Turning 32 or 34 or even 35 felt very un-milestoney. My birthdays flitted by like sparrows -- they were non-events.
But this year, I've been thinking about my birthday. I've been thinking about myself.
37 I am turning.
That's the point at which you've been an adult for longer than you've been a child.
It's got me pondering my adult life and the way I've constructed it and the way I'm living it and I've been, you know, evaluating things.
Now my plan is to unleash a maelstrom of self-relective rambling into the internets. It's my birthday, and I'm going to write like it's 1999.
I was browsing the adult non-fiction shelf at the library the other day and this caught my eye:
I've been carrying some grievances around with me for quite some now. They're quite well bundled up in toques and down vests and they are huddled up in my mommy heart and I've asked them to leave several times but they haven't. They just sit around smoking cigarettes, drinking low-quality beer from cans and playing Asshole. They are tree planters stuck on a bad contract in one of the shamefully deforested landscapes of my heart. (Go 1999!)
These grievances of mine have to do with girlfriends. With BFFs. With my big sisters. With my sister-in-law. With craving the affection and companionship and intimacy of female relationships.
Sometimes I feel kind of friendless. Sometimes I feel somewhat adrift, unloved, even kinda loathed by the women closest to me. I'm unsure where this fits on the spectrum of self-inflicted vs. just plain old inflicted. I'm also unsure of how much of what I'm feeling is genuine re-action to real injury and how much is self-indulgent, hormone-fueled lady-wank.
I've heard from many sources in my readings up on women and happiness that women need female friendships to be happy.
Meg Meeker, in her book, "The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers" urges mothers to "Maintain Key Friendships." You need, she says, an inner circle of friends and an outer circle of friends.
"Your inner circle are usually few in number--three or four. These are the friends who can step into our kitchens at dinnertime and take over feeding our kids, put them to bed, and clean up the peanut butter on the floor and the jelly on the chairs when we suddenly fall apart from tragic news. They feel like our right arm or our left leg, whichever we need on a certain day (Meeker, 40)."
Our outer-circle friends, Meeker goes on to describe, "while no less valuable, are nonetheless different. These are the friends who bring casseroles when we are sick, who run our kids to school and soccer games, and who are always up for a brisk walk after dinner. They are companions who bring laughter and comfort and uplift us when we are down. Usually there are more outer-circle friends in a mother's life--about ten or so (41)."
Which brings me on around to today's point:
I spend far far far too much time thinking about the women in my life and inserting their names into the end of the sentence, "Thanks for the casserole, ___________."
It's not that I crave tuna and macaroni together but don't know how to combine them. It's that there was a time in my life when I could really have used a freaking casserole, and none arrived.
I had three children 4 and under and a scary medical crises that I didn't actually tell anybody about. I pretended everything was fine because I didn't trust anybody to be there for me. I imagined they'd gossip about my problems over glasses of Merlot at dinner-parties I wasn't invited to instead of providing emotional support in casserole or casserole-like form.
I imagined they'd rub their hands together gleefully thinking about how lonely, scared, sleep-deprived, and milk-stained I must be with all those babies crawling all over me, instead of acting like an extra limb for me, helping to scrape the applesauce out of my hair or pull a toddler off a wall for me so I could string together a coherent sentence about how I was feeling.
I didn't trust anybody to act like an outer-circle friend as Meeker describes them, never mind an inner-circle friend, so I didn't tell a soul who wasn't on a need-to-know basis.
Now I'm mad at those people for the way I imagined they'd act. And when I tell myself that isn't fair to them, I think of the hundred ways they weren't there for me when I had babies and I stay mad.
I wonder if other moms experience the same sense of isolation in those early years? I wonder if I'm particularly unlovable, or whiny, or perhaps maybe extremely normal?
I was watching Parenthood the other day and one of the final scenes was a very well-attended baby shower for the character of Christina who was expecting her third baby. There was friends and family and balloons and cake and gifts stacked to the sky and I couldn't help but compare my life to that TV-life and feel inadequate.
Needless to say, there was no baby-shower that had to be kept secret because everyone knew I'd object to all the fuss but they just couldn't help coming together in a large group to lavish love and adoration on me in a flowering backyard when I had my third baby.
I know much better than to be hurt about that. TV-life I scoff at you -- you are just not real.
But what about these oodles of reliable female-friends Meeker insists should be always "up for a brisk walk after dinner" or on-the-ready when life gets tough to step into my kitchen and tuck my kids in bed. Is that TV-life or for realsies she's talking about?
In one way Meeker's advice to tend your key friendships is, of course, excellent. In another way her waxing on about female relationships just makes me feel like such a complete failure when, I could come up with plenty ways I'm failing without her help, thanks.
I've considered hurling that book across the room. But instead I've just left it on a side-table. I'm refusing to read further. I'm also not taking it back to the library, even though it's overdue.
It's a subtle game this taking responsibility for the shape of your life, for the condition of your relationships.
I want to get to the bottom of it. I need to.
So if any dear soul out there has actually read to the bottom of this post, welcome to "Thanks for the Casserole, Biotch" week here at Honest2Betsy. I'll be here all month.
Love & Tuna/Macaroni with breadcrumbs on top,