Coping with past histories

M and I have been married nearly 20 years, together for more than 25. A long shared history.

However, we both had lives, friendships, relationships before we became a couple. Like everyone else. Not so stark difference with us is that vast majority of my friends pre-M have become part of the fabric of our lives post relationship. In fact, many of my old friends became close (or sometimes even closer) to M through the years. M, however, took a 20 year hiatus from ALL his closest friends in his long running career. I mean, zero contact. It’s made for an interesting integration in the years since he began running again and crossing paths, making inroads into the old trail running ultramarathon world.

And being absolutely honest: it’s really hard for me. After a few false starts where I felt trapped or ignored or minimized or any other range of negative emotions – only a fraction of which are all in my mind – we have come to a solution that mostly works for us: M attends significant events alone.

It’s not that the runner people are mean or unpleasant or don’t try to somehow integrate me into the conversations. No, not all all that. There is just this whole big giant block of shared history and then 20 years of catching up and including the shared history, and then there is this non-runner wife who is clearly bored AF by endless running stories and updates on new running adventures and yet more rehashing and retelling of stories and memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life with M.

Even typing that, I feel the twinge of childishness creeping into my own judgment. It’s not like I haven’t tried; I have. But my own capacity and social skills have me hamstrung, and it’s hard to bridge the gap with folks who treat running as a religion and your husband as a trail running legend, if not elevated to demigod status, retired or not. Because of that, I must be equally special or gifted somehow with the fleet-of-feet sport, right? Fuck no. I’m accustomed to that surprise-to-incredulous expressions that cross their faces; sometimes I’m even mightily amused by it. Their eyes go from glowing in anticipation to anywhere but mine when they try to engage me. Because I don’t run. Like Ever. Maybe if I’m being pursued by someone with murder and mayhem on their mind, but since that has yet to happen to me, I cannot be sure. Possibly I could be persuaded to run under those circumstances.

I sound really small and petulant, particularly to myself. But I’m over it now. I’m tired of trying to fit in with the great unwashed asshat community that are many of M’s former competitors and “friends” in the racing circuit.

Anyway, when we have invited runner people to our home, I’m fine to infinitely better. We are hosting, I am busy, I have a relevant role. In another type of social setting – at a race, at a banquet after the race, at other running events – I feel like an unnecessary accessory. This does not come from M; that part originates with negative girl and persists in my general boredom. Bad, bad combination.

I’m wrestling with it again this afternoon. M is attending a wedding, the groom is his best friend’s son, and my hyper-responsible side is sort of squirming. M had said we would both attend, and after a bit of a snippy tiff this morning, we agreed it best if I stay home. I do not typically fail to meet my commitments unless the reasons are valid. My not wanting to go is not really a valid reason in my book.

Snippy tiff – still not sure if this was me picking a fight or me just expressing how I feel and it falling short of M’s expectations. Bride and groom have this magical and romantic love story, per M’s telling. Since I barely know them – the groom have met in passing a few times, have seen the bride from a distance on another occasion – they quite honestly mean very little to me. Wife of the best friend – we have nothing in common, and as far as she’s concerned I’m dumb as your average box of rocks, not at all socially prominent, and therefore someone to be polite to and then set aside. It’s fine with me; we are just very different. I will not fake what I don’t feel, and I quite sincerely wish the happy couple well, but I do not find anything especially romantic or extraordinary about their relationship. Maybe I was a lot too blunt about it, but I essentially said to M that they really do mean nothing to me. I’m happy for them. I hope they have a long and happy union. But I’m not all ooey-gooey about their romance and very special love story.

M thinks my outlook is dark. I think I am realistic and honest about how I feel. However, he felt it would be unlikely that I could avoid showing my indifference. The rest of the tiff – M’s joking references to A and K as “future ex-son-in-law” or “future first wife” have not set well with me and I have told him so in the past. But compared to his glowing optimism and joy about the “specialness” of this union, frankly it irritated me far more than usual. I saw or heard little of this sort of thing when G and K got married, although we both love and adore K and G and K as a couple. For C and A, there has been a conservative concern about their long-term relationship, because there are some unique challenges built in. Our concern as parents – we want our kids to be happy, to have healthy and thriving relationships – and the way we show it is just different. I get it. But since I’m already in a bit of an iffy, vulnerable state, it’s impossible to not feel a little hurt by the contrast.

So I am sitting at my desk pondering things rather than watching the this couple walk down the aisle and then eating and drinking and being merry at the reception. And we are all so glad. I’m actually happier here, and in truth it’s healthier for my own relationship that I am here.

But I wonder if I will ever be confident enough to withstand running-related events. M does not compete anymore, but he’s still highly regarded and respected in the running circles he travels. Many, many of his good old boy network is still active in local ultramarathon circles, including volunteering at races, mentoring others new or growing into the sport, crewing other runners during actual races.

Many of the folks M knows and hangs with now – I enjoy being around them and would gladly, happily go to their weddings or events. Thing is, these are relationships M has begun, fostered, built during our marriage. I am not just the woman he left racing to find; I’m the one who finds dirty, sweaty people standing on my pool deck when I get home from work. I have shared history with these folks along with M.

However I try to describe it, it is just different. And while our solution to my feelings seems extreme (even to me), it is also the only thing that truly works. Hating myself for feeling the way I feel does no good, and in truth M is comfortable with going alone. While he will never openly agree with me, he enjoys himself a lot more not having to be concerned about me.

By the time he left for the wedding, we were fine. Usual, typical, relationship normal type fine.

Like weddings, life and marriage are imperfect. Many a bride has hopes and dreams of the “perfect” wedding and something goes wrong or falls short of lofty expectations. Same with marriage. In my own, it’s fortunate we can be honest about our disagreements. M doesn’t always see the snubs and such that I feel, and I accept full responsibility for my own insecurity and social awkwardness. This world of his old friends, many of whom are athletically-snobby (M has his own strong and wide bias in this area as well) – I don’t belong there. It’s good that I recognize it and dial direct in dealing with it.

But I don’t always feel great about it. Human here, with my own little fragile ego to make me absolutely certain it’s real.

Boozey-schmoozey summertime

A couple of my private clients run very social organizations. Over the traditional holiday season and in the summer there are multiple parties for different tiers of their organizations with lots of really great food and booze. The raffle and door prizes are pretty stellar, too – everything from bottles of good booze and cases of wine to gift cards, weekend trips, expensive electronics. The food is always amazing even if not stuff I personally enjoy, and the people are mostly interesting and happy in a social environment.

So summer is also very busy season as well for celebrations, only without having to dress up and wear heels so much. Last couple of weeks there were bbq events with lots of beer and wine and amazing bbq chicken and even more amazing potato salad. (I love a good potato salad, but I admit to be hugely fussy about it.) It was fabulous! And I ate way too much, but worth every single calorie I have been sweating off in the gym the past weeks.

Being the owner of my own little firm, I have a certain level of obligation to attend such events when invited. M gets a pass for a lot of the summer invites because of his running schedule and his own social calendar, plus a lot of these things are after work and going solo is not looked upon with any sort of raised eyebrow. Thankfully I get a pass on most of the golfing, being a non-golfer, non-tennis player, but the happy hour and bbq events are kind of tough to dodge.

Last Christmas it felt as if I could open my own small liquor store with the amount of booze I won or was gifted by clients and vendors. There was also some really good cheese and Godiva chocolate and a basket of assorted cheesecake and baked goods, but the cheese M and I enjoyed with friends and the Godiva and goodie baskets were shared with my various offices. The booze – being non-drinkers – we gave to our friends who enjoy the occasional cocktail or spirits, the kids, my trainer, my hairdresser, my nail ladies, the associates, etc. The bounty was almost embarrassing.

Now we are into the summer social season and I have my first bottles of rum and scotch, and last weekend a couple of bottles of wine. Thankfully we have friends who are not so set in their booze ways they are willing to experiment and figure out if they enjoy different spirits.

I almost feel guilty asking others if they might enjoy this bottle of liquor, that 6 pack of beer, what about this wine, but I would probably feel worse pouring it down the sink.

On Saturday M and I attended a boating cruise adventure that had a riverboat gambling theme. We came home with a couple of bottles of wine and bunch of restaurant gift cards. M, big winner at cards without having much interest in cards, exchanged his chips for mystery gift card packages, including a few places we like on occasion. We are pretty far from restaurant snobs, but with me being a picky eater and M’s present dietary guidelines, we tend to stick with the same local haunts. So again, our kids, our friends are beneficiaries of my work-related social swag.

My clients, and my law firm bosses, are fantastic, social people. The lawyers annual golf/promotion day is coming up with dinner afterwards. While the booze is flowing during the event, I do not think they are giving bottles away. Thankfully. However, the partners do the gift and award choosing, and they are very secretive about the process. From what I hear from the associates the gifts are always a wearable of some sort and then something fun – gift card or some sort of desirable object. That’s not until August, though, so I will have to bide my time and manage my curiosity.

But my friends love me more summer and holiday time, with my boozey-schmoozey summer and holiday hauls of wine and spirits and such. It is kind of gratifying to I have come up with oddball things to share that actually taste good to them, unlike the frozen green beans in protein shakes that one of my friends tried this morning on my recommendation. Apparently she now think I may be trying to kill them off by hoping she and her husband could choke it down. Made me laugh, because it’s not THAT bad, especially since I cannot even taste them buried under the fruit I toss in with it. Makes me wonder if she cooked them first.

Ah well. Me and my first world problems, you know.

Crisis of social confidence

My daughter is engaged. No progress has been made on setting a date or actually planning a wedding (all of which is fine with me – no need to rush). However, I had coffee with a friend this morning and she was talking about her daughter’s showers and other wedding-related parties that are coming up in the next few months and it reminds me how complicated getting married has become. I just received an invitation to her daughter’s shower yesterday, which I already knew I would not be able to attend, even if I were just floating around the pool all afternoon.

Anyway, I am quite well known for my aversion to such things and my friend called me on it, saying it reflects poorly on our long and close friendship. She said it kindly, but it stung all the same. I tried to chose my words carefully and explain that we are each responsible for how we spend our time, and playing goofy games with other adult women tends to bore me as well as make me self-conscious and anxious, no reflection upon her or anyone else intended. Her daughter knows full well that I love her and her fiance to pieces, and I always send a nice gift. I understand and am hugely flattered that my absence might be noted and missed, but I would much rather invite their whole family over for a bbq and enjoy/celebrate the upcoming nuptials that way.

My friend was irritated with my response, hurt by my attitude, and told me that I should “take one for the team” and just suck it up and deal for the sake of our long friendship. I know she does not enjoy the groom’s family very much, and his mother, aunts, and female cousins will all be present. That said, this is her third child to marry, and the third go-round of showers, parties, and actual wedding to attend. Her daughters-in-law and other friends will be present to help buffer and support her. I just feel a bit pressured to spend an uncomfortable few hours doing silly things and not getting enough opportunity to socialize with people I do not see often enough.

Anyway, I am relatively sure none of you are ettiquette experts, but if you are and I am being rude, over-reactive, and unreasonable in my desire to not attend please feel free to weigh-in and tell me. My dear friend – who despite this rather unflattering post is very much a dear friend – asked me how I would feel if she and her family “boycotted” C’s shower. I am nearly always honest in my responses to direct questions and this was no exception. In this case I said (1) I would not see it as a “boycott” so much as they had other things to do, (2) I cannot imagine C wanting anything resembling a traditional shower … maybe a cake occasion event with close female friends to celebrate, and (3) I/we do not keep score on our social calendars.

Thinking about it now, I am not precisely sure what happened, how a friendly coffee break went so wrong. I do not feel unreasonable in how I feel about showers or my choice to not attend. This is not our first rodeo with big events in our kids’ lives and I am not exhibiting new or unusual behaviors.

It will work out, because it always does. But it’s upsetting to have unintentionally hurt my friend’s feelings by simply being straightfoward and honest.