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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Axing Friends

Being in Montenegro for three glorious weeks, we were surrounded by some true, blue friends. It felt good. It felt great. And it made me question my "friendships". A few in particular. I realized I don't have the time or patience to continue friendships with fairweather friends or friends where a jumble of strings are attached.

I refuse to pretend anymore or reach out to those that rarely reach back. I AM a good friend and I AM a good person. I will no longer be a doormat or let my spouse be one. The more you give, sometimes, the more people expect. And it sucks when all some people do is take...from your heart, your home and your life and yet, somehow, make you feel as though you owe them. But I accept responsibility here. We have let this happen.

And a lot of it has to do with both hubby and I's mutual need to be liked by everyone.

But I'm done. I know who my friends are and I know where they live. Some are across oceans but they're the best friends we'll ever have.

I will continue to live and work in this country where friendships are few and far between and that's ok by me. I no longer have a yearning to make friends nor will I complain about how hard it is to make friends. I have friends who fill me completely. My cup runneth over. For the most part, I have to hop on a plane to get a refill and that's a journey I'm willing to make until such time (when the time comes) that we're in the same country again.

Yes, I realize I've mixed "I" and "We" quite a bit here. Sometimes you're not only standing up for yourself but for someone else who doesn't have the energy to do it for themselves.