Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wife Club?

The first rule of Wife Club is that your husband is more important than your girlfriends.

I thought this today when I was replying to a "Dear Auntie Seraphic" letter. My reader was (not surprisingly) worried that once her best friend marries their friendship will change. It will. But my reader was also worried that her best friend will ditch her entirely. She won't.

It may look like I've ditched all my best friends by running away to Scotland, but in fact I haven't. If they want to come to Scotland, they can certainly stay with me, and if they send me an IM, I am usually there, and if they poke me on Facebook, I usually poke them.

I send them Christmas cards, Christmas presents and--to a lucky single few--Valentines Day chocolates. I write--or reply to--emails. I go back to Canada once a year and do a two-city tour. Meanwhile, I remember that three of my American friends of Toronto days left their friends and families behind when they married Canadians. My gain was some American women's loss.

But yes, of course, here I am in Scotland, and there my best friends are in Toronto. I may never tell a risque joke again. I made one (or two) teeny-tiny off-colour comments to good friends here after one Sunday's unusually solid drinking and I lived to regret it, as you will discover in another post.

And I am here in Scotland not because Scotland is more beautiful than south-central Ontario (which it certainly is) or because the standard of living is better (which it certainly is not) but because my husband is a Scot and he clings to Scotland like a barnacle to a boat.

In short, my husband is more important to me than all my other friends. And anyone who belongs to Wife Club understands that.

To tell you the truth, there is no such thing as "Wife Club" or "the married world." Despite how it feels some days, there is no conspiracy amongst all married people everywhere to keep single people out of anything. There is nothing to be kept out of, except individual marriages, into which no-one should peek and pry uninvited.

I have single woman friends, and I have married woman friends, and the only difference is the rule I ascribed to my imaginary Wife Club. Married women friends--unless they are unhappily married--know that husbands are more important than women friends, and single women friends don't always get that.

Single women, while making female friends, often lead with their need. Imagine emotional need as invisible tentacles. Imagine yourself (if you are a Single woman) as a cute amoeba-type creature. Okay, now imagine yoursef floating about in a sea of other amoebas, waving your tentacles about. When you see amoebas just as cute as yourself, and they see you, you wave your tentacles, and they wave their tentacles, you grasp each other's tentacles, and then you all go out for cocktails.

Most of married women's tentacles tend to be tied up already. A goodly percentage of our emotional needs are being taken care of, and a goodly percentage of our time is already taken up by attending to the emotional and physical needs of our husbands and children (if applic.). And, therefore, we have retired from the economy of single women friendships, which is at least partly based on women tending to other women's emotional needs in exchange for having one's own emotional needs taken care of. As most women know, there is a delicate balance here, and the worst thing a woman can say of another woman to another woman is "She's so needy."

Single women who want to be friends with married women, therefore, have got to be careful not to look needy, and married women who want to be friends with single women friends, therefore, have got to learn to be patient with what now looks to us like neediness. In the business of married life, it is easy to forget what it is like to be single.

The first rule of being friends with a married woman is remembering that her husband comes first, her kids come second, and you are lucky if you make third. It is probably easier for single women to be friends with housewives then with married women with paid careers because married women with paid careers simply don't have time. They're tired, and if they have children, they are exhausted.

Incidentally, as a married woman, I've discovered what most determines my day-to-day friendly interactions is geography. I see most often those people who live or work within two miles of my house. Fact. And so it makes perfect sense that my favourite cashier at the supermarket showed me photos of her son's wedding. I see the woman up to three times a week. This is more often than I see any other individual woman. (Crikey!)

One thing I must stress again and again is that Single people have more freedom any anyone else. Married women are not free. Married men are not free. Cloistered nuns and monks are not free. Priests are more free than married men, but they are super-busy. Therefore, if you are Single and want to be friends with these people, you must understand that you are going to have to do more of the work. You will have to do more of the work because they are already working as hard as they can for the people they have promised to care for.

Sometimes this will seem very sad. Yes. But this is how life is, and this is how life needs to be.


Med School Girl said...

You somehow are attuned to my life at the present. First the post on how men will chase a woman if they really want her, then the post on bitterness, then this one. My very best friend is getting married next month. I have never felt so sad for myself about a wedding, and 80% of my friends are married +/- children. My friend acts as though everything will be the same, and has invited me to stay with them (the newlywed couple) when I go to their city for a couple of weeks this summer. I have declined (I feel like I would be too much of a third wheel and I figure they'll need their space at that time, even though she doesn't agree). I even feel replaced by the mutual friend who introduced them as she lives in their city and I don't.
You're right-Singles do have incredible freedom, as well as simplicity in their lives. This is likely exactly what I need right now. I am thankful for so many wonderful examples of faith in my family, including my uncle who has "lost" his wife of over 50 years to Alzheimer's Disease, yet remains faithful to her and God in a such a true, steadfast way. It reminds me to not feel sorry for myself and to count my blessings. I've also been trying to "be needy" towards God, and not others who have to invest their energies elsewhere.

JoAnna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jmromanski said...

Thanks for the good reminders to us single folks, which are especially needed when it seems that nearly ALL our friends are marrying, save 'lonely' us. I wonder though, if you have any thoughts for the ladies here who may be experiencing the same transition with married friends who are male. Personally, the majority of my close friends have almost always been male, and when one's friends begin marrying, the changes in friendship that occur can leave me wondering if I've somehow spent my entire life going about friendship in completely the wrong way (with the added awkwardness of feeling as if appropriate correspondence can only be addressed to the 'Mrs.'). Although I'm a woman, female friendship has always baffled me, and I have to work much harder at it than my friendships with men.

berenike said...

ad Med School Girl: I just spent a week staying with a shiny new married couple, whom I'd never met before in ma puff, and far from feeling like a burden, intruder or gooseberry had the very definite (and pleasant) impression that they were loving the experience of hosting a guest together. fwiw :)

Domestic Diva said...

Med School Girl, I found that sometimes (not always) my newly married friends were *freer* to be friends with me once they were married than they had been when they were dating. Also, often the early months of pregnancy have been times when my friends have "needed" their sympathetic female friends to supply what their well-meaning but unable-to-understand husbands could not. Don't decide what changes will happen in your friendship dynamic before they actually happen - it might not turn out as you fear. If she's inviting you, trust that she is sincere in wanting to see you. Do your part to keep up the friendship and just see how things evolve.

BurgoFitzgerald said...

As a single person who has many married female friends, I am actually appalled by how many DON'T treat their husbands as more important than their girlfriends. I actually know of many younger wives who have responded, "He can go @#%& himself! My girls (friends) come first!" when asked if perhaps they should perhaps pass up the sixth round of bellinis and power-flirting with the waiter in order to get home to their husbands. As a Catholic, I recognize that marriage is a sacrament and therefore, something far beyond a friendship (I know people are not going to agree with or like that statement, but come on, I didn't take vows in front of God when I sort of just "found" myself in my friendships!) I still think there are a great many married people who believe THEY are still going to be able to live their single lives - and that includes married female friends who still believe they should go on trips with their girlfriends to vacation resorts that cater to "singles"!

I would also like to point out in regards to your "freedom" comment. Perhaps being a young single means unlimited freedom, but for some of us singles who are 40 and above, we are taking care of aging and ailing parents, major finances such as mortgages, and perhaps serious health issues all on our own. Sometimes married friends (if they are out of the loop due to their own lives, as you mention children) just assume that no spouse and no children means unlimited freedom and that one can just make a "girls' night out" or child's birthday party at the drop of a hat.

Seraphic said...

Personally, I would not get between a woman and her sixth bellini and suggest she do anything. Nor would I take seriously anything she said after her third.

It is a grave matter for any outsider to ever make a comment--asked but especially unasked--about a marriage to one of the spouses. Ne toucher pas. Believe it or not, it could be that the holidays away with the girls is what keeps some marriages together.

Meanwhile, you are quite right about Singles not having unlimited freedom. As I have written on a recent post (or was it an email?) Single people often have to explain to married people that they, too, are busy.

Single people rarely know first-hand what a good marriage is like, and married people forget what being Single is like.

BurgoFitzgerald said...

Really? Ne toucher pas? Sorry, I don't believe that someone's wife going to South Beach with her single girlfriends to do jello shots, body painting, and "crunch" dancing with men who aren't her husband is something that helps keep a marriage together. That is what I was talking about when I mentioned my married girlfriends' behaviour.

Seraphic said...

Whoa. You have some very wild married girlfriends, I must say.

But, honestly, no-one knows what makes a particular marriage tick except the two people in it.

I feel that it is incredibly annoying when some married women look like they get to have their cake and eat it too, but jello shots, etc., is not really my style--and wasn't when I was single!