This is Day 7 of a 21-day effort to see the good in what might, at first, look like an irredeemable drag. Its name comes from a classic bit of dialogue uttered by actor Kevin Bacon in a classic film of my generation, Animal House.
One of the most profound and difficult changes I went through in my adult life was the return to single-hood from married-land. And while that change alone (no pun intended) was weird and discomfiting from time to time, the big shock came with the loss of our friends, most of whom, as it turned out, were not "ours," but his.
I guess it shouldn't have been entirely unexpected. Long before he was Chief Atheist of the West Coast he was That Guy Everyone Wants to Hang Out With. Jim was, is, I'm sure, not only a natural extrovert, but exceptionally good at cultivating relationships. He had a great high/low thing going, so he was liked by all but the kind of snobs sane people want nothing to do with in the first place. He also placed a premium on friendship, carving out huge amounts of time for connecting, supporting and just hanging with friends and relatives. And he had a lot of both.
I, on the other hand, naturally gravitated towards being alone. I've always had a few very close friends, a varying number of acquaintances I'd see or hear from infrequently, and almost no interest in my own family, save a very few exceptions. I loved having the relationships, or the fruit of them, the wild & woolly "orphans" Thanksgivings, the bowling meetups, the penny-ante poker games and parties and such; I just hated the getting. And the upkeep. And...
Anyway, the division of labor in our household worked well: he created the friendships and led; I played hostess and followed. The result was that we were always surrounded by terrific people and our gatherings kicked some Martha Stewart-ass.
No one was exactly mean to me after the split, something I now know was at least partly due to my ex-husband's refusal to let people speak ill of the dead. (A policy that I did not share, I'm ashamed to say.) I got a little flak of the "you're crazy" variety, but I understand that from the outside, you never have quite the view you do from the inside, and I accept that. But not a lot of haranguing. Mostly, people just...disappeared.
It was a tough adjustment, realizing that not only were my beloved in-laws gone (something I absolutely expected) but so was my entire support network. Since my best friends were 2,000 miles away in Chicago, I turned to the people I knew...but didn't know. It felt strange and false, this "insta-friends" thing. Most bonding does in the beginning.
My new boyfriend had a circle of friends, too. Most of them embraced me, which was nice, but I wanted more for myself after going through the turmoil of losing everything. ("Everything" being friends, I was dying to offload the possessions of my past). I worked at making friends of my own, of building my own circle on my own terms. And I did a fair job of it. When that relationship crashed and burned, I found myself with a good web of support, some of whom actually included friends I'd made through The Youngster.
I wouldn't wish the emotional turmoil I went through in those three-odd years on anyone. At the same time, like so much of the crap I've been through, it made the excellence I enjoy today possible. I am more open, more appreciative, more aware, and yes, more outgoing than I was when my emotional needs were being met in the one-stop-shopping scenario I created for myself via marriage.
Being friendless taught me how to be a friend. Funny how that works.