Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Different strokes for Different folks

These aren't the friendships I'm referring to in my last post, Axing Friends. Here in Sweden, I've found that one of the reasons I haven't been able to cultivate good friendships is due to the lifestyle differences between me and my potential friend(s). And that's ok. I pride myself in surrounding myself with folks that are inherently different than myself. I take great joy in the learning, growth and excitement that comes from meeting and forming friendships with those that hold different beliefs, practice other religions, live completely different lives or even dress or eat differently than I do. Variety is the spice of life after all.

On the surface, many of the people I've met look just like me. We have the same age kids, both work outside the home, wear the same kind of clothes, drive the same cars (Volvo station wagons are all the rage in Sweden) and have many of the same "issues". But there's one fundamental difference that quickly puts the brakes on a budding friendship: The relationship she has with her spouse/partner/family vs. the one I have with mine.

"The girls and I are heading out to drink and dance tomorrow night. Wanna come with?"

1. My husband is a 50-year old Italian man. Perhaps that says something stereotypical to you. If not, let me spell it out. He's a tad bit of a jealous one. And again, I'm ok with that. I knew it when I married him and I married him just the same :-).
2. We have no family here to look after our little guy should WE wish to have a night on the town. Hubby does go out on occasion and I practically kick him out the door when he has an opportunity because he works too damn hard.

So here's the deal: I would much rather go out WITH my hubby than without. But when I am invited out, I carefully weigh the pros and cons. Cons are obviously dealing with a jealous hubby because even when he tells me to go and have a good time, he doesn't always really mean it. God love him.

Nobody here accepts or understands this. They look at me like I'm stuck in the 40s, sporting a poodle skirt and matching apron pulling a yummy roast out of the oven 5 minutes before hubby arrives home from his hard day at the office. It is sooo common for ladies my age to go out once a weekend, all dolled up and get plastered. The men too. They take turns. There's lots of bonding that goes on when you're holding your friend's hair back in a ponytail as she regurgitates a plate of tapas into a shitstained public toilet. And then there's the reminiscing over the course of the next week about how Linda slurred and dryhumped her way into a pack of sloshed college guys. Oh that Linda, she'll never learn. ok, so this is an extreme picture I'm painting.

No matter how much I try to convince hubby that we'll be sitting with our legs crossed in a quaint, female-only jazz bar quipping about laundry detergent brands and diaper rash, I just know I'll end up hopping in and out of taxis in increasing states of inebriation...or at least following those that are.

So I miss out on the bonding and the stories but frankly, I don't know that I need that kind of entertainment at the age of almost 34. A cup of coffee at the local indoor playpark is more my speed. And that's not to say that I never leave the house without the Italian in tow. In fact, I have gone back home to Canada without him for extended periods, twice. And I visit the gals for coffee and we take the kiddies places, etc. And not so long ago, I did take up a new friend on an offer for a ladies night out. We had a ball, laughing, chatting and drinking . And hubby picked me up just in the nick of time.

Back "home" in Monty, my dearest friend and I had plenty of chances to laugh, drink and bond...while our hubbies did their own kind, just feet away. You see, when I arrived, the first thing I did the next day was get my hair did. For 40 euro, I had it coloured, cut and styled. I get the same done here for 200. I digress. Well, when I showed up to my appointment, who was waiting for me outside to surprise me but said dear friend. She was by herself and I knew this was a big deal as her hubby is far more "protective" than mine. She sat with me while the hair stylist applied the foils and we gabbed incessantly while they were setting. Then she looked at her watch and I instinctively told her to run along and we'd catch up, the four of us, later that night.

We get each other her and I. We are cut from the same cloth in many ways. And that day, we talked a lot about our respective relationships and the special friendship we have because of the similarities in our hubbies.

All this is not to say that I don't respect the relationships Swedish women (yes, I'm generalizing) have with their hubbies. I just expect the same respect for mine. Because I don't live like they do, I understand that I won't be able to participate completely in the Swedish Friendship Building Process and that's ok.

And now I've been invited to a Spa Weekend in November with a new friend and her pack of friends. She sort of knows the deal between hubby and I but God Bless her for including me. I don't know that I can or want to leave little man and hubby behind for an entire weekend and I'm not quite sure how to explain this to her. Unlike a night of heavy drinking and debauchery, this weekend seems to be more about R&R so that sounds good. We all need a bit of pampering a massage or cold cucumbers can provide. So I'm trying to decide if the risk is worth the reward. I do like this friend very much. She's a real riot. And my last experience with her and her best friend was great. So we shall see.

But if I do decide not to go and she stops inviting me, I won't blame her or me. That's just the way it goes.


Monica said...

"There's lots of bonding that goes on when you're holding your friend's hair back in a ponytail as she regurgitates a plate of tapas into a shitstained public toilet. And then there's the reminiscing over the course of the next week about how Linda slurred and dryhumped her way into a pack of sloshed Armenian guys."

omg.... truly laughing out loud!

firstly, i did NOT know that about Hubby!

well, as you know, mine is being a sahm. the invites stopped coming a looong time ago. fair enough. but yes, it's the 'respect for my life choices' thing that matters. and makes all the difference when considering who are your friends.

SwedishJenn said...

Glad that passage entertained. It came from truth..ha!

Actually Mon, it was your story that prompted this post and made me reflect on how a lifestyle choice can impact friendships. And this is where I got the "respecting others' choices" message from. I look at it this way: I want to be your friend for many reasons. And I know where to find you. I know you are a SAHM and that proposing a night out on the town or a day, sans kids, will not get me anywhere. So, I come to you or we meet with the kids and we bond that way. And that's just fine by me :-). Anyone who wants to spend time with me will know this now. They can decide for themselves.

Michelle said...

This in fact does have a lot to do with yesterday's post, in a round-a-bout way. Its about standing up for yourself, your choices, the way you live your life and accepting the way others live theirs. I, for one, think its awesome and congratulate you on being confident and steadfast in your choices. I happen to have a completely different experience in my marriage, we give one another a lot of space and often go out without each other. Its not right or wrong, better or worse, its just the way we happen to be. (And its probably a good thing for us personally, as he tends to go away for long periods of time for his job! Ha!) People think oddly of us for having such free ideas of ourselves as well, but who cares really? We have all the trust in the world with eachother and are happy this way - and the last time I looked, we were the only ones in this marriage.
Once again, great post - you have a great way of bringing up all sorts of great "life lessons" and giving us all an opportunity to look at ourselves and relate!


SwedishJenn said...

Hiya Michelle! That's right. Noone has the right to judge another's relationship. Well unless there's danger involved. But that opens up a whole other can of worms.

My point was just that I lead a different (not sure if "lifestyle" is the right word) than others and it's a fundamental difference as it impacts the forming of friendships. But I accept that.

I actually made the decision NOT to go on this trip with the girls but it was mainly due to financial reasons: We want to go home for Christmas AND want to throw Ted's party then. I know myself and I know I'd be spending big bucks outfitting myself before and during the trip..ha! So, instead, I will settle for a girl's night some night.

Michelle said...

Good choice - I want you to come home to Canada for the holidays too! I really, really want you to be with your family and dear friends this year....and I want you to come visit us in Pet if you are nearby!! Haha, take care, stay strong!!

septembermom said...

Jenn, I connect with different types of friends in my own way. I agree that it's important to feel good about how you let those relationships move around your life. Sounds like you're thinking it all out thoughtfully.