Wednesday, 26 May 2010

"I'll Take Care of This"

The other day, Julie wrote something utterly heartbreaking in the comments, and it haunted me as I fell asleep last night. I haven't forgotten how sad it is sometimes to be Single, especially Single and overburdened with work and worry.

Julie recounted a married male colleague at work saying "You look so tired, you go home and rest, and I'll take care of this" and she reflected that it was hard not to long to have a husband to say that.

My very last piece in Seraphic Singles (the Book) touches on our longing for someone to say things like this. That piece is called "Got Your Back." In it I (still Single) reflect on all the people who do "get our back"--family, friends, co-workers, mentors. My thought was that although we don't necessarily have husbands to make our lives easier, other caring people do. The trick is to find them, develop relationships with them, and to ask for and accept their help gratefully.

Since then, I have found that although I am very happily married to a very good, amusing and intelligent man, he cannot do simply EV-erything always to make me feel better about life's slings and arrows. I find myself needing other people, too, especially female friends. (Yes, I know I do go on about female friends. But what will happen if I have a baby one day with no mummy, no mummy-in-law, no sisters and no young-yet-experienced-mother friends in town rather alarms me. I joked to an old bachelor friend of B.A.'s that I would ask him to come and babysit; he laughed immoderately and said it boggled the mind. Oh dear.) But even men friends still come in useful. I have three male mentor figures I turn to in moments of writerly darkness, for example.

Once again, I encourage Singles to, instead of becoming bogged down in depression about the spousal support they don't have, develop and appreciate the support they do have. I know this may be irritating to hear from a married woman, but I said exactly the same thing when I was Single.

If you can stand to read about married people today, read on:

This reminds me: the most harried and lonely women I know are young married women with children. If you have married friends nearby, don't forget to invite them to parties and make it clear that they can bring their children. I'm not talking about your eagerly-planned formal dinner party with the best china; I'm just suggesting that the next time you have an informal party, you remember to invite married pals you haven't seen in awhile and make it clear their kids are welcome. That way, you've got your married friends' backs.

Some of the best times I had in Toronto when I was home last month was with a young-mother pal. She brought her baby along to restaurants, cafes, the beauty shop, a bachelorette party, and waitresses and beauticians simply flocked to coo over the baby. To breastfeed, my friend just threw a blanket over her shoulder. No problem. And all these parties and outings would just not have been the same without her, so I am so glad she is so comfortable going everywhere with her baby. Of course, it wasn't always like that--baby spent his first six months yowling almost non-stop. Offering to watch the baby for 15 minutes is another way a Single girl friend can help out a frazzled Married girl friend, plus have all the fun of short-term baby-minding without the horrors of 24/7 baby-minding.

***
Update: Thank you very much to the tenth amazon.com reviewer! I enjoyed your tribute very much. And now that British readers have been receiving their copies from amazon.co.uk, it would be great if they would write reviews on amazon.co.uk. I love reading the new reviews!

8 comments:

Jennifer said...

There's a lot to be said for cultivating the relationships you do have, instead of pining for the ones you don't.

I think, when you put too much emotional stock in the idea of having a husband (or wife) to offer help and comfort, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that they cannot (unless superhuman) help with everything, or that all help offered will be what you imagined it would be.

An added benefit to having many friends/family who can help, is that you don't end up burdening that one person, unintentionally.

For instance, about 7 years ago, I was going through cancer treatment. At first, I was very sad that I didn't have a husband to come home to after chemo treatments, or to stay with me when I was in the hospital, etc.

But I DID have an enormously helpful group of friends and fellow parishoners who brought food, took me to appointments, forced me out the house and to the movies, picked up my library books for me, etc.

At the end of that ordeal, I was actually thankful that I hadn't had a husband - many hands not only made light work, but it made me rethink how stressful it might have been to put all my worries/care/needs on one person for something that was so stressful to begin with. :)

theobromophile said...

Non-seraphic whining/foot-stomping alert (like that's anything new from me)!

For me, rather independent, with a wonderful and large family, and with great friends, what came as a shock to me is that it doesn't always have to be like this. Should I find someone (unlikely), I don't expect a fairy-tale existence, with birds singing every morning and fluffy clouds in the sky, nor do I expect someone to be able to help me (or even provide moral support) with everything. I would jump for joy, though, at the possibility that someone could even be there through a quarter of life's slings and arrows.

A few months ago, when I took the bar exam (on the up side: I passed!) in another state, there was a snow emergency. Then I got rear-ended. On the morning of the second day of the exam, I packed up my hotel room at 6:30 am, loaded up my car, taxied to the test, sat for another six hours of exams, got lost in the freezing snow on my way back to my hotel, started off for home, and had car trouble about a half-hour into the trip, leaving me stranded out in the middle of nowhere, late at night, and got dropped off by a tow truck driver at some random motel in I-still-don't-know-where at, um, 11 pm. (About half-way through all this, my mother, whom I called for help, expressed the sentiment that she doesn't know how I find it within myself to get out of bed every morning and face the barrage that always comes my way.)

The next day, the man whom I had been dating at that point, and who had not heard of this mis-adventure, emailed to express his sadness that his job took him overseas - he would have loved to make the long drive out to where I was, take me out for post-exam dinner and hugs, and then mosey home the following day.

It still been a rough few days, but some of those rough edges would have been smoothed out. And, as a good edge-smoother for other people, there's some desire to not just be the part-time person, or the long-distance person, to turn to for help.

Of course, I'm eternally grateful for the group effort to rally around and help me, albeit from a distance - without my family and friends, I surely would have thrown in the towel long ere now.

(Thank you, I feel better now.)

Sheila said...

So true about the young mothers! I leave the house (aside from walks with the baby) around twice a week. I don't mind being a stay-at-home mom, but I wouldn't mind more socializing either. This weekend a single friend of mine is coming over for "girl time" while my husband is organizing a "guys day" with all his guy friends, and I am SO grateful!

Anonymous said...

One of the best evenings-with-a-friend I can remember is one I spent with a married friend and her baby. Her husband was out of town, so she picked me up, took me to her house, and I watched the baby while she made dinner. After that, we spent the rest of our time together playing with the baby as if he were some kind of animated toy - we tossed him, we tickled him, we danced to am radio with him - and he loved every minute of it, to judge by his non-stop laughing. (He was about 8 months old at the time.)

Babies can be fun. One thing a single friend can do for her married friends is to remind them of that.

Clio

Julie said...

Oh, that's very sweet of you, I didn't mean to make you sad! :) That particular incident ended up being a really great experience for me to realize how blessed and loved I am (I don't get sick much so I am a big baby when it does happen, especially when it happens two days before a major event that I am basically running alone. Ahem.) But it was also -- for me, working with lots of dudes -- a moment for realizing the limitations of all those male friendships. That, along with realizing that most of my social life consisted of pitchers of cheap beer with the dudes, and also (not lying, tell your publisher) reading your book, made me realize that I needed to build up those girl friendships, which is what I've been trying to work on lately.

I like your postscript also, I have to say, as stupid as it is, really taking to heart the idea that married people are people too has made a huge difference in my quality of life! Parents too! Crazy! Having been effectively out of Catholic circles for a while, none of my college friends are really anywhere near getting married, so my first inclination was not to see such people as peers. Which as I say is pretty stupid but I guess I hadn't realized how far the secular viewpoint had seeped in.

Seraphic said...

Theobrom, WHAT an adventure!

Sheila, how old is your baby now?

Clio, agreed.

Julie, you have given me another idea! Meanwhile, there sometimes is an artificial barrier between Single and Married people and the sooner it comes tumbling down, the better.

Anonymous said...

Seraphic,

Will you be blogging about the "artificial barrier" between Married and Single people or will we have to wait for your next book? I hadn't thought about it until I read this, but the more I think about it, the more I think there is something there.

This reminded me of (another state) when I had something break and went over to see a female friend of mine "wife" to help me fix it. She wasn't home, but "husband" invited me in, got out the toolkit, and fifteen minutes or so later, I was merrily on my way.

That night, "wife" called me and screamed that I was never to be alone in her house with "husband" ever again. I should state that there was no reason for this -- she was my friend first, and he was just a nice guy who happened to be MARRIED to someone I considered a friend. No flirtation, no touching up my makeup before I knocked on the door - nothing.

There have been more comments on this than almost anything in a long while, so there's something going on, but heck if I know what. I'd be very interested in finding out what that barrier is, because that incident ended my friendship with both of them and I still don't know why. I think he got an ultimatum not to talk to me and she never called again.

I'm reasonably OK looking but not so beautiful that men hurl themselves at my feet, so I would dearly like to understand what happened. FWIW I have always worked mainly with men and miss her more than him.

Isabella of the North

Seraphic said...

I am SO SORRY this happened to you! So sorry, in fact, that it will be the theme of my next blog post.