|“Will You Be My Friend?”
|By: Ron Brounes
I can’t believe I’m back in dating mode again. And yet, there I stood, surveying the closet for just the right outfit: khakis vs. jeans, golf shirt vs. button down, loafers vs. Crocs. Suddenly those all too familiar butterflies reentered my stomach. What do these clothes truly say about me? Will my dry-witted (oft-misunderstood) sarcasm get me in trouble (as was common in my dating past)? What will we talk about during the evening? Should we go Dutch-treat on the meal? How will the night end? How long do I need to wait to correspond again? Thankfully, these days I have someone to share these awkward moments…my wife. (No, we are not swingers.) We are merely seeking out some new friends, OUR married couple friends, to add to our social circle.
Sure Barb and I each brought wonderful relationships to our union and we continue to socialize with many of them today. I love going out with her lawyer buds, and the old Grisham novels and countless episodes of The Practice allow me to hold my own in many complex legal discussions. But when the talk turns to the true effects of tort reform or the best mediators in the city, I am typically at a loss. Additionally, I really love the “single gals” (and relish a good Cosmo), but fear I become a fifth wheel when her “Sex and the City” friends head out for a night of juicy gossip. Conversely, Barb has welcomed my friends with open arms and is a real trouper through long-winded diatribes about Longhorn football (and that’s with the wives). Together we love hearing about Bat/Bat Mitzvah escapades and learning about which colleges our friends’ kids are considering. Yet, we are clearly in different stages of life and want to find other friends who are interested in quality discussions about potty training, nursery schools, and Disney on Ice.
While I had clearly mastered the wild, single bar scene in my day (as long as there was a big-screen TV showing ESPN in the corner), Barb and I seek new venues to find our soul mates. Each trip to music class, Chuck E. Cheese, or Toy-R-Us represents an opportunity to make that friendship that will last a lifetime. Each day we drop Emmy off at school is a chance to interact with a new parent and find that one commonality that will ensure a future of family vacations and holiday parties. Since many are 10-years our junior (at a minimum), we have struggled with generational disparities and fear the time in the not-so-distant future that we will be forced to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts in order to communicate with our new (hip) friends. And, unfortunately, as with all dating scenarios, ours have not been without their challenges.
MY WIFE THE STALKER; ME THE JERK; EMMY THE BAD INFLUENCE
About a year ago, we watched excitedly as a moving truck pulled up across the street and we discovered new neighbors with two kids just a little older than our daughter. Immediately, my wife rode over on the welcome wagon, complete with chocolate goodies, invitations to book club, and suggestions for kid-friendly places in the neighborhood. They seemed pleasant enough (at least the wife did) and after each interaction, we strategized about how to make that move and take the relationship to the next level without seeming too pushy. Alas, the Super Bowl seemed like the perfect setting so we invited them over for fajitas and margaritas (and juice boxes). They never showed that night and waited several days to share some (lame) excuse about an emergency room (only because I ran into her taking out the trash). Despite my claims that “they just aren’t that into us,” Barb gave them the benefit of the doubt and planned a rain check evening. We included another neighbor family, and I am happy to report the two couples hit it off masterfully. From a distance, we have enjoyed watching their relationship bloom as they became very close friends. In fairness, I was invited across the street a few weeks later. Their new (extremely heavy) patio furniture arrived and the (not-so-pleasant) husband needed a hand moving it to the backyard. I obliged and am still awaiting the invite to use the furniture by their pool. (Perhaps I should send him the chiropractor’s bill for treatment of my vertebral subluxation.)
On another occasion, my previously referred to “dry-witted (oft-misunderstood) sarcasm” again got me into trouble. I was bonding with a father of a kid in Emmy’s class after discovering he was an avid sports fan. During one email exchange, we were speculating about the games of the weekend, when I launched into a series of “hilarious” mean-spirited quips and inappropriate grief about his college football team. I really let him have it, similar to the “hysterical” banter I often share with my lifelong friends (and fellow sports losers). I remember hitting “send” as I eagerly awaited the equally funny response in which he undoubtedly would dish it right back. Instead, the return email read simply…“why so mean?” An explanation (and apology) seemed in order, if for no other reason than to ensure that his son still played with my daughter.
Finally, Emmy was clearly responsible for sabotaging a potential lovely relationship. We were having dinner with another family when she decided she was done eating (two bites of chicken nuggets really hit the spot) and got out of her chair to hide under the table (and it wasn’t our table). Granted, other children were running around this kid-friendly restaurant so her behavior was not totally out of the norm. Still, the little boy with us sat quietly, eating his veggies, and coloring pictures of Spiderman. Since the dinner ended early, we suggested grabbing ice cream, but were snubbed with a seemingly ridiculous explanation about a structured schedule and getting to sleep by 7:30 p.m. sharp. (For the record, at 7:30 p.m. sharp, Emmy is just settling in for her nightly Dora the Explorer marathon.) Needless to say, we have been too embarrassed to ask for a second date for fear that our daughter may be perceived as a bad influence.
AT LAST, A POTENTIAL MATCH
A few weeks ago, we were invited to a family’s home for Friday night dinner. Since we are seldom on the receiving end of such invitations, we were initially nervous and eager to impress (and not about to let Emmy ruin another lasting friendship). We arrived only to find that the husband’s parents would be joining us that evening. We were not exactly sure how to take this unexpected development. Were these people being overly aggressive and introducing us to their folks so early in the relationship? Or, did they realize our advanced ages and think we would make more fitting companions to the older couple?
The night was as good a first date as we had ever enjoyed (besides ours, Baby). The conversation was easy and even ventured into topics seldom reserved for such early interactions: religion, politics, constipation remedies (for kids and adults). The kids played well together and ran all around the house. No one seemed to mind when Emmy jumped up and down on the couch; she was only following her young hosts’ lead. One by one, they entered time-out for various reasons as we compared parenting (and grandparenting) tips. Soon the older folks (not us) retired to their home, but we stayed for a nightcap (decaf). The clock struck 10:30 p.m. and the kids showed no signs of tiring out. Finally, we chose not to overstay our welcome, shared some heartfelt goodbye hugs (and firm handshakes), and departed from this lovely evening. On the car ride home, we declared them “keepers,” made tentative plans for future trips our families will take together, even joked about an upcoming wedding as their older son would make a nice beau for Emmy. (Fortunately she was asleep in the car seat and didn’t offer an opinion.) And suddenly those all too familiar butterflies reentered my stomach. Did I say anything overly sarcastic or rude? Was Barb’s inner-stalker at all on display? Should Emmy really have jumped on their couch? Just how long do we have to wait to correspond with them again? On a positive note, if this relationship doesn’t work out, perhaps we can ask for his parents’ number (and Facebook info).