Monday, April 12, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again

Before Pesach we attended a chasoneh given by a relative who lived in our neighborhood until recently. Once, in the past, we were quite close with the baal simcha's siblings and their children. But somehow time and place saw us drifting down to once in a while phone calls and even those calls stopped. The wedding was going to be the perfect time to reconnect, catch up on our lives and go forward from there.

Yes, it was very enjoyable to sit at the table with the siblings and to catch up on what had been going on in our lives, even if only briefly. For four hours we renewed connections that had become rusty. But here's the thing; as we were all leaving there were no tearful promises that we'd all get together again very soon, no "talk to you tomorrow" in the air. Perhaps what we all recognized was that our lives had all gone in different directions and we were no longer travelers on the same road. Yes, should we find ourselves at the same rest stop at some point in the journey we'd welcome the chance to talk and reminisce, but the day-to-day elements of our journeys are no longer in tandem.

When I got home I took a look at our wedding album with a particular eye towards who was at our chasoneh that we were still in constant contact with. Aside from my mother, our siblings and my first cousins there were precisely two people who still form part of our core group. Yes, there are others who we call before a yom tov, but they aren't any longer the focus of a call on a Tuesday in July. Sad? Yes, but not debillitatingly so. There are others who have joined us on our journey along the way, some for the long haul, some for only a short distance. It's not that we have discarded our connections, but rather that a whole lot of those connections were obviously not destined to be fellow travelers for the whole trip. And there are people, met well after we got married, who are our fellow travelers, at least for now.

What brought this to mind? The daughter of an acquaintance in the neighborhood refuses to entertain any shidduchim where the young man is from out of town or wants to leave the immediate NYC area or does not have his roots buried deep in NYC. Her reason is simple: she has "best friends" living here and she has no intention of giving them up or losing them. She "knows" that she and those friends are "destined" to head through life together. In my opinion, someone ought to explain to her that there is simply no way to guarantee that that will indeed be the case. Even if they all live in NYC that doesn't mean they will remain close forever. Life changes as time goes forward. Being a couple instead of a single can change the relationship among and between friends. Moving from one part of the city to another can change the dynamics. Having children can change how you view relationships. Interests can change, priorities can change and yes, people can change.

With all the other, more important things to look for in a shidduch, keeping all your "best" friends as part of your life should not, in my opinion, be right up there in the top three requirements, at least based on my own experiences having been married for 38 years. Requiring that all current "best" friends come along for the whole journey is short sighted for the most part and also unrealistic. Go ahead, look at your address book, look at who you consider yourself close with today and then compare that to 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Here's what I'll bet: some people have gotten off the train and others have gotten on. I believe that's what is called life.


NonymousG said...

This is a big shout out to people to be more independent as well if you think about it. The people who help out now won't always be there one way or another. Thanks for posting this, it made me think.

efrex said...

While I agree with you on the foolishness of this girl's shidduch conditions, I don't think that there's any way to educate people to look at their loved ones as temporary co-passengers. Even though I've grown apart from many of my dear friends from my school school days, I still wish I could see them more frequently. Believing "I'll be different - I'll be the one who holds on to my friends" is as an essential part of the human condition as eating or breathing, methinks.

Rae said...

I guess this is one of those things you have to experience before you'll believe that it can happen. To someone 19 or 20 they can't imagine that who is their closest friend now might not be their closest friend many years later. Even if they have seen it happen with their parents or with other friends they don't believe it will happen to them.

I also think these younger people sometimes think that marriage won't really change anything. They'll just add a spouse and everything else will be just the same. My best friend in high school I haven't seen for years. The guy she married is someone that neither my husband or myself really liked or felt comfortable around. And he didn't much like us either. Hard to keep up a friendship like that when all the players don't want to be around each other.

tesyaa said...

My mother moved from London to New York when she got married almost 50 years ago. She is still close to many of her English friends, and she visits them every couple of years! Meanwhile, I have drifted away from some old friends who live 15 miles away. So geographical proximity doesn't have as much to do with it as one might think.

Sara said...

I really hate that word friend. It's way too general and gets tossed around a lot when something else should be used. And ditto for that bf and bff nonesense you see all over. Most of what people call their close friends are really better called close acquaintances or maybe situational friendships. We're close to someone because where we are in time and place they are who we are closest too. Doesn't mean that won't change if circumstances change.

Even stranger to me that when you ask a married person to name their best friend it's almost without exception not going to be their husband or wife they name.

Ari said...

Wow. It's hard enough to stay in synch with one's husband or wife over a lifetime, let alone a best friend and their own spouse.

And is this acquaintance discounting friends that her daughter's future husband will have, even if they are from the NYC area?

Many of a couple's closest friends are those whose relationship was formed with both the husband and wife as a couple, not grandfathered into the marriage from a previous era and "belonging" to a specific partner.

My guess is that this neighborhood is, herself, a little immature. That, or she was expressing a wish for an "in-town" son-in-law for reasons other than those she professed.

Miami Al said...

It's very sad how difficult it is to keep up with friends over time. Facebook let's us do so superficially, but with any depth, it's impossible.

A few years back we were at a Sheva Bracha Meal and the host pointed something out. The young couple had moved to the neighborhood as adults, and became friends with all of us as a dating and then engaged couple. The host pointed out that when you look at his wedding album, none of the people in it are an active part of their life, but this couple already has their "couple friends," so they're still a part of it.

It's nice to see that while people drift a bit, the people that were dancing at their wedding are still largely the people that they spend Shabbat with.

Lion of Zion said...

i guess i'm an exception, as my close friends are all from school, mostly high school. and our spouses all clicked.

i'm thankful that i have i nice chevra.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with the underlying argument, but I'm not ready to say that she's being foolish and should quickly change her naive views. People make their own choices in dating, some of them more rational than others. A girl who insists on dating a guy 3 inches taller than her is keeping her high heels and potentially giving up a caring, thoughtful husband. That's a personal choice that (we hope) she has carefully given consideration.

If the girl is simply saying, "I understand that I am narrowing my pool of available single men and I'm fine with that decision", then maybe we should just forgive her "foolishness" and just once, just this once, let her make her own decisions in life.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to then hear the same girl griping that "there are no available men", if she immediately cuts the field in half.