I will be going home to Canada in late March. In one way, I can hardly wait. I miss my family and my friends, particuarly my girlfriends. When I was Single, my family and friends were my greatest social and emotional support. Now that I am married and across the ocean, I really miss them. Thank goodness we live in the age of cheap telecommunications.
The problem is that I know that as soon as I leave Scotland, I will begin missing my husband. And here we have the central tragedy of the foreign spouse: a heart always divided between this country and that.
But if there is one thing that women, especially Single women, are trained in, it's loss. A Single woman's depression during or after a wedding is not necessarily caused because she wants to get married, too. It's sometimes because she has, in some ways, lost her friend. If the groom is her friend, a significant fence has gone up between them. If the bride is her friend, they are now living two different kinds of life. The bride has moved into the married sphere, and the Single woman has one (or two) fewer Single friends.
We begin our training in loss with the books we read as children. The Anne books, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie: there always came a moment when a girl got married and left her family and friends, and those family and friends felt the loss of her. Anne was cut to the quick when she came upon Fred proposing to Diana. Jo was revolted when she discovered that John Brooke was in love with Meg. (Carrie) Laura... Well, (Carrie) Laura** said good-bye to Mary when Mary went to blind school, and to her parents when she married her husband Alonzo.
Then there comes that moment when a best friend cancels her plans with you because her crush object has finally asked her out. It would be nice to think that in these grrlpower days, this no longer happens. But I can still remember that day in the Eighties when I got the phone call and said "Of course, we can cancel." I soon discovered that, in high school, a friend with a boyfriend was a friend one didn't see very often any more.
The most poignant part of Little Women for me, after Beth's death (which I still cry through), was Jo's loneliness. Meg had married, Amy had married Jo's boyfriend*, and Beth had died. This left Jo up in the attic, scribbling away, convinced she was on the shelf at the age of 25 or whatever it was. In the story, Jo is fetched out of the attic by a German professor. In real life, Louisa May Alcott stayed at home with her father, and was happy never to marry at all.
Jo (and Louisa May Alcott) faced her Single life with dignity, and if she sometimes felt lonely, she still had her sisters and parents to talk to, her niece and nephew to play with, and her friends to visit. She also had her work and pride in the money she earned for herself and her parents. She had her American Trancedentalist's faith in God. The more poignant Single figure in Little Women is actually Professor Bhaer, who has two nephews to take care of, but no close friends.
My advice about friends and Single Life is to maintain ties with best friends as well as you are able. Sometimes there are irreparable ruptures, but this shouldn't be because your friend has gotten married or even moved away. I remember saying to a friend "Don't ditch us once you are married." She replied, "Don't you ditch me once I am married!" I was touched that, in all her happiness and planning, my soon-to-be-married friend was already thinking about the role her friends would play in her married life.
Some women make the mistake of thinking friendships won't change at all when marriage happens; others make the mistake of thinking they will change drastically. I didn't realize what messages I had imbibed about friendship and marriage until I hit her ceiling in fright when my friend's husband came home from work. "In my culture" (not sure what culture this is, The Honeymooners?) a married women's friends are expected to be out of the house or off the phone by the time the Husband comes home. This Husband, formerly just the fun, smart, twenty-something guy dating my buddy, told me to relax and stay awhile, and I saw him as himself again. (As I tell this story, I can just see my grandmother's green china dogs and smell the stale cigarette smoke in her drapes.)
What I didn't expect to happen, when I assured my bride-friend that I wasn't going to ditch her because she was married, was that I would eventually get married myself and move across the ocean. A foreign student, she officially emigrated to Canada after getting married, and to our surprise I emigrated out. All the stuff I assumed, like we'd be having coffee every Friday and that I'd be Auntie Seraphic, babysitting her kids, turned out not to be true. But this is something belonging to the challenges of Married Life, not Single Life, so I'll leave it there. I'll just say that if you are missing your Married friend, she is probably missing you too. Email her right now.
*Oh, let's face it. He was.
**An anonymous poster has reminded me I meant Laura. Of course. Carrie was the baby sister, right?