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