I had lunch with gal pals today and it was so much fun. We had to reschedule from Saturday because there is a new grand baby and while she really, Really, REALLY wanted to have dinner with us, there is a new grand baby. Even those without children of their own, and me without any plans for grandchildren in my future understand her excitement to meet the newest member of the family. So we moved it to late lunch today and all got to ooh and ahhh over the handsomest 3 day old I have seen maybe ever. Or at least until another friend has a new baby or grand baby, of course.

We had a great time, talking, laughing, catching up on the summer so far. There was much commiseration on my search for a new dress for G and K’s wedding – I just ordered numbers 11, 12, 13, and 14 last night and hopefully one of them will work out. I am actually still waiting for number 3 to be delivered – it’s lost somewhere in Nordstrom’s order department – but with less than 2 month left I need to stay on top of this.

From that, though, our conversation veered off in a different direction, about manners and behaviors in society today. My attitude toward this dress debacle is admirable to my friends; they would not be so understanding or let it go with K’s aunt. Perhaps I am just not that territorial about wedding matters, but while I might prefer she wear something else because I had my dress first and I am mother of the groom, her wearing the same dress is simply not important enough in the bigger picture for me to pick a fight over it. Besides to make it into that kind of issue, I become “that mother” and add to K’s stress, and because K is stressed and upset G will be upset. So I will just keep ordering dresses and hope something sticks. The search has been rather amusing thus far. Of the dresses that fit and were maybe appropriate, M’s opinions on the subject have been hilarious. From the “goth girl prom dress” to the “you’re not quite old enough” to the “OMG, honey, no, just no” comments, M can be always be counted on to be honest in his opinions about stuff. He is careful to never say anything like “it makes you look fat” or anything equally controversially destructive (M likes his happy wife, happy life, after all), but if I ask I am always prepared for an honest assessment of why he likes or dislikes something.

I have long believed we are basically pretty nice, decent people. We love our family and that includes our tribe. We care about our community, especially our own tribe and its members. If need arises we are happy to share and help if we are able. To the public at large we tend to be polite and gracious, although I know the triggers that snap the restraint on our patience and our tempers are different for each of us.

Some of my close friends through the years have had difficulty understanding how I could be so blasé about M’s blunt honesty in things that could or should impact my vanity. Over time they have come to understand this is not something M does to intimidate or be cruel to me; I ask his opinion when I am not sure about something, and if he hates it, then it tends to sway me more definitively in that direction. However, there are things I like that M has not particularly cared for and voiced that opinion, but I overrule him and wear it anyway. Always I would always rather he be straightforward and honest (qualities I value in those whose guidance and opinions I value and depend upon), and since I happen to like clothes and shoes, I can accept that we are going to have differences of opinions. Like all things in the marriage or any functional partnership, sometimes you have to prioritize and negotiate or compromise, something we tend to do pretty well with, even if neither of us are crazy about the process.

I do not think we are exceptionally great at marriage or being married people, more that we are just a lot more transparent and painfully frank about the struggles we have or do face. In fact, if there is anything that makes me or M or us unique or differentiates us from our peers, it is the fact that we are exceptionally honest and open. While he sometimes has a lot of difficulty believing this to be true, M does not know everything, he is not the decider of everything good or bad, tasteful or not, and he has needed to learn that a little bit of flexibility and open mindedness can go a long way. I, on the other hand, periodically cannot understand why he just does not let me have my way when I really want to have my way. Negotiate? Compromise? Why doesn’t he just lie down on the floor and let me walk all over him? Oh, that losing respect for the spineless yes man … yes, there is that to consider as well.

So yeah, our imperfect marriage partnership works because we understand each other’s humanity. And forgive. And laugh, a lot. Because otherwise I would have smothered him with a pillow long ago. Trust me on this – I know just which one I would use, too.

There are moments, and today is an excellent example, when my friends react as if negative girl is still behind the helm in my brain. My brushing off the kudos for how well I am handling the dress debacle (it is just a dress, after all; if I can’t find something else suitable in the time remaining I will suck it up and be twinsy with the insensitive, tone-deaf aunt) as well as my sharing my cash and prizes for the winning wager are viewed as me undervaluing myself. I do not see it that way at all.

Maybe it is just things I think little of – the dress issue, giving away my winnings from a fun little bet with close friends are just examples that came up today – are viewed as kind of unusual behavior to my friends. They have known me a very long time, and I have always tried to be generous when it is appropriate. For prizes, they gave me booze (never ever been a drinker) and sugar (diabetic fresh off medication). Would it not be stranger if I hoarded my booze haul and ate an entire box of Godiva and Sherri’s berries all by myself? The first is nonsensical behavior and the second would simply be rude behavior. But because they know I am someone who is more likely than not to share good fortune, they got me things I love or that they love to give, and it was simply perfect. And they knew this when they made good on paying up.

My cash prizes go to next block of training sessions, so I told them how much my evolving shoulder muscles thank them. Apparently my butt is looking good, too, and let me just say, it’s good friends who ask you to stand up in a restaurant and turn around so they can critically examine the evolving shape of your ass and hamstrings and tell you honestly they are looking perkier. And because they have all had at least a couple of glasses of wine, they ask your server for her opinion as well, assuring her that only an insincere answer will impact the size of her gratuity. Our server was kind, smart, and quick thinking, and said she so sweetly she had no basis for comparison, having just met me, but I looked very nice. I assured her that she was my newest bestie for being so diplomatic.

Yes, it was a fun and gleeful lunch.

The conversation, for all its gaiety and raucous laughter, focused a lot on how lost the art of civility and basic human decency anymore. Several of my friends are dating, or have been dating in the last 5 years, and their horror stories mirror what I read in blogs I follow regularly. Of the 7 of us present, 5 have young adult children, 2 have never had children of their own (but tend to be doting aunts and friends to children). Online dating has certainly done a lot of revolutionize the process of meeting people, and maybe it’s the optimist in me that thinks things have not gotten terribly worse through the years so much as the basic character flaws and issues of human interaction are magnified by the internet.

C is married, G is less than 2 months away from getting married. Both met their spouses through mutual friends, although I know both have experimented with online dating. I mean, they are 29 and 30; I would be stunned to hear they had not. It is difficult for me to imagine my son, or any other guy in my tribe, ghosting a woman he met online, or using flattery and such to get her to sext with him or send him sexy photos of herself. They are simply not players, or it is extremely unlikely they would be part of my tribe. As for the ladies, these are among my most honest and straightforward of gal pals, each trying valiantly to be honest about who they are and what they are seeking. I can easily imagine them fudging or ignoring the “how much do you weigh?” if they liked the guy, but more easily imagine a calm response of “why do you ask?” and weeding out the men who have a preference for tiny, petite, stick figures. These ladies are not the type to send an older photo of themselves that show them 20 lbs. lighter than they are today. I mean, they genuinely hope to meet someone fun, someone compatible; why bother trying to pretend to be something they are not any longer?

Yet they have all be shit upon by rude, thoughtless men who trifle with them in a cycle of texting and flattery and silence. There have been many seemingly positive first meetings or first dates and then radio silence. Even if they themselves did not want to pursue a second date, the lack of civility and game playing boggles the mind. No wonder people are becoming so cynical.

My friend who just returned from Zurich was talking about someone she met in France, a very nice associate she has chatted with off and on for the last year about business-related issues. They met for drinks and then spent 3 days together, him wining and dining and showing her all the beautiful features of his city. She liked him very much, had a memorable time with him, but he lives in France, she lives here, so there is very little hope for the conventional happily ever after type relationship. But he has kept in touch and continued to treat her kindly and with respect, something apparently kind of rare in her hometown dating adventures. It has softened her harder stance against her former boyfriend and his irresponsible actions (and to his credit, the break-up was a wake-up call to do a better job managing his life).

And it makes me hugely sad. And then it makes me really angry. And it’s not something that just happens to women, either. Men in my social circle tell me their version of horror stories – women they meet online that look nothing like their photos, or worse, lie about who they are, what they are seeking, the state of their lives. It is so disheartening, and reminds me that if anything were to happen to M, I’d probably never have sex again because I could not trust or believe anyone I might meet. For me to become somewhat jaded just listening to the dating stories, I can only imagine how my single friends manage to cope.

I don’t think I am the only person wondering what has happened to common civility. I also do not think it is just younger generations who are afflicted with insensitivity and self-absorption when it comes to relationships of any stripe. It just seems to be becoming normal to be rude, to lie, to be disingenuous in your interactions. Everyone else does it is a flimsy excuse for being a cad or a bitch.

Anymore, it seems that it is a rare bear that someone is genuine, caring, and acts in a responsible manner toward others in his/her interactions. I must be a connoisseur of rare bears, because my tribe is full of them. And while I say this a lot it does make it any less real or true: I am the lucky one to have such great examples to associate with and to emulate.

And for once there was no argument about paying the check; I gave our server my credit card in advance and she just brought it directly to me to sign the bill. And that is the way I love to win one of our friendly wagers – share the purse with my friends, retain sole ownership of bragging rights forever.

Happy Sunday everyone!

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