There’s a tendency among those who are married and have kids to grow insular. Or at least that’s the case for me, where the social network I’ve created in my household has eliminated any urgency with which I may have pursued friendships before marriage and kids. (Although, given the lack of interest by my household social network in engaging with me—unless they want something—I probably should feel greater urgency in making new friends… ) And, with a lot of my longtime friends now scattered around the country, most with spouses and kids of their own, I don’t hear from or even think of them often.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling their presence and support more than usual. Since I’ve started my blog, I’ve been gratified to find that a handful of strangers have started reading my posts. But—in addition to my brother and, in an odd way, Billup—my biggest cheerleaders have absolutely been my friends, new and old, near and far.
Most of my oldest friends do fall into the “far” category. But they’ve been among the loudest in encouraging me on this self-absorbed venture of mine. So I’m hoping you’ll excuse me this one sentimental blog post to talk about them:
Most of them I knew for several years before I became friends with them. I remember, for example, sitting next to DW in Mr. Barton’s sixth grade language arts class, back when he—DW, not Mr. Barton—was just some random boy who briefly sported an ill-advised perm (sorry to be bringing it up). I remember, too, arguing with G. around that same time about why individually canned eggs were not an entrepreneurial idea whose time had come.
With the exception of M., who came along freshman year in college, we all grew up in the same small bedroom community and went to the same public middle and high schools. A lot of us were in band together. We ended up in some of the same classes. But I didn’t talk to them much. And I didn’t become friends with them until senior year in high school, when they somehow welcomed my best friend and me into their little fold.
I’m no longer really friends with my best friend from high school. But somehow these guys—this group of loud, crude, obnoxious, opinionated, whimsical, smart, hilarious guys—I still have the pleasure of calling my friends. There’s:
- DS, who was my college boyfriend but who, more importantly, was one of my strongest support systems when I went through a rough time in my early 20s.
- DW, who whimsically mailed me a cookie freshman year in college—a cookie that, once processed through the U.S. Postal Service, arrived in my dorm mailbox as an envelope of crumbs.
- E., who just got texting capability on his cell phone and now texts me deliberately incendiary messages about Obama, Asians, or women, or, failing that, photos of himself blowing his nose.
- G., my go-to politics wonk, with whom I explored just about every diner within a 2-mile radius of my apartment back in our 20s, and who was one of the two people responsible for my meeting Ted.
- M., who introduced me to e-mail sophomore year of college and from whom I learned the habit of sitting through the entire movie credits before leaving the theater.
- And O, whose real name is B., the mellow one with whom I smoked cigars and walked along Chicago’s North Avenue Beach one gray winter day long ago.
Being guys, they’ve provided me a type of friendship different from what I would have gotten from girlfriends. I’ve had heart-to-heart conversations with some of them, but I’m pretty sure they were punctuated with penis jokes. If I were acting mopey or whiny, they would’ve avoided me, rather than offering me a shoulder to cry on. And, with the possible exception of M., none of them remember my birthday. (That said, I never remember any of their birthdays anymore, either.)
But if my brother had been the one to introduce me to Sinatra, Led Zeppelin and Metallica, then these were the guys who inundated me with them until I found myself liking the music (OK, not so much Metallica, but still). They were the ones who got me to loosen up a little and be OK with enjoying Taco Bell, the original “Beverly Hills, 90210,” and countless other ridiculous things. They’ve exposed me to alternative viewpoints and new attitudes toward approaching life’s challenges.
And, even now, nearly two decades after I first became friends with them, they can make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts.
So, to DS, DW, E., G., M. and O: This hastily slapped-together blog post is my Valentine to you. Thanks for your friendship, laughter and memories over the years. Thanks for, if not helping me to become who I am today, then at least tolerating me through the journey.
Also, thanks a lot for sending me e-mails at work that read: “Penis.”