Monday, June 06, 2016

Turns out not where but who you're with that really matters

After an utterly mediocre date, it was nice to come home to realize that I still had time to catch the end of my street's annual block party.  I reconnected with some friends who I hadn't talked to in ages, and met some new friends, and was reminded that there is nothing like the simple pleasure of just hanging out on a balmy evening on a front porch, drinking a beer and shooting the shit with cool people.

It's a feeling that always makes me intensely happy.  There are few things that fill my soul more than spending time in the physical presence of people who are warm and smart and funny and engaging. When the vibe is right and the conversation flows and we're laughing or sharing interesting stories or offering different perspectives on life, it's a wonderful thing.

It's such an essential part of how I like to interact with people, and the reason that I love reunions so much. To be with people who I love and admire, who I appreciate and accept for all that they are, just as they love and accept me for all that I am - it's the best thing.  So you have the buildup of anticipation waiting for the big event, and then the event itself is this explosion of joy and dancing and  drinking and laughing hysterically and hugging and talking and staying up until all hours, until it's over and the love hangover sets in and you realize that it'll be a long time before you'll again get to experience these people in this way.

And I'm fortunate that, between college and the various overseas schools I went to, there are enough reunions that I never have to go more than a couple or three years between big events.

But what about the time in between?

I have friends all over the country and the world, and because of the magic of social media, I am in regular - often daily - contact with my closest friends from Israel, India, McLean, UVa, law school, Atlanta, etc. My online exercise group has people posting daily from Canada, all over the U.S., the Netherlands, and Switzerland.  (There are also plenty of people who are Facebook "friends" but who I don't keep up with at all, and I don't consider lurking on someone's Facebook wall to be actual friendship, so they don't really count.)

But cultivating and maintaining real life, day-to-day friendships, especially in a place where I don't have family and where I didn't grow up, is harder.  It requires more effort because you have to step away from your phone or the computer and actually try to talk to new people and schedule a time to get off your ass and go do something.

I have definitely done that to a certain extent.  I have my crew of UVA sorority sisters who live here, and we do make an effort to get together, though it's never as often as we'd like.  Same with the small India crew that's here.

I also live in an incredible neighborhood with tree-lined streets and sidewalks and parks and neighbors who hang out and visit on the porch.  The elementary school is down the street, and the kids there are neighborhood kids.  We go to the pool that's 3 blocks from my house and as soon as we walk in my children are in the pool playing with 10 friends that they know from school and I can hang out with the parents.  There's a wonderful sense of community, and among the many great things about having children is the opportunity to meet the parents of their friends. It's a natural ice-breaker.

But there's a difference between knowing someone to say hi to them at drop-off before school starts, or chatting with them when we're both at the pool at the same time, and picking up the phone to call them and say, "hey, I'm kid-less this weekend, do you want to go to dinner?"

That kind of friendship takes work.  You have to actually and deliberately seek someone out and say, "hey, I'd like to hang out with you and be your friend."  Plus it can make you feel vulnerable, because what if they don't really want to hang out with you?  Then you'd feel like an idiot. Nobody wants to be rejected.

So even though whenever I run into parents or neighbors we always say, "we should really get together," it doesn't happen very often because ... well, because it takes effort and time and daily life gets in the way.

The effort is worth it, though.  This past weekend, after running into Kim, the mom of one of Josie's friends, we were talking about getting the girls together during the summer and I said, "and you know, it would be fun to get together to go have a drink or go to a movie."  So we did. We went to dinner the next night and that turned into hanging out on a restaurant patio gabbing until late, talking about life and marriage and raising kids and politics.  It was great.

Later in the weekend, after the aforementioned mediocre date with a guy who didn't pass what Kim termed the "can you imagine this guy naked on top of you" test, she was the one I debriefed with afterwards. And then I went home and went to the block party, where some of the neighbors who like to get together to play music invited me to bring my banjo to join them at some of their regular jam sessions.  A couple of the women and I even jumped in the bouncy castle, after laughing about the fact that the only reason it was safe was because none of us had to pee (you women with children know what I'm talking about).

In a few days I'm heading to Virginia for another college reunion. I have plans to meet up with so many friends, and I know it's going to be a weekend of sensory overload - joy and dancing and drinking and laughing hysterically and hugging and talking and staying up until all hours. I am beyond excited.

But I am also excited about the upcoming summer, forging new friendships and strengthening old ones with the people around me.

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