Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Birthday to me

Memories are made up of little moments much more than big ones. I guess this is another way of saying the devil is in the details. Today is my 41st birthday.

Last year -- the Big Four-Oh -- there was a big party, a trip to New York City, and lots of hoopla. I loved it, don't get me wrong. I am NOT one of those people who doesn't like being the center of attention. Last year, I got lots of attention from lots of people.

This year -- the Ho-Hum Four-One -- no hoopla. I woke up when my kids jumped in bed with me, snuggling up and saying, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" My husband (let's call him Milt) made me eggs for breakfast while I packed my sons' backpacks for school. He drove them to school, kissing me good-bye when he left and wishing me a fun day. At 9:00 am, a very nice lady came to the house and gave me a massage -- a gift from Milt. An hour later, I was a gooey pile of mush (I love massages).

I met two of my very good friends for sushi downtown, and Milt joined us. We had some good fish and some good laughs. The best is that my friend Robin, who knows I love a good snack cake, got me two industrial-sized boxes: one of Ring Dings and one of Devil Dogs.

I hung out with my boys when they got home from school, until they'd had enough of "Mom's birthday" and went to play video games. I did some work on the computer and fielded callls from some friends and my parents. When Milt came home, we did gifts and cards with the kids, then went over to my best friend Dina's house for a Rosh Hashanah/birthday dinner. Her mom was there, and they made a pleasant fuss. We had some holiday food, drank a couple bottles of wine and just hung out. Her kids and mine spent 5 minutes eating and 3 hours playing. We joked that both the kids and the husbands were well-behaved. We were home by 9:30. After the kids went to bed, Milt and I watch the season premier of Numbers. I really like that show.

Memories is made of little moments much more than big ones. This was the best day. Everyone I saw I really loved. I felt cherished by my friends and family, honored in little important ways, like the funky birthday cake Dina got from the bakery and the outfit from my favorite over-priced store that Milt picked out all by himself which is actually tasteful and properly fitting. No hoopla, not parties, but some heartfelt good wishes. Lots of little moments that I want to hold on to.

Happy Birthday to me. I hope when it's your birthday, you have at least a couple little moments to celebrate who you are.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Men Friends

I just came back from a trip to New York City, where I got together with two friends of mine -- let's call them Frank and Red -- for a night of drinks, dinner, and conversation. It was a pretty typical "old college buddies" night, except that they were guys -- specifically, two men that I met when we all lived in the same dorm freshman year of college. We realized that we've been friends for 23 years now...

In talking with some of my girl friends, it seems that few of them have actual real-live, good old fashioned male friends; you know, the kind of person that you've known for a million years and with whom you can talk about anything.

I wonder why that happens. I think it has something to do with the suspicion of sexual attraction that seems to lurk around many male-female friendships -- not between the two friends, but as imputed by others. Many a good boy-girl relationship has been ruined by a jealous boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. If we assume that we are supposed to get our allocation of opposite sex-intimacy from our significant other (a flawed supposition but a common one), then perhaps our partner is left to wonder -- why does she need HIM when she has ME?

It could also have something to do with Harry's assertion in When Harry Met Sally, that all inter-gender friendships entail some degree of sexual attraction, and hence it's understandable that our significant others would feel threatened by our boy-girl "friendships," as they are really sexual in nature. Hmmm. Maybe my old friends are just potential relationships that I've back-burned for twenty-odd years, in case my marriage tanks??

For the record, I doubt it. I love Frank and Red, and in fact in college, I went on a few dates with Frank. I'm attracted to both of them -- they are smart, funny, yes, handsome, but most importantly, they are my friends, with all that entails. We've got lots of old stories and common experiences, we talk about our family and kids, we debate politics, we get drunk together, eat too much, and we have each other's backs. I know without a doubt that I could call either of them in the middle of the night and ask for help, and I would get it. Period. So, yes, I'm attracted to them -- but it's not sexual. It's the attraction I feel for any of the many wonderful people in my life whom I love and who love me back.

The conversation with Frank and Red covered the gambit from why the Democrats are so inept at garnering public support to vasectomies v. IUDs to how our aging parents are driving up crazy -- you know, pretty much the same things I cover with my girlfriends. I would hate to give up a friendship like that just because Frank and Red have different plumbing than I do.

I will admit, it can get a bit trickier with newer friends. There seems to be a mistrust of the friendly guy in the office or that woman in class who lets you borrow her notes and sits with you to have coffee: are they just trying to get laid? I generally take the companionable men I meet at face value. I'm happily married, so I'm not looking for a little action on the side. Thus, a friendly face is just that, regardless of whether it's on a man or a woman.

Usually I find you get what you give -- friendship and good conversation usually gets returned. And you know, I've even made some new friends lately -- does it really matter that they pee standing up?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Language of Grief

I was just on-line with a friend that I hadn't spoken to in a while, and he told me that his mom just passed away. My first impulse was to pick up the phone and make a condolence call, but I realized that I didn't have his phone number. He is one of those people in my life whom I rarely see, but will always like and admire. Email is pretty much our sole source of communication, as it is somehow just enough to stay in touch.

I therefore did my best to express my thoughts electronically, via IM. It has the advantage of being instantaneous, like a written conversation, although, still somehow it seemed a bit weird,a post-modern we-all-live-in-our-basement kind of thing. But this is our preferred medium of communication in so many instances.

There is nothing like the loss of a parent. What amazes me is how many people have lost a mom or a dad and yet go on, functioning, with this big hole in their heart. It's really an expected part of life, that eventually you will outlive your parents, but nonetheless, it's heart-wrenching in a way that you never get completely back to what feels like your old carefree self.

As I was trying to writing about this to my friend, I was tearing up. It occurred to me that in IM speak, we can LOL -- but how do we COL -- cry out loud? And if we could, would we? It's okay to be bitter, sarcastic, happy, manic, angry, sleepy, depressed, even drunk -- just don't be sad. Unfiltered, uncontained sadness makes us too uncomfortable. Other cultures feature wailing and the rending of garments upon the loss of a loved one. In America, our idol is Jackie Kennedy, who was stoic and strong after the assasination of JFK. It's not that I don't admire her, too -- who wouldn't? But where is the room in our society for the normal human emotion of grief and sadness? Where is that language?

I hope wherever he is, my friend is having a good cry for his mom. I'm sure she deserves it.