When Good People Aren’t Good Together

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There was a catalyst, as there always is with these things.

Six years ago, Gail told me the secret of a close friend, Camille. She was confiding in me, because said secret directly affected her, she was hurt by it, and there was no chance I’d ever be close to Camille. She shouldn’t have told me, but Camille was essentially a stranger and it didn’t matter if I knew or that said secret gave me some strong negative feelings toward her. It mattered that a friend had done something to hurt Gail and I don’t think she was unreasonable in sharing that with me.

Five years ago, after a couple of years of chatting on Facebook, Catherine called me out to a local bar and we smoked, drank, talked about guys, teased each other, and a friendship began… and what a coincidence, Catherine worked with Camille and considered her a good friend.

Three years ago, Catherine introduced me to Laura, via Facebook chat. We talked about Supernatural and Buffy and Sherlock and all our silly fandoms and another friendship developed. I eventually brought Gail along and for the last two and a half years, we’ve all been pretty close. Gail was my maid-of-honor, of course, and Catherine and Laura were my bridesmaids. In the last year, our interactions have included many of Catherine’s friends, as well… which meant Camille and I have seen more and more of each other.

When Catherine and I met, we were 25 and single and dating and thrived off of the somewhat abrasive friendship we had. I was the prude and she was the one who got around and our jokes regularly centered around this. I remember once, when Jake and I had just started dating, Catherine actually made a joke about how he’d break up with me once I was done with the Gardasil vaccine and he’d gotten laid. I’m certain I said things that were just as appalling to Catherine. It was not one-sided. We were both just kind of… mean to each other, because that’s how a lot of single women in their mid-twenties interact, today, I suppose. When Laura came along, this dynamic spread and our humor was always sarcastic and antagonistic, as a group. Gail, naturally, fit right in, since we teased each other similarly on occasion and I don’t know if any of us thought much of it.

There are a lot of problems with this dynamic. The most obvious, of course, is that when someone is offended, they’re not allowed to say anything, because they’re just as guilty of offense. Resentment builds and no one tells anyone they’ve crossed the line, so the line continues to be crossed. In time, however, another issue develops. Perhaps as a defense to take the ribbing off of each other, other people become the focus.

Catherine and I, and even Gail and I, have always talked about other people… people from high school, who we don’t know anymore, people we sort of know and follow on social media, people we don’t like who overshare. Perhaps it’s not particularly nice to do so, but I also think it’s natural when you share a history. These are people to whom we have no loyalties, though, and the topic is usually something they’ve chosen to share with the world via Facebook. Gradually, however, the conversation has shifted.

It took some time for me to remember exactly how Camille’s secret was spread. That, in itself, serves as evidence that said shift had happened some time ago and we’ve been talking about the wrong people for a while now. I remember, though. I remember we were all drinking at Catherine’s and the subject of why I didn’t like Camille had come up, with Catherine posing different theories. I told her it was a secret and I shouldn’t share and she pressed, insisting she might already know. I looked to Gail and Gail didn’t object, so I told her what I now realize was Camille’s most humiliating secret and confided that I didn’t like Camille because of how said secret affected Gail… and we all sat and gossipped about Camille’s deepest shame. I didn’t know or like Camille, but I knew that Gail and Catherine considered her a good friend and I encouraged them to discuss her private business and they eagerly participated and it wouldn’t be the last time.

I’ve always prided myself on not saying anything about someone that I wouldn’t say to them and I realize now, that I haven’t been able to claim this as sincerely in the last two years. I’ve been part of secret Facebook chats about an excluded friend. I’ve sat drinking and bad mouthing one of them, only to smile at them and tell them we’re good the next day. I’ve kept quiet when a friend said something ugly to me, only because I know I say ugly things to them… and I’ve realized that these things are only true of this one social group. I have a lot of friends… and none of the others talk to or about each other this way. The conversations revolve around ideas and things, not people… not other friends.

Individually, this is still true of Gail and Laura and Catherine. Gail and I talk about politics, sociology, hypotheticals, the ethics of veganism and the meat industry. Laura and I talk about our fandoms and books and movies. Catherine and I talk about… well, Catherine and I don’t much talk one-on-one these days, but when we did, it was shows and movies and our lives. There also isn’t an antagonistic energy to fuel cruel jokes, so they’re few and far between. Together, though… together, we hurt people. Together, we hurt Camille.

Perhaps the gossipy nature of my own birthday party a few days before Gail’s wedding had been the motivation to change my friendships. Undoubtedly the alcohol involved affected the implementation, but I felt a burgeoning friendship with Camille. I realized that she couldn’t have possibly meant to hurt Gail six years before… and I drunkenly told her so. At a wedding, Camille found out that someone she barely knew was privy to her deepest, darkest secret, and had judged her for it, however indirectly, and used it as a reason to avoid a friendship. She found out that her friend betrayed her trust and that several people knew something she’d only told four people… from someone who was too drunk to read the signals and shut up about it. I told her that we’d been talking about her and for once, I realized that it was unquestionably not okay. I absolutely should not have put her in that place… and neither should Gail. None of us ever should’ve discussed these things about her and it wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t who we are together… if the conversation didn’t so often revolve around the person who’s not present.

The outing of Camille’s secret was the catalyst. She wanted to have a Halloween party at Catherine’s and, quite reasonably, no one thinks I should be there. When Laura told me this, I dramatically deleted Catherine, Camille, and all of their mutual friends from Facebook, feeling as though I was the only one getting any blame for something that involved all of us, something that involved much better friends of hers. Catherine messaged me and told me that it would’ve just blown over and that the reason she’d ignored the last 10 messages I’d sent her in the previous month, was because I’d also made some joke about her sexual past in front of her date, saying that those jokes had always bothered her. For years, she’s not commented on this, as I’ve not commented on many of the things she’s said, because we’re stuck in this place where we can only be horrible to each other, as a collective… and we don’t really talk one-on-one anymore. We don’t feel safe setting boundaries with each other. So, while they’ve chosen not to include me in a Halloween party, I’ve chosen to no longer be included, at all. I’m sure it would’ve blown over, but that’s not what I need.

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t feel the dynamic of this group of friends is healthy. I cannot grow in this circle. We don’t challenge each other to be better people. In fact, we often look for affirmation from each other to defend poor decisions and actions. We say ugly things about other people, about each other, and then we excuse it as we laugh about how we’re all assholes. Each and every one of us is guilty of this and all I can think is that four years ago, had I looked to Gail before sharing her friend’s darkest secret, she wouldn’t have given me the nod. All I can think is that two years ago, none of us would have sat around the table at my birthday party, saying hateful things about the people who weren’t there. A year ago, I wasn’t exhausted by the level of drama involved in simply being friends with people. I don’t know how they interact without me, of course, but that’s for them to find out, because I can no longer excuse this behavior in myself.

I’m aware the reaction seems like a dramatic response to not being invited to a party, but no one realizes drastic change is in order without a catalyst. Gail is still my best gal and I’ve discussed much of this with her already. If they’re willing, I’m still interested in pursuing one-on-one relationships with Laura and Catherine. They stood by me on my wedding day and I think that’s worth the effort, but if the Girl Troupe is the only option, as it seems to have been for some time, I’m out. I can’t remember the last time we all enjoyed a drama free day together. I can’t remember a time when any one of us has shut down a catty conversation. I can’t remember the last time someone else wasn’t the topic of discussion. Good people aren’t necessarily always good together.

 

 

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How are we FINALLY happy?!?

This time last week, 15-year-old Gail was banned from all of my future youth group field trips, after our duet of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s “Let’s Make Love” in the middle of Six Flags.

Six days ago we were sophomores, sitting in the back of my pickup truck, eating Fourth Meal, before it was cool. A couple pulled up, realized their make out spot had been claimed by chubby girls eating chicken in sweats and overalls, and quickly drove away, as Gail and I laughed.

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Five days ago, Gail and I huddled together to keep her infant daughter Grace warm, when I locked us out of her apartment’s gym in 20 degree weather.

Three days ago, I sat next to Gail in the children’s ward, as we both accepted the fact that Grace would never wake up.

Two days ago, we took turns moving each other out after our divorces were finalized.

Just yesterday, we were trolling for dick at the cowboy bar and Gail was begging me to stop calling it that.

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Yet, somehow, today, we’re both 30 (or almost for Gail) and remarried. Just four months after standing by my side on my wedding day, Gail has finally married Terry, after five years of living together. That’s right, folks. Some people do buy the cow.

In all seriousness, I’m unbelievably happy for my best friend… for us. I just don’t know how it happened. Some moments, the happy ones, feel like they weren’t that long ago. I mean, hasn’t it only been three or four years since 9th grade yearbook class, where Gail and I first bonded over deadpan sarcasm and the WB’s Everwood? 

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The tougher stuff, though… zetus lapetus it often feels like it all happened to someone else. It can’t have been just 10 years ago that I called Gail to reconnect after that first year out of high school…

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… after my ex burned down our house and killed all of our pets, but before my miscarriage and Grace’s death, before both of our divorces. It wasn’t just seven or eight years ago that Gaily and I sat at a table in an Arby’s, eating free sandwich toppings and drinking refills from the .99 kiddie cup, because we didn’t want to go home, was it? That can’t have been us.

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For so long, our lives deeply sucked and we were each other’s sanctuary from the storm. I thought our lives would never get better, but I blinked and now we’re both 30 with husbands and careers. Didn’t I just call Gail after being stood up, crying because I was never going to get a full time job or meet a good guy and my life was never going to start?!?!

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Truthfully, I found myself more emotional about Gail’s wedding than my own, despite all of my “Who da real MOH?!?” jokes, the title of Matron of Honor having primarily officially gone to her sister. Watching Gail take pictures with a bridesmaid’s daughter had me crying in secret, because it should have been Grace. She should’ve been by her mother’s side, but had she been, everything would’ve been different. Twenty-four year old Gail would have been far more self-preserving, with a three-year-old at home. She’d never have even met Terry, after finding his profile on Craigslist. I might have been less inclined to date, myself, had Gail not been in a serious relationship, prompting over-dramatic rants about how she was going to leave me behind for her couples cruises. Our whole lives would’ve been different. I suppose this was just how it was all supposed to be.

It’s just so good to see my best girl happy… to see us happy and I was reminded of that even more so, when Gail and I had a moment alone, while the rest of the wedding party chatted about how much she was freaking out.

Gail: “You know what this reminds me of?”
Me: “What?”
Gail: “When we were at the hospital with Grace and you and I were walking around, talking and laughing and everyone was whispering about how I shouldn’t be okay right now, but I was, because you were there. I love you.”
Me: “I love you, too. It was so awful and I couldn’t do it all again, but I’m so glad I did it all with you… who da real MOH?”

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We’re both happily and healthily married now and it’s a little bittersweet, because that means Terry and Jake undoubtedly know more about us than we do each other. As much as I’ve always hated when women assign the title of “sister” to every friend they have, Gail and I will always share a history no one else can claim, because the foundations of our adult lives were built on the rocks that we were for one another. So, here’s hoping that our strangely, bizarrely parallel lives that have had us claiming for years that only one of us is real and has imagined the other person up, while rocking in a mental institution, will continue to be so; because all the highs and lows considered, I cannot imagine living my life without my sister, Gail.

How Alcohol Poisoning Reminded Me How Good I Have It

Jake and I had a great day on Saturday. We went to a festival in Springfield, ate fried food and candied nuts, watched Netflix, and then walked around the park to make up for the calories we’d consumed. We had a pretty low key night ahead of us, when I checked my phone to see that Catherine, Laura, and Gail were calling me out for a night on Catherine’s patio. I’d promised I’d come, even last minute, if they sent me the invite and Jake, in all his good ol’ boy charm, was game, especially since Gail’s Terry would be there, so he wouldn’t be the only cock in the hen house. Conveniently enough, we’d just been to the liquor store and were more than prepared for this BYOB with whiskey and coke and the small bottle of Strawberry Smirnoff I’d bought to mix with Fresca… only I’d forgotten the Fresca.

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I remember a great deal of the night. I remember Jake arguing politics with Catherine. I remember sitting in the grass with Laura, talking about her marriage. I remember making fish sticks when we got hungry drunk and walking around the block. I remember teasing Gail about her newfound veganism and Terry about their five year engagement. I remember playing on Catherine’s daughter’s swing set. I’m so glad I remember all of that, because I had a great time… until I didn’t.

You see, I also remember judging my shots without a glass and drinking straight from the bottle. I remember wondering why I wasn’t feeling it more. I remember feeling good and drunk and then thinking I really didn’t want to be any more drunk, but that I didn’t have to worry, because the bottle was empty anyway. I remember Laura realizing this and making me stick my finger down my throat… Jake trying to carry me inside, after Laura’s failed attempts to rouse me… and throwing up. I remember that last one the most. The rest of the night was just a blur of pain and humiliation… and apologies, because y’all, I am a grown ass woman. I have no idea what I was thinking. I haven’t even been close to that drunk since the summer of 2011, when Gail, Malik, and I decided to mix shrimp and peach vodka to celebrate my new apartment. Even then, I had an excuse in the fact that I’d lost about 60 pounds and had no concept of my new tolerance. I’m 29, not 19. I don’t even get drunk enough to be hungover anymore, let alone lose the ability to stand or speak. I’m not that girl. I chase chick beers with water and ibuprofen, not vodka with vodka… and thank goodness Jake and my friends know that…

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… because through all the misery and mortification, what I remember most clearly was Jake and Laura working to get me inside and clean up any mess in Catherine’s house, all while assuring me that I didn’t have to apologize and it was okay, that I’d be okay, because losing that kind of control is terrifying. Ashamed, I begged them not to laugh at me or tease me. Laura spoke in motherly tones while cleaning up vomit. As I dry-heaved, Jake held my hair, rubbed my back, and told me over and over again that I didn’t have to be sorry or embarrassed, because he’d done far worse. The two of them sat in the kitchen sharing their own cringe-worthy drinking tales as I fell asleep on Catherine’s couch.

I woke a few hours later to find Jake in the kitchen and told him I wanted to go home. After 30 minutes of gathering my stuff, we headed out, before Catherine, Gail, or Terry woke to witness my shame. Jake helped me up the stairs and onto the couch, where he was once again unbearably sweet to me as I recovered from just that short trek.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Thank you for being so nice to me.”
Jake: “You don’t have to be sorry.”
Me: “Will you be nice to me tomorrow, when I don’t feel good?”
Jake: “I will always be nice to you.”

Still drunk, I showered and changed as sunlight filtered through the window.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Are you going to break up with me?”
Jake: “I wouldn’t dream of breaking up with you.”

That afternoon, Jake came into the living room to find me with a throw-up bowl in my lap, texting Laura a thank you.

Jake: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “Bad.”
Jake: “Well, the good news is, you don’t have to worry about how many calories you ate, yesterday.”
Me: “I’m embarrassed.”
Jake: “Oh, I’ve been much more embarrassed. Do you remember what you drank to make you so sick?”
Me: “All of the vodka.”
Jake: “Were you just drinking straight from the bottle? Did you think you were a saloon owner in an old western?”

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There is no way I would’ve had more than a fourth shot, had I been using a shot glass, let alone a sixteenth.

Gail texted to ask what time I’d left that morning and I realized that Laura hadn’t told anyone about the events of the previous night. She’d kept my humiliation private. Jake spent the rest of the day watching Harry Potter with me and taking brief breaks to check on the Cowboys game, as I failed to keep down pretzel sticks and water… and wondered how I got so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Those two are both getting homemade peanut brittle this weekend.

I’m not going to my ten year reunion.

Gail sent me the guest list, via screen cap on Facebook, because we are our generation.
Me: “Nate Walker and Keith Thompson? I’d rather be part of the human centipede, it sucks less ass.”

Lacy: “Are you going?”
Me: “Nate Walker. Country club. Hors d’oeuvres. It’s like a Mad Lib from Hell.”

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My response was likely expected, considering I started publicly insisting that the class of ’06 could kiss my ass if they thought I was paying to see them, the day I found out that the class of ’05 was charging for their reunion. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I actually expressed any genuine interest in attending my ten year reunion, was ten years ago, when I couldn’t wait to see how everyone turned out.

I’m apparently alone in this line of thinking, however. Everyone is adamant that I’ll regret not going. With the way Jake talks about his high school days, you’d think he went to fucking Hogwarts, he had such a magical experience, so naturally, he wanted me to go to my own reunion. He even offered to pay for everything. Though Catherine and I did attend the same high school, we kind of didn’t. It wasn’t until after college that the two of us started bonding and though we were friendly enough in our earlier days, we didn’t even run in adjacent crowds. While I sat with the drama kids, band nerds, and AP students on the auditorium steps, Catherine regaled her friends with tales of her groupie weekends with local Christian bands. We weren’t hostile, but we weren’t besties, either. Surely Gail would sympathize with me, though, right? I mean, we had all of the exact same friends and nemeses, the same misfit hobbies, a near identical lack of regard for basic fashion. Nope. Gail was even looking forward to the reunion, before deciding that she really didn’t want to go play the role of The Girl Whose Baby Died two days after what would’ve been Grace’s birthday.

So, why am such a Negative Nancy about all of this? Well, it’s certainly not that I hate these people. On the contrary, I’ve really enjoyed looking at pictures of their crazy college days, their wedding dresses, and their new homes. I’ve read all about their infertility battles and wondered how exactly someone manages to take an artsy picture from the bathroom floor, where they’ve supposedly just been vomiting. I’ve both awwed over their baby pictures and scoffed over the cost of the new high chair. All of this is precisely why I’ve no desire to actually speak to any of my old classmates, though. What could they possibly tell me that I haven’t already read, in detail, because nothing is private anymore? I’ve spent the last ten years watching everyone from high school grow up and get over themselves and start their lives… all from the comfort of my own home. So why on Earth would I pay (or let Jake pay) $70 to do the same damn thing, while wearing pants? Facebook has rendered the high school reunion completely redundant, even if I don’t consider the fact that almost no one that I would like to catch up with is going… for all of the same reasons.

“You should go and show everyone how skinny you are, now!” – All of My Aunts

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It’s really quite sweet that they see me this way, in comparison to my 18-year-old self and I’m sure a lot of people will attend with a similar mindset. I could wear a cute dress and bring my hardworking oil man along, flaunting my master’s degree and Supervisory Librarian position to all of those people who bullied me, but… I just don’t care enough about what these strangers think, to put in all that effort. Instead, this weekend, I’m going to celebrate my one year anniversary with Jake. I’m going to wish my Gramma a happy birthday and check on my best friend to see how she’s coping with the grief she still feels. At some point, I’m sure I’ll get on Facebook and smile over the reunion pictures, glad that everyone is having a good time. I don’t need to peek behind the curtain and make new memories of old acquaintances, though. I’m just too busy with the present.

 

Crawfish and Friends

Jake and I had our first weekend away together.

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For a never-married guy, Jake has a weird number of married and engaged friends, particularly since most of them are younger than he is. When we first started dating, he informed me that his last single friend had just gotten married, only to ask after Christmas, if I wanted to go see his friends out of state for an engagement party. Now, coming from the wealthy folk I do, I was picturing h’orderves, at a venue of some sort. Maybe it would be in a barn and the guests of honor would include some lace and burlap, as a shout out to their country roots and Southern locale, but there would definitely be a cello. I’m not being irrational here. My aunt and uncle had an anniversary party just months ago. Just to privately mock him later, I took a mighty pretentious photo of my cousin playing his cello in the corner. Naturally, I was stressing out a bit about meeting Jake’s friends under such formal circumstances. Being a clueless boy, Jake didn’t share, until the week prior, that said engagement party meant beer and crawfish by the lake.

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The respite to my nerves was temporary, though, as I realized that Jake hasn’t introduced a girlfriend to his friends. I mean, sure they knew some of the girls he dated in high school and college, because they were around, but Jake has never taken a girl across states lines to meet his best friends and their wives, ever. This was likely a bigger deal than meeting the parents, because while you can rationalize that your parents are from a different time, your friends often have the exact same priorities and aspirations you do. In Jake’s case, he’s told me quite a bit about his friends’ marriages, the way they relate to their wives and their goals in general, and expressed a pretty clear desire for something very similar. If we didn’t get along, that could be a big conflict. What if they hated me? What if I said the wrong thing? Actually, to reword, what would happen when I said the wrong thing? What if I was too much of a city girl, despite every person I work with thinking I’m too much of a country girl? What if they thought I was after Jake’s money? What if I was too nerdy? Should I wear a dress, like I always do, or would I look too big for my britches, like when I met Jake’s sister in a friggin’ prom dress (not really). Why didn’t I own any t-shirts without things like “Super Librarian” of “Trek Yourself, Before You Wreck Yourself” on them?

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I tried not to think about these things, as I packed, telling myself that they were Future Belle’s problems. That girl has a lot of issues. She could handle one more. The plan was to leave for the three and a half hour drive on Friday, after I got home from work, which was at about 6:45. Jake would already be at my apartment, waiting for me. I wasn’t aware that this would mean that the second I walked through the door, I’d be greeted with only a moment of pleasantries, to be immediately followed by “You got everything packed? You ready to go?” and rushed out the door.  This meant I forgot things, namely my toothbrush and some ibuprofen. Y’all, I don’t get health insurance for another two and a half months. My glasses are almost three years old. I pretty much have a daily headache, when I get off work, because I stare at a computer screen for a living.

Jake and I headed out, quickly stopping by a steakburger fast food restaurant that Jake had been adamant would be amazing, despite my informing him that it was pretty much just fast food. He would not be deterred, being about three times as stubborn as I am, so he ordered while I ran inside to pee, because there was no way he was stopping again, in as much as a hurry as he was… that is, until about two hours later. I tried to play it off, but as the headlights flashed in my eyes, one after the other, I’m pretty sure my brain started to bleed out of my ears.

Me: “I know you don’t want to stop, but I don’t think I can make it. If I don’t get some kind of medicine, I’m not gonna be much fun, when we get there… and I might throw up in your truck on the way.”
Jake: “Is it really that bad?”

I’ve exaggerated my fair share, but it really was. I don’t even think Jake realized this until he pulled into a truck stop and I couldn’t handle the lights long enough to go inside and pee without deep breathing, while he insisted I wait in the truck for him to buy some Aleve (awww). Fortunately, by the time we got to the house, where we were staying, I was no longer near tears. Jake and I walked in together and Jake, despite his many wonderful qualities, completely neglected to introduce me. I was a little uncertain, at first, until three women started hugging me. Apparently, Jake has been quite chatty.

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Mindy: “I’m a hugger. I just have to give you a hug!”
Me: “Hi. I’m Belle. I’m sorry we’re so late. I didn’t get off of work until 6:00.”
Hailey: “You’re a librarian, right?”
Aaron: “Jake, you didn’t even introduce her. Be a better boyfriend.”

We sat at a table, where there was clearly a drinking game in progress… I was pretty sure. I’d never played a drinking game, unless you count the one where I’d see how quickly I could finish my paper after taking three shots of everclear, to hide from my marriage. I also didn’t announce this, so three gold stars for normal socialization skills!

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These people were so friendly. I was a little worried that the women might be catty or at the very least, a little exclusive, since I was an outsider. I knew it was unlikely Jake would put up with people who practiced the former, but it was equally unlikely he’d even notice the latter. As we chatted and shared embarrassing Jake stories, though, I didn’t feel excluded at all. The girls and Jake explained the drinking game to me and didn’t pressure me to drink the entire bottle of beer when it was my turn to do so. We shared stories and told jokes, until finally Haley interrupted to announce…

Haley: “I’m sorry, but it’s just so weird to see you touching him.”
Me: “What?”
Callie: “I know! I thought that when he had his hand on her back as they walked in!”
Me: “What are you talking about?”
Haley: “Jake hates to be touched. He won’t even hug us. Did you not see him duck out of the way when he came in?”
Me: “Seriously? He’s the touchy feely one!”
Jake: ::scoffing:: “I am not.”
Me: “You hugged me on our first date. I remember, because I thought you were really sweaty.”
Jake: “What? I wasn’t sweaty.”
Me: “It was June, you were so. You’re the snuggler in this relationship. You pretty much lay on me when we sleep.”
Mindy: “When you were touching his beard, I thought that must be driving him crazy.”
Me: “Well, if it is, it’s been doing so for a while, because I do it all the time.”

His friends weren’t only really nice, but they were also funny. They’ve known each other since the beginning of time and had dozens of stories about growing up in a small town and going to college together. I could tell why Jake hung out with him, particularly because they had such similar senses of humor.

Me: “He thinks it’s hilarious to use his Bane from Batman voice, when we’re fooling around.”
Mindy: “Ugh. Aaron does the same thing! He pretends I’m a Russian prostitute.”
Aaron: ::stereotypical Russian accent:: “Prostitute. Get on the bed.”

This was obviously the funniest thing Jake had ever heard and if I’d had a quarter for every time I heard that sentence over the course of the three day weekend, I’d have been able to fund the gas to get home.

Gradually, the men drifted outside and the women to the living room, where everyone chatted about their careers and guys. Haley was the engaged friend and her fiance, Clyde, was outside with Jake. Mindy has been married to Aaron (Jake’s Gail) for almost three years now, after having dated for only five months from the first time they met, when Aaron asked her to dance at a wedding. Callie was alone, because her husband, Sam, was at a varmint hunt… no really. He was shooting raccoon for sport. Jake assures me it’s a fantastic time.

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For probably an hour, we chatted easily, in part because I’d had a beer or two. They seemed surprised by some of the things I told them about Jake, how gentlemanly and sweet he is, but pleasantly so. It’s clear these women, two of whom Jake lived with in college, think of him as an older brother. I give them extra points for not being too fond of him to give me a chance. That night, Jake and I went to bed in a room of our own, since Callie offered to take the mattress on the floor of the pantry, because Sam was shooting gorilla rats. As nice as the privacy was, however, our bed pretty much felt like a bouncy house. So, despite downloading an app that plays the sound of a fan, because I’m just high-maintenance, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.

The next day was the day of the actual party. I hadn’t realized, but numerous other people would be arriving around 2:00, so prep work was in order. Having forgotten my toothbrush in Jake’s crazed rush, I tagged along with the girls to Walmart. I wouldn’t say that I had a lot of interests in common with these women, as I’m quite sure they’ve no idea who Spock is and I mightily loathe Nicholas Sparks, but we did seem to share a lot of values. They were very… Southern. They clearly have really traditional relationships, which was a change of pace compared with my Women in Power family. Jake and I have a dynamic I haven’t discussed at length, but it is very traditional. He generally takes the lead and I generally follow. It works for us and I’m aware it wouldn’t for others. Trust me. Jake’s friends seemed to have pretty similar relationships to ours, though more permanent. The men were all very sweet to their wives/fiancees. At one point, not realizing everyone could see them from outside, Aaron grabbed Mindy’s hand and danced with her in the kitchen. Amy, who I would meet later, over-imbibed and her fiance, Taylor, spent at least a couple of hours away from the party, making sure she was alright. There was certainly a shared element, though, and I can’t even put my finger on what exactly it was, but it was pleasantly… relatable.

When we got back from Walmart, Callie started shredding a rotisserie chicken and she and I paired up to make her Pinterest buffalo chicken pinwheels. The women hung out in the kitchen, cooking, while the men goofed off in the back, but it was a mutual decision and really quite nice to be able to talk freely as girls. I don’t know if it was the standing or the bouncy castle bed, but after a few hours, my back was really bothering me. I hurt it about four years ago and it can occasionally be a real problem. Jake was having a great time, so I disappeared into the bedroom to lie down, so he could enjoy himself.

I’m not used to being so… on, as a weekend away with strangers. It took such constant effort to be friendly and sociable that by the time the party had really started going, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. We’d gotten up so early, for a Saturday, probably around 8:00, that the day felt endless. The one person I knew, was having a grand ol’ time with his high school buddies and the last thing I wanted was to make Jake feel like I needed his constant attention. I liked Jake’s friends. They were fun. It was also a lot of stimulation and I was in pain. After about 30 minutes, Jake came in to check on me and I put on my big girl panties and went back to socialize. It was then I met Amy, a newbie to the group, having been engaged to Clyde’s brother, Tanner, only a month ago, after eight months of dating. Amy, coincidentally, teaches home-ec (my bachelor’s degree), while pursuing her master’s in library and information studies. Not only was she a doll, but it was great to see how inclusive of her Jake’s friends already were. These were just really kind people.

I chronicle every detail of my life, so clearly, I’m a total narcissist, but one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the quiet pride Jake took in me. Despite his friends comments about his touch-phobia, he was just as giving with hugs and kisses and “I love yous” as always. He even bragged to someone that Callie and I had made the pinwheels. At one point, as I stood outside, listening to Aaron tell the story of how his made up game had been brought to the USA by the Titanic swim team, Jake came from behind and wrapped his arms around me.

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I’m pretty sure these are the sweetest hugs ever.

Haley: ::looking to Jake:: “You are a completely different person.”
Jake: “Why?”
Haley: “You’re touching her.”

As sweet, chivalrous, and physically affectionate as Jake is to me, he’s not a blatantly romantic guy. He pays for every date we ever go on, opens the truck door for me nine times out of ten, and shows up at my door less than 24 hours after I call him crying. He’s generally a pretty practical, tough, oil man, so that’s our hearts and flowers. For him to do this stuff in front of his best friends, rubbing my back while insisting I sit down, hugging and kissing me and telling me he loves me, openly bragging about some Pinterest food I helped make… that’s like the equivalent of that scene where Noah and Ally dance in the street, only I’m not an abusive, elitist snob. He’d been the same way, when I was sick during the drive, but that was in private. Seeing Jake value me the way his friends valued their wives and fiances made me picture forever with him in a way I never have. I’m talking about the consideration of compromises like uprooting my career and moving away from my family and friends, one day. It was big.

Not quite as profound, but also very important to me, was the chance to see Jake interact with his friends. Though he’d been drinking pretty steadily, all day, at no point was he out of control drunk. I never felt like I had to act as his babysitter or stay sober so I could take him to the hospital. He didn’t make any hateful comments to anyone or get angry. He was having fun, but he was being an adult while doing so. I never thought I’d say that about someone playing beer pong.

One of the many red flags waved by my ex-husband, was his lack of friends. My mother has a similar problem. I’ve never met an emotionally healthy person who just doesn’t have friends. I consider it a big warning sign that people just don’t like them. I had trouble even keeping up with Jake’s friends and he was loved. It sounds over the top to say that, but they adored Jake and were thrilled to have him there. These are people who’ve known him for 15-20 years. They’ve not only heard the drunken bathroom story, but were there to clean it up. It was awesome to know that he’ll always have his own social circle and that, if the day comes, it’s a pretty welcoming one.

The morning after the party, Jake was, surprisingly, not even hungover. When I asked him about it, he said he’d kept it in check, because he didn’t want me to feel awkward if he was sick. We ate breakfast, as a group, and then we lounged in couples and watched movies for a few hours. After that, everyone packed up and headed on their way. Jake and I chatted on the drive back and I was genuinely sad to leave. As stressful as meeting so many new people was, it was so… normal. I never had a weekend like that in all of my marriage. I’ve never gone away with a man. I’ve never had anyone hug me from behind while his best friend tells me some ridiculous tale. I’ve never even considered uprooting my life for anyone, not even Jake. It was sad to see it all come to a close, but it was pretty great to get all the insight I did from it.

 

 

Textersation Tuesday

 

Halo 5 came out today. When you’re single, you don’t even know that more than one Halo exists.
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I interviewed for, and was passed up for, another full time librarian position. Gail tried to say the right thing…

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I texted Jake the news, as well. He texted back once and called twice. I couldn’t bring myself to answer. I didn’t want to interrupt his video game fun with attempts to console his girlfriend in a dramatic mood, so I let it go to voice mail as I randomly wailed into my frozen pizza. Sigh. Here’s hoping that I’ll read this in a year and smile, because it all turned out okay, just as I’ve been doing with last year’s terrible date stories.

Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…

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… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

Textersation Tuesday

Compliment accepted…

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That time I dated Ron Swanson…

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Textersation Tuesday

Gail read about my mouse problem

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… but she has some problems of her own.

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When a girl from high school got pregnant after trouble conceiving, I excitedly offered to make her a gift. She essentially responded with “Thanks, but no thanks” and immediately posted pictures of pricey and pretentious baby items she wants.

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Karol had an offer of her own.

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I figured we could trade favors.

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