’ve decided that instead of focusing on the hurt this friend has caused me, should look inwards. I’ve patted myself on the back that after I got married, I maintained contact with my single friends. That I went out at nights despite being tired, made phone calls and Shabbat meals and put forward my strength when I felt that I had no strength left in order to maintain friendships.

But have I really been all that great? Have I really made the efforts I think I did? What about old roommates who I’ve lost touch with? Sure, we were never great friends to begin with, but we did live together. We knew the intimacies of each other’s lives the way only roommates do. What have I done to maintain a connection?

What about my friends and family in America? The time difference makes it super-difficult for me to call since I’m exhausted at night, and besides, during the day there they are working. So I don’t talk to them as much as I’d like. But maybe I can make more of an effort?

And I, who pride myself on hosting friends for Shabbat meals – can it be that in my two years of marriage, I’ve never left someone out? Never made someone feel bad that I invited him and not her?

I’m only human. Of course I’ve made mistakes. Of course I’ve hurt people unintentionally. So instead of focusing on the hurt I’ve endured from my forgotten friend, maybe I should focus on being more considerate myself. On not thinking that I’ve got a great handle on prioritizing and I know how to maintain relationships and blahblahblah. The truth is, pregnancy and post-partum adjustment were hard for me; maybe I think I was making monumental efforts to be in touch with friends when in reality, they were minimal efforts but only seemed monumental to me because each phone call and each outing after birth was a personal victory.

But like I said, I’m only human. As humans, we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and generally vindicate ourselves in our minds. We blame the other person. And even though I do believe my forgotten friend is in the wrong, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take this opportunity as a wake-up call to examine my own actions.

Did I mention I’m an orthodox Jew? 🙂

If not, I mention it now because what I’m writing might sound like mussar, since the idea of examining your actions is pretty popular in orthodox theology. But I think that whether you’re religious or not, it actually makes sense. I can nurse the hurt I feel and let bitterness grow inside of me, or, to be trite, I can take the lemons life has offered me and add some sugar or Splenda, and have lemonade! Of course, easier said than done (especially in this country, where Splenda is scarce).

But I think it’s worth a try.

By the way, I’m not advocating “turn the other cheek” theology either. I believe in the validity of hurt feelings, and that, if you can’t get over these feelings, confrontation is the way to go. Maybe this is exactly because I’m an orthodox Jew, and the Torah says, “Don’t hold a grudge in your heart.” Of course, the Torah also warns against hurting another person with words, so the words in these confrontations need to carefully thought out (and I can’t say I’ve been all that eloquent). But again – why be consumed by bitterness? You’re the only one who will suffer in the end (I say to myself).

Whether confrontation works is a different story. In my tale, it didn’t. That’s what made it all the more heartbreaking. That’s why I’ve been haunted by this question of friendship, what it means, what happens when people grow apart, and so on. That’s also why I’m trying another tack. Trying to use this opportunity to grow as a person. Whether I succeed or not will be a different story.

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LaLa Land

In the aftermath of my realization that couples with kids are not welcome at mixed meals – i.e., meals with singles and couples without kids, I am left with a dilemma.

 

 

Since I’ve been married (about two years), I’ve invested a lot of time in my single friends. Pushing myself to go out in the evenings when tired (pregnant and tired I mean. I’ve been pregnant for 16 out of the past 22 months), inviting them for Shabbat meals (which is really no effort, but it entails a decision to be conscious and aware when planning my week), phoning to say when I’d be in their neighborhood for Shabbat (by my in-laws) and planning to meet up – you get the idea.

 

But after having been “dissed” by one of our regular Shabbat guests, who made a meal, invited many of our friends but neglected to invite us, a slow, creeping fear arose in my mind.

 

Have I been investing in friends who don’t want to be invested in?

 

 

Let me explain. I’ve taken pride in the fact that I’ve kept in touch with most of my single friends; but maybe this pride is just foolishness. Maybe I’ve been foisting myself upon these friends against their will! What else can explain the one-sidedness that I’ve realized, upon deeper contemplation, exists in many of my friendships? The one-sidedness of me making phone calls, initiating conversations, creating “excuses” to hang out while not experiencing the same in return?

 

Let me explain further. While I was insulted by my friend’s exclusive Shabbat meal, I generally don’t expect return meal invites. I’m not in the business of inviting friends for Shabbat so I can get a free meal back. As I mentioned in my previous post, we invite a lot of people over who we know will never invite us back. Why not? It’s not because we’re not pleasant (at least I don’t think so). No, mostly it’s because our guests are yeshiva boys, or people who don’t have much money, or friends with roommates and small apartments who rarely, if ever, host. When we invite friends from other neighborhoods and they do invite us back, we usually can’t go because it’s too far for me to walk (remember, pregnant pregnant pregnant!)

 

So when I say that I don’t get the same return from these friends, I’m not talking about meals. I’m not talking about birthday or baby presents. I’m talking about effort. I’m talking about being the one to initiate something; a phone call, a Facebook message, an invite to hang out or to come over on Shabbat – not for a meal, but just to hang out.

 

In the past, I was never insulted at being the initiator – I’ve been on the other side, the single side, the side where you think to yourself, “It’s her (insert name of married friend) job to call me; she needs to prove that she hasn’t fallen off the face of the planet. I’m the same me, it’s her that’s different.” So I took it upon myself to initiate, and didn’t think twice about it, until now.

 

I mean, it’s been two years! Shouldn’t my friends have gotten the hint by now that I haven’t disappeared, that I still like hanging out with them, that I’m still the same me?

 

And I worry. If they don’t understand by now, will they ever? Or will they continue to make Shabbat meals and not invite me (and my husband)? While my husband is in parenthesis, he should probably be bolded and highlighted. He’s the reason for this, after all. Him and my baby girl. (Please read sarcasm. I obviously wouldn’t give up my husband or daughter for all the friends in the world.)

 

My conclusion must be, I suppose, that I’m living in LaLa Land.

 

 

Of course I’ve changed in the eyes of my single friends. I have a husband and a kid, with another on the way! So even though I feel like the same me, to outside eyes, I’m in a different world. And let’s be honest – even though I might feel like the same me, I don’t do the same things I used to do. While during my first pregnancy I made plans to go out on Thursday or Saturday nights, for drinks (Diet Coke for me), to movies, to parties – now that I’m a mother and pregnant, I’m usually home at nights. Sure, I make an effort for birthdays or special occasions, and I try to supplement my evening absences with phone calls, but that’s not the same (especially since I’m not much of a phone person). I’m not the friend who they can call to be a “wingman” or to go see the latest movie. And sure, I try to make plans during afternoons or on Shabbat, but most people work in the afternoons, and are not always home for Shabbat. My schedule often isn’t in sync with those of my friends. And out of sight, out of mind. Why should these friends make more than the occasional effort to adjust to my schedule?

 

The answer is obvious: that’s what friends do, they make efforts for each other. And since that’s not my experience, I’m forced to say that either a. We were never such great friends to begin with or b. That’s life, and people grow apart.

 

I can work on accepting either of the two. But it’s this clincher that kills me; the realization that in all likelihood, they’d like to let these friendships fade and I’m stubbornly holding onto something that they just want to release. That maybe, we have nothing in common anymore. Maybe I should let go. Give up gracefully. Maybe I’ve been so busy trying to hold on to these friendships, that I’ve missed the writing on the wall – the writing that says they’re just not that into me. Our friendship had a nice run, now it’s time to move on.

 

Maybe.

 

Or maybe I’ve just experienced a few consecutive discouragements, but shouldn’t let them get me down. Maybe I should keep on trying.

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Married People Have Feelings Too!

There’s an idea in the single community that once a friend gets married, he or she falls off the face of the planet. I know this idea very well – I believed it for a long time.

When I was single, if a friend of mine got married, in my mind I said goodbye. What did she need me for now that she had a husband? After all, a husband was the ultimate goal – once you achieved it, how could you possibly be lacking anything? How could anything else deem to find its way into your life when a husband, the sought-after prize that every girl dreams of, is meant to fill your life so completely?

Then I got married. And don’t get the wrong idea – my husband is great and I love him – but boy was I thrown through a loop when I realized that marriage had not magically transformed me into a self-sufficient, self-contained wife to the exclusion of all my other identities – friend, daughter, sister, colleague. I was still the same me, with the same emotions and idiosyncrasies, the same me that wanted my friends to be part of my life. Because, contrary to my previous notions, husbands do not create vacuums that suck out all else; instead, a husband is a wonderful addition to the already existing universe of your life. But a husband can’t replace girl-talk-friends, shopping-friends, going-out-for-coffee-or-a-drink-friends. Who else would I invite for Shabbat meals if not friends?

Not to say that I don’t understand how it can happen – how someone can get married and simply disappear. The beginning can be very overwhelming. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, budgeting (all the fun things you didn’t have to do while you were dating) plus making time to talk and have real fun (the way you used to when you were dating) all take enormous amounts of time and energy.

Then there’s your husband’s friends and family – your world has virtually doubled in size, rapidly. So I understand how you could be overwhelmed and accidentally neglect those friends who worked so hard to organize your engagement party, mitpachat or bachelorette party, Shabbat Kallah and Sheva Brachot.

Not to mention if you’re working full time, which I was. Not to mention if you get pregnant very soon after being married, which I did. All these things mean adjustment, and so, the first year I was married, I found myself checking my husband’s schedule before planning coffee or dinner with a friend. I waited till he was on the phone before I made my own “just saying hi” calls. I had a new best friend, and it was natural to want to spend as much time with him as possible.

But even though I now had a new center around which to arrange my activities, I made a point of keeping in touch with my single friends. Not from a place of superiority, i.e., “I feel so bad that you’re not married that I must shine my lovingkindness upon you.” Not at all. If anything, I was grateful to my friends for still hanging out with me, since I was very familiar with the feeling of “You’re married, why should I bother investing in you?”

A few friends of mine espoused this ideology. At least, I assume that’s what was behind the sudden one-sidedness of our relationships. Or maybe they thought, “Why should I bother with her, she might give me a few minutes, but ultimately she’ll be focusing on her ‘couple friends.’” Well, my husband and I do have “couple friends,” but why should “couple friends” and single friends be mutually exclusive? Whatever the reasoning, it felt like I was constantly chasing these friends; initiating phone calls, text messages, Gchats, Whatsapps, you know, utilizing all technological means available. Sometimes they responded, sometimes they didn’t. Usually they didn’t have time. When I texted one friend asking if she wanted to meet for coffee, she wrote back, “Sorry, too busy.” No offer of a rain check, no smiley face. Offended at first, I learned to laugh things like this off. What else could I do? I mean, everyone’s busy, but the point of friends is that you make time for them!

Luckily, most of my friends weren’t like that. I called them, made plans to meet up, and we all appreciated it. After calling a specific friend a few weeks in a row “just to say hi,” she said to me, “I’m so happy – you haven’t disappeared!” I was quite pleased with myself – this was exactly my goal!

But as time moved on, it became more difficult to stay on top of things. Pregnancy made me nervous, it made me fat, it made me want to stay at home in bed and sleep, read, relax and spend quiet evenings with my husband while I still could (as veteran parents felt compelled to smugly warn me when they saw my protruding belly). Still, there was Shabbat, and that meant cooking, which I enjoyed, and having friends over, which I enjoyed even more.

We invited different guests every time, but we had our “regulars.” You know, friends of ours who lived nearby, who always appreciated the invite and who we appreciated having, so why not invite them and make us all happy?

I also remembered what it was like to be single and to have to worry about Shabbat meals. How an invitation can bring such a wave of relief. No matter how popular you are or how many friends you have, everyone appreciates a Shabbat meal invitation.

Then I had a baby. And let me tell you, being an overwhelmed new mother on no sleep is not the best recipe for a super-social person.

Still, my friends surprised me by making meals that lasted us for weeks – I was touched by all the love and food people were throwing my way. I was also validated – all my efforts at maintaining my friendships had really worked – my friends were still there for me!

A month after I gave birth, we were back to hosting Shabbat meals. Shabbat remained a bastion of the old normalcy in my new “abnormal” life, and it remained the best and only time to leave the craziness of the week and to sit down in nice, spit-up free clothes with good friends and good food.

The week was a different story; my phone calls lapsed, and my going out ceased completely, except for short excursions to meet my grandmother for coffee. So I tried keeping up with friends through texts and emails. This way, I could maintain some sort of connection even though I wasn’t feeling up to talking. It took a few months, but I slowly started coming back to myself, adjusting to my new “normal,” and my phone calls increased, as did my going out.

But who am I kidding? I’m not the friend I used to be. How can I be? Pregnant again, with an infant at home, I’m exhausted by the end of the day and go to sleep early (except on special occasions, like friends’ birthdays, engagement parties, housewarmings, etc.). And once you don’t go out on Thursday or Saturday nights, once you don’t go to the Chanukah and Yom Ha’Atzmaut parties, the Wine and Beer Festivals, the big Shabbat lunches with twenty people, you begin to fade from people’s radars.

Maybe not your good friends’ radars. But there are those other people, you know, the ones you really like but for some reason the friendship never took off from the superficial level, but you still really enjoyed seeing at Shabbat meals, parties, barbeques and who you really want to get to know better? Well, those people disappeared. Because my table can only fit a certain number of people, and when I had a choice of who to invite for Shabbat, I chose my closer friends, not to mention that my husband also has friends – so I never really got a chance to invite these other people, even though I wanted to. And they certainly were not inviting me. Because once you’re married, you’re not really singles’ table material. And with a kid? Forget about it.

I didn’t really understand this until a few weeks ago. One of our “regulars” never made Shabbat meals. And so, I never expected to get a return invite, which is fine – most of our “regulars” don’t make meals and we’re happy just having them over. Except that recently, this person did make a meal, and invited pretty much all my friends, except me. I was quite hurt when I found out about it (and how would I not find out about it – all my friends were there!). Even though most of the invited guests were single, there was a couple as well. And despite my best efforts at giving without expecting returns – well, come on, I’m only human, and I couldn’t help but think: Why did they merit an invitation and not us? When I vented about this to a different friend of mine, she said to me, “It’s not personal. It’s because you have a baby.”

The more I think about it, the more logical it is. Who wants a couple with a baby at their meal cramping everyone’s style? What if the baby makes a mess, cries, spits up, or worst, poops? Moreover, why should my husband and I be invited when we have each other, and there are other people who don’t have anyone? I understand these thoughts.

But it doesn’t make it less hurtful.

So yes, it is possible for married people to disappear, to fall off the face of the planet, to write-off their single friends – but single friends can do the same to their married friends. It’s a two-way street. I believe the main onus lies on the married; it’s our job to make single friends know that they are loved, wanted and that their worth is not determined by whether they’re married or not. But still, for all my single ladies out there – this is just a reminder that married people have feelings too, and we hope you give us a chance at continuing our friendships!

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