Making Friends 2.0

NYE2008
Photo by Gaby Germaine

This photo was taken at a New Year’s Eve party to ring in 2009 in NYC. TEN years ago. Geez, Louise.

I’m actually not an incredibly social creature. Parties are fun, and I bring my own energy when I can. Usually I make the rounds to chat with individuals or small groups, instead of busting all the moves in the middle of the dance circle. But I do like to dance, and I’ll dance if the music calls, but after the chatting and dancing, I gotta get home and decompress.

I made some really good friends in NYC. And I liked spending time with them outside of the LDS social scene, which wasn’t really my thing. I mean, this is partly why I defected from a singles ward to a family ward. People met people and dated people and broke up with people and started over again. That nonsense didn’t appeal to me. I did like going on dates. I liked talking with individuals and a few people at a time, but yowza, it could still be a lot. Because people are different. And sometimes I needed a head’s up to prepare for certain personalities. Maybe you know what I mean.

When I returned to BYU in 2010, all I wanted was to keep my head down, finish my work, and finally graduate. Which I did, for the most part. But a weird, funky thing happened, called Making Friends. And I loved spending time with my new friends when I could. We went to concerts and readings and film screenings. I went to Senegal for five weeks with some of them. And we still hang out, long after graduation.

But we all have our own lives now, doing our own thing with jobs and relationships and whatever our goals are. And we try to get together when there’s an overlapping break in our lives. Most of the time that results in doing something at our house, which I don’t mind. The fewer places I have to drive, the better.

Man, I sound like a grumpy hermit. I promise I’m a real sweetheart, though. Promise.

For a while in my 30s it seemed that I’d reached my limit on good friends, and I would shrug off any opportunities to establish new meaningful relationships. But then it occurred to me that I was depriving myself of new perspectives and influences and chances to grow, and that maybe I was depriving someone else of a friendship with me.

That sounds conceited.

But I like making friends, and I do try hard to be a good friend. And being a good friend is something our daughter needs to see as much of as possible. We don’t have to be especially social or outgoing to be a friend. I have to work at making friends. Maybe it will come more naturally to Z. I’ve been a jerk to a lot of people in the past, and I’ve been trying to make up for that. I’ve met some really cool new people in the past few years, and it’s been fun getting to know them. They’ve become special to me.

All the socializing we’ve done throughout the holidays has made me grateful to be surrounded by people who accept me as I am. New and old friends alike. They don’t force me to talk if I don’t feel like talking. They let me listen and observe and learn. They let me hang out inside my own head until I’m ready to interact more fully. They get my sarcasm that often borders on biting wit. They are patient. They love me without judgment. They encourage me to become better.

I’m working on doing the same for them.

Space to Grow

Last night some ladies from church came over to visit me. They knocked on the door, I opened it and invited them in. As they entered, one of them looked at my tummy and said, “Your tummy is big!”

Then she poked it. She poked my tummy.

And I thought, you did not just poke my tummy.

When she poked me/Baby, I did tilt my tummy back  just a little to reestablish space so that she wouldn’t be touching me anymore.

Now, she doesn’t know how I feel about this odd social … custom? breach? She doesn’t know that I prefer people to ask first and not just react to seeing my tummy and reflexively touch it. And she may have come from a family or culture that’s very touchy when it comes to strangers or people who aren’t very emotionally close, so I didn’t say anything. I grew up in the South where people hug each other all the time, sometimes for no reason. Whenever my husband meets my friends for the first time down there they always give him a hug. I would expect nothing less. So I can definitely appreciate friendly affection.

My irritation was brief also because I could see how excited this lady was. I didn’t slap her hand away. I didn’t take her next door to say hi and touch the non-pregnant neighbor’s tummy. I let it go because in the grand scheme of things she is very nice and we go to church together and she does want to be my friend.

The three of us had a rather pleasant visit. We covered a variety of subjects, and the same lady who poked my tummy asked how many kids I wanted.

I thought for a few seconds before saying, “Two.”

She replied, “Oh, that’s not enough! You should have more.”

Then I thought, this half-hour is such an interesting experience.

It’s interesting not because it’s uncommon. People touch other people’s pregnant tummies all the time. Sometimes in the culture of the Church people equate number of children with status or accomplishment. Or something else entirely. Maybe I should have asked this lady what it means for her to have a lot of children. (She wants to have eight. The three of us are all relative newlyweds.) Perhaps it means completely different things to us, which is totally okay. I respect that.

I wish I would have felt a similar respect towards me, though. But I get that’s not a realistic thing to expect from someone if she doesn’t know what the expectation is, much less how to meet it. So I have to be better at expressing my feelings/setting limits/establishing expectations in addition to being more understanding. I can always be better.

I have the strangest feeling that this can apply especially to motherhood.

No judgments.

Intro at a New Ward

Hi.

My name is May Anderton.

I am four feet, ten inches tall.

I’m from Jacksonville, Florida.

I am a senior at BYU studying English.

And I also work part time at [where I work].

I love nature.

I love good music.

And I love to laugh.

At people.

I was already disgusted at the idea of having to introduce myself to a chapel full of strangers. But that’s what I said at the pulpit. And my roommate, who spoke after me, told everyone that she now knows more about me after my introduction than from the past month of living with me.

That’s because I’m so extroverted. And bubbly.

But, a cute blond did chat me up after church, and those 20 minutes made up for the previous three hours.

Which is not why I went to church.

But it’s great meeting nice people.

This bunch of folks seem a lot more laid back than the last ward. I’m pretty sure it’s not my attitude that’s changed. BELIEVE ME. This group might end up being really good for me. Plus, it’s my last year here, and maybe I’m finally learning to relax.

Then again, this was only my first Sunday at the new ward.

Yet . . . I don’t know.

We’ll see, I guess.

CLASS STARTS TOMORROW AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GOING TO DO AND I DON’T KNOW IF I WILL EVER FALL ASLEEP BUT I GUESS THAT’S PAR FOR THE COURSE. WEEEEEEEEE!

I Am Wearing A Snuggie

I am also about to watch another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sometimes I’m weird.

On Wednesday, I had a work bowling party. Nine of us came to the BYU Games Center, and I only knew one other person. We divided ourselves into two lanes, and I ended up going third out of the five people on the right lane.

So, at first, whenever it wasn’t my turn, I talked to the one person I knew, but as the game progressed, I loosened up a little and started at least commenting on other people’s games.

Also, I’m really good at being excited for people. I will cheer for you and cheer for you, and I will feel bad for you if I know that you really wanted that strike, or if the gutter was particularly merciless.

Anyway, all that outwardness didn’t stop me from winning. By 50 points over the 2nd-place person. Of course I wasn’t boasty (of course?), and I especially don’t like attention from people I don’t know, so I made sure to deflect attention and accept compliments and the quickly shoot compliments back. The outwardness didn’t help the awkwardness.

It’s sometimes really hard for me to accept compliments, but I do practice at saying “thank you” and actually feeling grateful.

Then later on in the week I admitted to someone that I can be anal retentive.

I spent most of this morning packing up my room before going on a bike ride with some friends. When we got back, I popped some popcorn and we relaxed a bit before moving my stuff to my new place. We laughed a lot about some things, and I laughed until I cried about a thing that I can’t talk about here just in case somebody’s somebody happens to come upon this blog. It’s just hilarious to me.

So, we packed up my friends’ van and moved a lot of things over to the new place.

Then we returned to the old place and saw that I left my NYC subway map on the wall. I removed the pushpins and took down the map and began folding it while my friends were telling a story or texting their family or something. When they finished, I asked them, “Do you know what makes me so happy?” And, they let me answer: “When I can fold a map, and it isn’t wonky and it can lie perfectly smooth when it’s nicely folded.” And they were like, “Uh, sure.”

Then we went out for sushi, because my friends are the best for helping me move, plus one of my friends received a text coupon for a buy-one-roll-get-one-free deal, so we had to take advantage of it. The food was great, and I might have eaten too much, because the rice in my stomach is staging a coup. Too crowded. Overpopulated. Not equal benefits for everyone.

After dinner, we stopped by the new place again to drop off a few other things. We looked at my bed, which was on cinder blocks so that I could store things beneath it. The bed isn’t pushed up against the wall, but a few inches from it, and I expressed a small fear that the bed might not be stable enough. I shook the bed, and the cinder blocks rocked a little. A friend asked if I was going to rock the bed like that, and I said that I wasn’t going to tell her. Personal stuff, you know?

Anyway, I ended up saying that I didn’t want to push the bed against the wall yet because I needed to make the bed, that I really like making beds, that once I make the bed and get all the hospital corners right then I’ll push the bed against the wall and it will be safer. I said that I make my bed every day, that sometimes I’ll completely strip my bed just so that I can make the whole thing over. I said that it is soothing and that it helps me clear my mind.

The same thing goes for most housework.

I can’t believe I’ve dedicated 700 words to how weird I am. Maybe I should scratch that and include the last eight years of blogging. Which is even harder to believe. Maybe not as hard if you’re not me, but maybe you should be grateful that isn’t the case.

Whatever. It’s time for Buffy.

The Case for a Generation Gap

Several things happened in Senegal that could have happened anywhere else. The following situations could have happened on a road trip to Cleveland, weaving through aisles at the Macey’s grocery store, turning tricks on the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North, Family Home Evening after the lesson and before one of those weird acting games, Sunday School as a part of a way-off-hand comment, Squaw Peak, doing Squaw Peak things.

Or, maybe not. I was crammed with 20 other strangers who knew nothing about each other when we left America, and when we returned, maybe some of us ended up knowing more than we could have ever expected. Maybe some of us didn’t know enough. Regarding my age, I really like to keep people guessing. It’s fun, and I wonder how long I can keep it up. Much to their credit, none of my guy classmates asked for my age, and much to their credit, quite a few African men asked for my age.

But let’s see, here. In order to prove this could have happened anywhere, first I’ll describe what happened in Africa, then I will try to recreate the scenario in each of the settings I listed in the first paragraph.

How old ARE you?
Our very first week, in the hotel lobby waiting for something to do or somewhere to go, I sat by a girl and her roommate. She asked the question outright, and then I responded with something like, “Well, two weeks from Sunday I’ll be [this old].” And as quickly as her brain received that information from her very efficient synapses, she reacted with “HAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA” then everyone else in the hotel lobby turned to look at us. The girl’s roommate calmly added, “See you could be [this age], and you could be 12.”

On a roadtrip to Cleveland, we start talking about drivers licenses and ask each other how old we were when we began driving. The driver swerves quickly to avoid hitting a deer, and I spill my Bugles everywhere, and I yell at the driver and start talking like a little kid, about how we all could have died. Then the driver asks how old I am, and then I tell him, and he starts laughing so hard we accidentally drive off a cliff and die.

At the Macey’s grocery store, I look at the shelf of vitamins and ask a friend what kind of vitamins I should get. She asks me my age, and I tell her. She then hands me a bottle of Centrum Silver. I chase her around through the aisles, giggling like a little kid and ignoring my arthritic shoulder. If only I had dentures to chuck at her.

On the corner of University and 1230 North, I’m wearing a very flattering outfit. I wave at passing cars with attractive young men in them. Some cars stop, and we talk briefly. Some guys ask my age, and no matter what I say, they let me into their cars.

At Family Home Evening, one of my roommates asks around the ages of everyone. Mine comes up and everyone automatically appoints me the mom. (This is sort of a true story, except one of my roommates calls me the mom of the apartment. She tries not to make it about age, but more about keeping her in line. That’s better, I guess?) I get up to leave and tell everyone that they’re all grounded.

During Sunday School, maybe we’re learning about Abraham and Sarah. Maybe not. Maybe it’s Methuselah or we’re just discussing how old everyone was in the Old Testament. I’d leave before they started snack time and after a rousing round of “Do As I’m Doing.”

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

Oh, I saw that in the theater.
This is what I said when someone was talking to me about the movie Meet Joe Black. Then, because Hocus Pocus showed on the television in Senegal, I commented that I also saw that in the theater.  What else did I see in the theater? Back to the Future. What could I have seen? Gremlins, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghost Busters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Princess Bride.

On a roadtrip to Cleveland: “So, do you want to be Thelma or Louise?”

At the Macey’s grocery store: Whenever I’m shopping here, I like to pretend I’m at the Zabar’s and get in the cash only checkout and try to pay with a credit card and have Sara Ramirez get mad at me until Tom Hanks saves the day. Yes, I saw that in the theater.

At the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North: A car pulls up and asks me if I saw a certain movie in the theater. “No, I didn’t see it in the theater, but I could have. With my mom. But that would have been awkward.”

At Family Home Evening: “No, I have never seen High School Musical – any of them – and I plan to keep it that way.”

During Sunday School: “I saw Legacy about 957 times, and I only saw the Testaments once. The Church is true.”

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

When did you graduate?
So, my friend Natalie and I were sitting on a bus early one Wednesday morning on our way to Kedougou. (I just typed that into the Google search window, and my computer freaked out. Not a coincidence.) We were sitting in front of a married couple and behind a guy and girl sitting together and carefully watching the girl fall asleep on the guy’s shoulder and we and the married couple were whispering about them and laughing at them. The married man suggested we put a Book of Mormon between them to make sure they were a safe distance from each other. Maybe they heard us or the bus hit a bump in the road, because they suddenly woke up and she lifted her head from his shoulder. Then Natalie and I started talking about early-morning seminary, and I mentioned that I had Book of Mormon my freshman year. She said she did, too. Then she asked me what year I graduated, then I told her, and then she said, really, and I said yes. And she said, what, and I said, yeah, it’s true, so just imagine taking Book of Mormon eight or 12 years later than I did (since I wasn’t going to ask how old she is). So, that’s a fun way of doing that.

On a roadtrip to Cleveland: “Oh, I got my driver’s license my junior year of high school.” “Oh, yeah? When did you graduate?” Then the whole shock and hitting guardrails and laughing as we plunge into a ravine.

At the Macey’s grocery store: “I didn’t have to go shopping my freshman year since I lived at Deseret Towers, but my sophomore and junior years we often went to Smith’s at Freedom Blvd because we lived south of campus and Smith’s seemed the nicest place to go.” “Where’d you live your sophomore year?” “Regency.” “Oh? My sister lived there, too. When did you live there?” “1995-1996.” “Oh.”

At the corner of University Avenue and 1230 North: A car pulls up and someone asks when I graduated from high school. So I tell him, and he asks me if I’m the real cougar on campus. I smile and coyly shrug.

At Family Home evening maybe someone else is from Florida, a nearby town to Jacksonville. That person says they attended Institute in Jacksonville and asks when I was there and who I might know. I tell that person, then that person stops talking to me which is not uncommon these days. It’s pretty awesome, because most of the time I don’t want to talk to very many people to begin with.

During Sunday School, someone tells a mission story about when he was in the MTC just over three years ago. I can only shake my head and resist the urge to give the guy a pacifier.

The only thing I’ve done at Squaw Peak was watch a meteor shower.

There were other times, times I let slip that I have a younger brother and people would ask how old he is. Times when I told people that the guys at BYU are “too little” to date, meaning too young. Times when I really felt like an older sister to everyone there. Times when my roommate thought Ablaye was sooooo hot, like all the other girls did, and then she found out how old he is then seemed all discouraged and said that he was twice her age (they didn’t put the two Floridians together, per se, but it seemed they happen to put the oldest and youngest students together, in my self-centered mind), and I thought, he’s not twice my age, hee hee. Times when I told that story about when a professor tried to kiss me. A cautionary tale, I told the group at dinner. Only older folks tell cautionary tales.

So, let this be one to you.

Just live it up, you guys. I’m having a blast.

Why I’m Here

Last night I tried venting to a friend on the phone. Common back-to-school feelings, I suppose. Overwhelmedness, inadequacy, social shunning, public speaking. She was patient with me.

Hey, sorry I kept you up.

Doing homework right now, 5:30am. Well, not right now, but you know.

Came across a quote from our friend, Wordsworth:

What we have loved,
Others will love, and we will teach them how.

The first female ever to be named a University Professor at Harvard, the first female MLA president, Helen Vendler, included this in her inaugural speech. She also said this:

Writing is a different profession from teaching, a different profession even from scholarly research and discovery, a different profession from the profession of critical thinking. Writing demands different impulses, different talents, a different temperament. Writing not done out of love will never serve to teach others how to love what we have loved.

This may help to explain my fear of speaking/reading in front of a class of my peers – because a lot of love goes into what I write, no matter what it is, and I want to protect it – but above everything else, this reminds me what impulses I have, what talents, what temperament, what love. I am a writer. Those who love it have taught me as much; they have brought me here, and I am here to learn more, and love it even more.

Time to stretch.

Back to work.

I can do this.

People Who Need People, and An Economy That Needs People

What I’ll miss: Talking to strangers
Subways, sidewalks, elevators. Elevators are probably my favorite. I like to see what choice people make when I try talking to them in a confined space and we have a moment or so to ourselves: Talk back, or not. Most of the time they talk back and it’s fun and people smile, except for the one time this happened:

Two friends and I, then a woman and her friend with her dog, and two guys were on the elevator to the ground floor. The woman and her friend with her dog got off somewhere between the 15th and 5th floors. The dog looked to be something of a Bichon Frise – white and fluffy. When the elevator door closed, one of the guys said to his friend, “My mom has a dog exactly like that. Except it’s fat. And it’s a pug.” His statement took me all the way back to high school, and how my friends and I would glower at the people who said something was exactly like  something else and then describe it to be drastically different. It happened all the time. So when the guy described his mom’s dog, and I couldn’t help but burst out, “That’s not even the same breed!” And then I laughed. And the guys got quiet; it seemed they didn’t understand what I thought was so funny. And then the elevator doors opened like floodgates, and awkwardness flowed out like runoff from a heavy, summer rain. Oh well.

There was also that one time when I asked about birthday cake a guy was holding and it was actually a piece of his brother’s wedding cake and then I asked if he was next. Then he said probably never and never looked happier to be getting out of an elevator. That was awesome.

What I won’t miss: Tourists
I suppose we’re all tourists sometimes, and I’m happy giving them directions, but people: our sidewalks are our throughways. Go with the flow of traffic, or realize you’re in my way and let me pass, and maybe stop with the fanny packs. Thanks.