Mutual Friends

Both of my parents had really strong social networks back in their day.  There were family friends from college days, friends from work, the neighborhood we lived in and from the local Catholic Parish that we belonged to.  A Teacher and a Nurse, we were middle class most years, but I know the finances fell behind a few years due to some ongoing medical issues.  It was all pretty transparent to me.  My needs were taken care of.

Being of someone limited means they learned to maximize their entertainment dollar.  Both card players ( duplicate bridge became their go-to game ), they learned that all you really needed for a good time was to have a few friends over, pull out a deck of cards and make a pot of spaghetti.  Pretty simple, but always filled with a lot of laughs and good cheer.  They created a lot of memories with that strategy and seemed fulfilled.

It wasn’t until I started raising a family of my own that I came to appreciate their wisdom in this area.  My first wife and I struggled to find mutual friends.  There are basically 3 things that can screw up a potential choice.  Either I liked the guy okay but couldn’t stand to be around the women, or else she liked the woman okay but couldn’t stand the guy.  On a few occasions we got with the other couple pretty well but then couldn’t take being around their kids.  It’s a tricky equation where we learned from the school of hard knocks, mostly.

We hit it close a few times and found a family we liked to vacation with and seemed a really good match.  The kids were all about the same age and got along great.  One year we did a 4 day / 3 night vacation at Black Butte Ranch and had a great time.  Everyone had so much fun that we decided to do it again the following year at Sun River, only this time for a full week.  A week turned out to be a bit too long for all of us I think because by the end of the week I think both families were pretty glad to get out of each other’s hair.

In the absence of finding a great couple to hang with during many of those years, we fell back to vacations with family because well, they have to put up with us.  Not that it was a big challenge to be around family, it wasn’t.  It’s just that we didn’t seem to ever be able to get to that level that my parents got to, and that caused a bit of self-reflection.

I’m an engineer so that all by itself may be a part of the problem.  Have you ever been to a party with a bunch of engineers?  Boring.  No wonder she was dying to get out of there.  Work parties were the worst.  Houses, neighborhoods, kids’ school, and work talk.  Zzzzzzzzzzz.  I once went to a work Christmas party of hers and it was a huge eye-opener.  After about an hour the band started up and all these really cute girls got out on the dance floor and let their hair down.  Say what?  Girls that were her co-workers.  That just doesn’t happen in Engineering.  The female engineers I worked with weren’t shaking their booty for nobody, no-how, no-siree-bob.  I just didn’t happen.  Pretty much categorically, one could use the word ‘uptight’.  And the guys weren’t much better in this regard.  Nerds and dancing don’t mix too well.  I often wondered how scandalous it would have been if we had ever had a band at a work party and people actually got out there and shook a leg for a bit.  The water cooler area would have been packed on Monday.

My current wife worked for a Big 4 Accounting firm for a number of years and the social scene described was, let’s just say, quite a bit more lively and spirited that the (yawn) high-tech companies where I had toiled for 30 years.

My first wife and I split after 27 years together and both got a chance to start over.  Having not been together now for about 8 years now, it’s clear the fresh start was welcome for both of us.  We’ve both remarried, the kids are grown and our lives are completely different.  It feels more natural on both sides.  It’s not work.

I am so thankful that my new situation has a full calendar of people we both genuinely love to be around.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the struggle appears to be over, and that’s a very good thing.  We get out often, socialize with a really nice variety of friends that we both value a great deal, and everything just flows so easily now.

That is all.

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