I read a brilliant op-ed in the NY Times yesterday which had a wonderful list of what we know now that we may not have known a decade ago. I was thrilled to see I had mastered a couple of items on the list, including who not to invite to lunch. Ok, well, let’s just say I understand that notion now but am still slightly flummoxed when it’s time to obey this commandment.
Let’s say, for instance, you have a perfectly lovely relationship with a woman in exercise class. One day the rapport is so good–how did she notice you had worked to correct the angle of your thigh when doing 700 leg lifts, after all–that you casually suggest meeting for lunch at the new ramen place. She seems receptive but as the day approaches you realize with great dread that you will have little to discuss. Her children are younger and less likely to be nabbed by police, her marriage far more satisfactory based on her exclamations of loving kindness for her partner, and her career happily discarded for hearth and home in way that makes you wonder, more than occasionally, if she has the Stepford chip implant.
Perhaps your scheduled lunch is the same day as the shared exercise. You smile happily and remind her of your commitment because this is what people in their 40s do no matter secret concerns. She mentions one of her toddlers is under the weather and rescheduling might be best. You are secretly thrilled–you’ve now not only discarded a potentially difficult hour but now have a little free time–but also disappointed. Is it possible she was as desperate to avoid the occasion as you?
It seems no matter how hard I try I cannot escape the feeling I had in high school when I wasn’t chosen to run with the popular clique. Which, by the way, affirms another rule: there’s no such thing as a grown up. Surely, though, it’s all about flinging oneself into the moment and presenting with confidence (felt or not). Which is why, Phoebe, I decided to assume the dear woman was telling the truth (or had a fear of carbs that I certainly couldn’t tolerate). Oh, and I will never reschedule that lunch. I count this as progress.
I too was struck by the brilliance of Pamela Druckerman’s article in The New York Times, although I too seem to have missed out on some of her hard won wisdom.
Your point about suggesting lunch with someone with whom we have little in common is well-taken, but I would go one further and suggest that I still don’t know how to divest myself of certain ill-inspired friendships, long after we have grown apart. No matter how studiously I neglect said friend’s birthday or ignore her emails and texts, inevitably I will run into her in the park one day and find myself making plans for dinner, then steeling myself for the inevitable fight with hubby, who dislikes said friend’s boorishly-behaved husband as much as I do. For those of us who have trouble with boundaries, even in our forties, I sometimes think only an out of state move – or death – will clear the cobwebs of such friendships out of our lives.
Here’s a short summary of some other life skills I have yet to master:
1) How to use the TV remote;
2) How to make peace with those last 5 – OK, make that 10 – extra lbs;
3) How to get in the right lane of Dupont Circle, so I can get off it when I need to;
4) How not to care when I find out on Facebook that I didn’t get invited to what I thought was a reasonably good friend’s birthday party;
5) How to follow instructions correctly when I’m baking.
Maybe all these issues will miraculously resolve themselves by the time we’re fifty?