Friend Zone

Between the end of the hockey season (congrats, Blackhawks) and obsessing over the finale of “Game of Thrones”, this week has had a feeling of finality, of the end of things. That was one of the things I liked so much about school– there were finite beginnings and ends of time frames. The school year ends, then there’s a respite (in some respects very welcome, in others sometimes not) and then it all begins afresh in a few months’ time. I see it with my daughter now being home from college, and there’s even more anticipation this summer given that she is transferring to a different university and so will be starting over in an unfamiliar location.

[An aside: As much as I enjoy that aspect of the scholastic cycle, it’s completely different with my work (and a probable contributing factor to my dislike of it). It’s true that individual deals begin and then end with a closing—sometimes in fire-drill fashion, sometimes dragging on for months – although it’s also true that some deals NEVER end, and there is usually some ongoing and highly annoying maintenance and administration that needs to be done post-closing, so you can never entirely wash your hands of a deal as much as you might want to.]

But the thing I like best about the endings of things is the looking forward to the new beginnings. I anxiously await September for hockey (particularly in light of this season’s disappointing outcome) and next April for Season 6 of GOT (especially given all the cliffhangers!). Now I just have to find a way to entertain myself during the break!

One of my summertime diversions is socializing with friends. In fact, this weekend I am expecting actual visitors (!), which means (a) massive overdue house cleaning and (b) food and beverage preparations, neither of which is a particular strength of mine. Because I live at the beach, entertainment is never an issue – we can go to the beach! There are many lovely bars and restaurants! There is even a fair on the Boardwalk this weekend that we can ride our bikes to! – but there’s still the matter of having enough of a selection of beverages and noshes at the house to comply with my hosting duties. Bah! Piddling concerns, in light of the fact that I’M FINALLY GETTING SOME COMPANY!!

Long Beach is so fine in the summer, although the population literally triples, especially on the weekends. I like riding my bike and walking the dogs around the West End. So many good-looking young folks! And I can observe with impunity because I’m essentially invisible. Occasionally someone will comment on my Rangers hat but otherwise I am too old and ugly to register with most people. But that’s OK. I’ve lately become very much an observer rather than a participant in life. I can’t recall the last time I was a member of some kind of “friend group”. It was probably the East Village/Park Slope years back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (which period is rich fodder for future blog posts). By the time my ex-husband and I left for North Carolina in 1995 – in my mid-30s, newly married with a baby – I had been forced to cut ties with the old familiar “fun me”.

Of course I’ve had – and continue to have, thank goodness! –very dear and cherished friends. But due to recent life circumstances, I no longer have a “group” – people with whom you have outings and get-togethers, for events both traditional and random. I especially feel it in the summer because it’s a much more social time of year. (Of course you want to be out of the house, in the sunshine and balmy breezes!) I spent three years in law school amongst mostly 20-somethings instead of making friends with the moms of my daughter’s school friends during the time when we lived with my mother in my old home town of Seaford, NY after our return from the failed experiment that was North Carolina. When I moved to Long Beach in 2002, other than a college friend who had actually grown up in Long Beach, I didn’t know anyone here and I couldn’t really meet anyone (other than my fantastic landlord, of whom I was – and still am! – very fond; we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, even though we only live a few blocks apart) because I was always working and never home. And because I commuted an hour-plus between NYC and Long Beach for work each way every weekday, I wasn’t engaged enough with my work colleagues because all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there at the end of the day (however late that might have been), back to my kid and my house at the beach, so I never developed a drinks-after-work crowd either (not to mention that they were all considerably younger than I was).  Actually, the best work friends that I did make are currently scattered to three of the four corners of the globe: Dubai, Sweden and Ghana.

Add to that my peculiar and infuriating situation of living in Long Beach without a driveway, and it aIl combines to leave me feeling a bit isolated. I don’t like to go anywhere on weekends that I have to drive to because I’ll lose the spot in front of my house and I have to park miles away when I get back to Long Beach. I also can’t drink if I have to drive anywhere. (In fact, that’s a real problem with everyone on Long Island – too much drinking and then driving – because unfortunately there aren’t a lot of easily accessible alternatives as there would be in the city).

My friend Liz posted something on Facebook the other day that resonated with me (and I’ve seen similar sentiments elsewhere): “They say true friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship.” I feel that way about many of my friends, especially in the last decade or so during this hermit phase. So recently I’ve been trying to come up with ways to spend more time with more friends more often. There’s Facebook, of course, which has been a great way to keep up with folks I haven’t seen in ages and who are frequently on my mind. But sometimes you just want face-to-face time.

A couple of years ago I was able to piggyback some friend visits on my daughter’s college trips: Igor and Kim (and their growing family) and my cousins George and Bill in the “DMV” (which I understand is shorthand for the DC/Maryland/Virginia region) when we went to the University of Delaware; Wendy and Claude in the beautiful seaside village of Southport, North Carolina (which, as Claude recently posted on Facebook, is one of the nicest towns in the U.S.) when we went to North Carolina State University; Nick Noble and his son Jonathan when we did our tour of the New England “U” schools.

For the past couple of years, Sue Walsh Ober (who lives in the wilds of New Jersey – so close and yet so far!) and I try to do something together for our birthdays, which occur a couple of months apart in July and September. This year we’re planning a day on Governor’s Island. We actually used to spend a bit of time with Wendy and Claude on Governor’s Island when Claude was in the Coast Guard and we all lived in NYC, so even though G.I. is considerably different from when it was a Coast Guard base, the singular NYC skyline views will bring back many happy memories.

Last summer my daughter and I had a fantastic time in the company of my college roommate Erika and her husband Curtiss (also a close college friend) in Santorini and Naxos, Greece. The year before I had used some JetBlue credits and enjoyed an overnighter with them in D.C. Now they’ve moved to Baltimore and I’m dying for an excuse to go down for a couple of days to check out their new place.

The problem now with short-term trips, though, is getting my menagerie looked after, especially when my daughter is at school. And the difficulty with inviting people to visit is the aforementioned parking situation and my lack of hostessing skills. (Fortunately, Long Beach is easy to get to by train, so my city friends – like my friend Matt from work and his girlfriend who are visiting this weekend – can come pretty easily, although I’m slightly embarrassed that I can’t even pick them up from the train station.) But these are minor obstacles when it comes to reconnecting with people I care about. Hopefully I can manage to bring an end to my hermitage and will have plenty of good times with good friends to look forward to this summer!

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