My Friend

This week is going to be about reflection and memories, because I’m in that sort of mood.

My daughter has been in the NYC Public School system since she entered Pre-K at age 3. I remember meeting many great parents that year, and we sort of formed our own little family. Around November of PreK, a new family moved into our class. I had no idea that this Mom and this little girl would become the rock of our ride through elementary school.

Last Friday I had breakfast with the Mom. We have had breakfast on the last day of school for the past fourteen years. We’ve been together through three schools. I would not have survived being a school Mom without this woman.

In Manhattan there are zoned schools for elementary, which most people attend. Middle school and High School are fairly open game. While you have the option of attending your zoned middle school, many people apply to other schools. Yes, in NYC fifth graders are applying to public schools. Standardized test grades count. Everything counts.

Our Daughters both got rejected by the Middle School they wanted. Fifth grade girls demoralized because they didn’t interview well. Yes- there’s transparency- I know exactly where my kid missed points. Shy doesn’t work well when applying to middle school… So S and I relied on one another to get us through the difficult road of bucking up our kids self esteem. When I didn’t know how to parent my kid through this, I had S to use as a sounding board. I had S to cry with. Without her, I would not have been able to get through this daunting time, nor have the energy to get my daughter through it.

And besides this particular time, S has always been there for me. We had very similar parenting strategies, so I had a safe space to explore ideas and theories and figure out how to help my child navigate puberty and friendship and high school and the whole college thing.

There was also the fun stuff. Going to school auctions. Sitting with each other at recitals, including the fourth grade recorder concert. Yeah- “Smoke on the Water” on recorder. Good times. Volunteering at Middle School events. Texting each other in meetings when someone said something particularly stupid. Cheering each other’s kids on when they did good, which was pretty often.

Today is my Thank You to S for being the best possible friend these past fourteen years. When I saw her at the coffee shop I started to tear up- I looked at her and said “This is the last last day.” I hugged her. I thought about telling my Daughter’s college that she won’t be attending and figuring out how my Daughter could transfer to the other school. I mean, how can I get my daughter through college without this Mom? What if I don’t like the other Mom’s? Who am I going to gossip with? Who am I going to laugh with? Who am I going to cry with?

Tomorrow night we will snap pictures of our daughters as they go off to their last school dance. Friday we will be passing one another tissues as we watch our daughters flip their tassels. It will be one more picture of them at a major milestone. To go with fourteen years of pictures at major milestones.

I tip my metaphorical cap to my friend S- the mother of the best friend my daughter has, and the best friend that I could ever have.

Good, Better, Best

Have you ever played the board game “Say Anything”? It’s a favorite in our house for family game night.  Basically, someone asks a question, and the other players pick what they think the reader will answer.  Then the reader chooses which answer is most correct. When faced with LA trivia so to speak, my Husband knows me pretty well.  When given the question- “If you could start again, what occupation would you have?” Husband knows that the correct answer to that question, for me, would be “FBI Profiler”. Yes- you heard it hear first- if I was entering college, I would take the necessary steps to become a profiler (not a writer as you all may have thought).  He knows my favorite dessert (mille crepe cake from Lady M bakery), and that pink is my favorite color.  We have had many long conversations in our years together, but just because he knows the LA trivia file, does he know me best?

When discussing relationships a few weeks ago, Leslie talked about who knows you better, your friends or you significant other. And while it’s true that my Husband knows the facts, are facts the only thing that goes into “knowing” someone?

Last week I most definitely woke up on the wrong side of 50.  I was out of sorts.  Husband- well- he did not notice a thing.  Daughter though- she was all over me.  She knew within a minute of talking to me that not all was right in my world. She was able to read my body language and facial expression, and I guess interpret what I was actually thinking behind the glib words that I had thrown out that morning. So, while she might not know all the facts about me, she can definitely read my moods better. Does this mean that  she “knows” me better?

I have a friend “G”.  I called her a witch last week. (yes- witch with a “W”) and I meant it in the best of ways.  We were having a simple, pleasant text  conversation about the colleges our daughters are applying to and her kitchen renovation. And then she asked a question- basic question, but it was exactly the thing on my mind (and needless to say it had .nothing to do with kitchens or colleges).  I said “How did you know I was thinking about that?” and she wrote back “LOL. I woke up this morning and thought that. Figured I’d ask while we were chatting.” So, does her intuition about me show that she knows me best?

What do we mean when we ask “Who knows me best?”? Is it facts, is it sense of mood, or is it just knowing without saying a word? Does it just depend on who the person is, as some are more emotionally connected or more intuitive by nature? When you say you “know” someone, what do you mean by that?

The people in my inner circle- I think I know them well, but I admit, some I know better factually, while others I just connect with on an emotional level.  I’m not sure what the real difference is. I’m not even sure if there is a difference. But I guess what really matters is the connection that we forge.  And maybe different relationships are supposed to be on different levels…

OK- I’m throwing this over to you: Who knows you best? Family, friends, partner?

 

Men/Women/Friends

You had to know that when I wrote about Harry and Sally, this topic would come up…

Can men and women be friends?

In my younger days, I had a decent amount of male friends.  At one point, my Husband was just a guy I played tennis with.  But these were my single days. As time went on, and relationships were gotten into, my friendships with men withered away.  At this moment I have many male acquaintances- men that my Husband is friends with, the Husbands of my friends, people I converse with in the lobby of my building….but these are not people I do things alone with, or have anything other than pleasant, short term conversation with.

Male friends.  Well, there’s SF. He’s a friend from college.  I’m friends with him.  But he lives in San Francisco.  We communicate entirely by email. And we have been in the “friend zone” since we were 18- never once did we ever consider dating or anything else.  As to the other male friends, the few that I hang out with- well, to be fair, they’re all gay.

Have I made a conscious decision to not have male friends? Not really.  My time is valuable.  I really don’t have time to socialize much, so I have a little knot of people that I see.  These people are ones that I have commonality with, that I trust, and that I can talk to.  At this point in my life, the people I am closest to happen to be women.

Does all this personal experience mean that men and women can’t be friends?

I’ll start with “No”, because I’ve obviously been friends with men before.  But does being in a relationship kind of make you rethink friendships?

Let’s think about my Husband for a second.  He belongs to a ski club and has a lot of female friends. I don’t have a problem with him having female friends, but I know a lot of wives don’t feel the same way.  These wives make sure they are at every ski club meeting (happy hour) and even though they hate to ski, they show up at the ski events.  Am I to conclude that most women do not want their partners to be in friendships with women?

Guess what? It’s write my blog Thursday. (it’s funny- I really don’t plan “discuss” topics, but more than not- they end up being on Thursdays)

so:

  1. Can men and women be friends?
  2. Can you only have friendships of the opposite sex when you are not involved in a relationship?
  3. Do people have the right to not want their partner to be in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex?

Discuss:

What Does Friend Really Mean?

Let’s start out with a disclaimer.  I get an idea for a blog, I pen it into my planner, and then I write about it.  My thoughts have been fruitful of late, so I’ve been about 2 1/2 weeks ahead in the thought process.  Now, since I took a hiatus, the idea for today’s blog came over a month ago, from a blog my friend Eilene wrote.  Here’s the problem- i don’t remember enough about her post to give it any kind of real reference as to what motivated me to write this.  But anyway…

What are the qualities you want in a friend.  Think about it.  I’ll wait…

Say, you want a friend to be honest.  Honesty is a good trait.  We want to deal with people in our daily lives who speak the truth and don’t lie.

Right?

Honesty is good, right?

We want our friends to be honest, right?

I binge watched “Grace and Frankie” (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it but plans on it) Before Frankie married, someone told her the man she was about to marry was gay.  Truthful, right?  Frankie didn’t speak to that person for 40 years.

Now, the person was honest, right?  But look at the outcome.  How honest do we want our friends to be?  How many people in our lives to we want to be completely honest with us?

Honesty often hurts.  When confronted with the cold, hard facts, we often crumble.  We get defensive.  My daughter recently asked me to review something she had written for her AP Lang assignment.  I told her it wasn’t very good, that she kind of skirted the question, and the voice was very passive when clearly the tone of the piece was supposed to evoke emotion.  My daughter stormed off.  She told me I was horrible.

Horrible?

Isn’t honesty good?

Don’t we want people to be honest with us?

Let’s think about how we define honesty.  Honesty is when we tell the truth.  Honesty is when we don’t lie. Lying is bad.

But are there things that are OK to lie about?  Are there times when a lie is justified?  Are there times when honesty is probably not the right course?

Let’s try this.  To be deceitful is definitely bad.  To tell a woman that you are single, when you are in fact married, is a bad thing.  Does anyone think this is an acceptable lie?

So, lying to be deceitful and not let someone have the whole story is bad.

Now I’m going to give you another TV reference.  Big Bang Theory spoiler alert.  On a recent episode, Amy picked out a wedding dress.  Penny and Bernadette thought the dress was hideous.  When Amy asked, Penny told her the truth.  Amy’s feelings were hurt.  Did Amy want the truth, or did she want agreement?

Which brings us to: if a friend asks an opinion question, is it OK to lie?  Would it really be a lie if Penny said the dress was beautiful?

In TV world, Penny ended up telling Amy that the dress was Amy’s choice, and it didn’t matter who liked it.  I thought this was the right approach to the situation, but does this choice make anyone feel better?

Opinion honesty is a tough call, because opinions are just that: opinions.  Opinions are based on a particular individuals thoughts, and might not necessarily be based on fact.  In my writing group, we share work.  Now as you know, writing work is very personal.  No one wants to be told that there is a flaw in their writing, or an inconsistency.  So I was in a quandary yesterday.  I told one of my writing friends (who is an absolutely amazing writer BTW) that I thought she had an issue with character development with one of her characters.  But it was based on my opinion.  True, i gave her examples of why I thought the character needed to be fleshed out a little more, but I don’t know if I’m right.  (mark this date down: I admitted that I might not be right about everything)  But I felt I needed to tell her how I felt, and why.

Should we give friends out true opinions of things, even when they are going to go against someone’s thought/beliefs/feelings?

So what are your thought on honesty as to how it pertains to friendship?  What is your definition of honesty?  Are you always honest with your friends about everything?  How about family?  Are you always honest with your family?

Discuss…

 

Blogging PSA- Follow-up

It’s a vicious cycle.  I write a blog.  You comment.  I think of something to say based on comments.  So the following is all your fault.

First off, I learned a lot about trolls.  I am floored by the comments that others have made to bloggers.  To be fair, the majority of our little community is good, and seeks to inspire, not to criticize.  But you know, one bad apple….Someone was criticized for being too happy…..can you imagine?  “I’m sorry, happiness isn’t allowed here- it might give people the idea that happiness and positivity is an option- wouldn’t want that to happen.”  I don’t know about you, but, even though I don’t always get there, happiness is pretty high on my to do list…..

We know that I love a good spirited debate.  I have no problem with people who disagree with me, and vice versa, as long as it’s done logically and with respect, and no one tells the other, “Nah nah, I’m right and you’re wrong…”   I once had a conversation with a guy- we had opposite opinions of a subject.  I laid out my reasonable, rational argument, countering his points with my own.  After about 10 minutes, he began to see the rationale of my point of view, and actually changed his mind to my way of thinking.  Now, we were in bed at the time, but I really don’t think that influenced his decision at all……

But what do we think about when people give you instructions on how to do things?

I’ve given parenting advice.  My intention is not to shame anyone, or say “I’m right and you’re wrong” (though, who are we kidding, I’m always right), but it is to share the knowledge that I have learned in the past 50 years.  Some of it I have learned the hard way.  Some of it I have learned by doing almost the exact opposite of what my Mother had done.  I’m just sharing pieces of my life, in hope that you can see how I screwed up, so maybe you won’t have to feel the pain I did.

But what about the people that give advice, or make comments that are really just thinly disguised criticism?

You’ve seen them. The type that leaps to my mind are the Mommy Shamers.   They post pictures of perfect homemade treats, while they are wearing pressed white linen, their toddlers sitting quietly reading the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  They say things like, “Oh- we’re so glad you had the time to run to the store to bring in that bag of Oreos for the bake sale.  We always forget about the children who don’t have advanced palates.”

There are also the lip pursers.  When you are discussing your wedding plans, the friend across from you looks like they are sucking on a lemon.  They say things like, “Sure, you could wear an off white dress, and carry flowers. I know you’re not really the creative type.  You need to play to your strengths, which is bland.”

And these are often people we call our friends.

So what do we do?

Yes- I’m about to give advice…..

  1. Not everyone has to be a close friend.
  2. Be selective about what you share.  Not everyone needs to know everything
  3. Be thankful if you have 1 close friend-  a true close friend is a rare and beautiful thing
  4. It’s ok to have activity specific friends.  I have a movie buddy.  The only thing we do together is see movies.  It works.
  5. Limit the amount of time you spend with people that only bring negativity, or make you feel bad about yourself (this includes family)- feel free to unfriend them
  6. Don’t take the shamers seriously, or pay them heed- they don’t deserve your time or consideration
  7. My advice is the only advice worth listening to- I am perfect……

 

 

Ensemble

It’s odd how some things come together.  One blogger friend writes about a word every day, and how it impacts his life.  Another blogger friend wrote about characters in TV shows.  And yet another wrote about the theme music on Good Times.  My friends father died last week.  This past weekend was the birthday of a dear friend of mine who passed away 7 years ago.  A fourth blogger has been posting about the end of his life, as cancer has taken over his body.  Today’s blog is inspired by all these things- it’s an ensemble.

When my daughter was in Pre-k, I met 4 parents.  Our children were all in the same class.  This was our first experience with the New York City public school system- these were our first (and for most) only children.  We had a lot to learn.  Parenting is so hard- we were afraid that we were screwing up at every turn. We needed support, so our little band of five was formed.  Our own personal ensemble cast- there wasn’t really a star (OK it was me….) but a group of great supporting actors.  We began meeting for coffee every morning after drop off.

These friends literally got me through early elementary school.  If I had an issue, a problem, an idea about child rearing- I threw it out to the group.  This was my safe space- where I could ask questions, give advice, laugh and cry.  These were my people.  We were what the best ensembles were- a collaboration of people, who alone were okay, but together could change the world.  Or run a school event.  Same thing.

But we were geeks- specifically about pop culture.  We read, we watched movies, we watched TV.  We all loved sit coms.  We would quote from sit coms as a part of our daily lives.  We would have debates over shows, and characters, and favorite episodes.  We could relate almost any situation on our lives directly to a TV show- this is like the Chinese restaurant in Seinfeld, this is like the Smelly Cat episode on Friends.

Then, when our kids were in third grade- G wasn’t feeling so well.  He went to doctor after doctor- but no one could see anything wrong.  Until they did.  He got the prognosis on the morning of the spring parent teacher conferences.  As we sat in the pizza place with the kids, eating our now traditional half day of school lunch- we could not look at one another.  While the kids still retained their innocence- the adults did not.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  Six weeks later he was gone.

His memorial service- hundreds of people- including his Grandmother- stood around eating mini hot dogs, drinking Dirty Martini’s (his drink)- wondering how this could happen to a 45 year old man, wo had three little kids.  We held each other, cried and laughed, and cried some more.  When I spoke to the crowd, I held back the tears- G would not want be to cry during the eulogy.  He would want me to remember him the way he lived his life- and I did my best.  I told stories about our little band of 5- how we would spend hours talking about nothing- which was really everything.  And I ended my speech with a quote from Frasier, our favorite show.  On the series finale, Niles says to his brother, “I’ll miss the coffees.”  And that was the bet way to sum up an amazing friendship and amazing person.

Last weekend would have been his 53rd birthday- the same age I turned this year.  And I still miss his laugh, his wit, his biting satire, his humanity, and his take on pop culture.  His presence in my life changed me- for the better.  I’m a better person for having known him.

And remember way back in the first paragraph?  All those things?  Our lives, our stories, are made of little bits and pieces of everything around us.  Anything can trigger a memory, or an idea.  And all those things made me think of G, on his birthday.  And made me cry a little, and made me laugh a little.

And thanks to the following, who unknowingly inspired me:

https://www.thisismytruthnow.com/

http://theycallmetater.wordpress.com/

http://www.thatsoulshit.wordpress.com/

http://www.spearfruit.com/-  Courage and honor.