I love Heather Havrilesky’s writing.
It’s deep, lyrical, bad-ass, philosophical, practical, and almost always spot-on. Not only that, she, like me, is a happily married author who graduated Duke in the 90’s.
In her advice column in New York Magazine, Havrilesky takes on a question from a reader who is sad that all of her friends are getting married and leaving her behind.
It’s a common feeling and one that I’ve yet to address on this blog. But if I did, I hope it’d turn out like this long, thoughtful reply about the realities of married people. Havrilesky opens with sympathy and understanding for the letter writer’s predicament but doesn’t shy away from some tough love, either.
Havrilesky opens with sympathy and understanding for the letter writer’s predicament but doesn’t shy away from some tough love, either.
“Regardless of what you end up doing with your life, you have to reject this image of you, all alone, left in the dust. You also have to recognize that no one is lonelier than recently married people or brand-new parents. I still remember the feeling I had, right before I got married, realizing that I was going to spend my entire life with one MAN. I mean, come on, WHO WOULD CHOOSE SUCH A THING? It was madness. Where were my girlfriends and why couldn’t they move in with me? I think this state of panic explains why some women go batshit over bridesmaids and bachelorette parties. They are legit freaking the fuck out about being stuck with a dude all alone forever and ever, and they want to crawl into some communal lady world filled with flaming tequila shots and rhinestone crowns, where no one says things like “Calm down, you’re not making sense” or “Hang on, I have to take a piss.”
But what really hit me hard – and the reason I’m sharing this piece – is because of Havrilesky’s brutally realistic take on adult friendships.
That said, I probably fought too hard for some of my friendships, trying to make sure that nothing would ever change when change was inevitable. I romanticized old friendships that were no longer working. I threw big parties that included kids and parents and single people that mostly added up to a big, please-everyone-all-the-time-themed nightmare. I forced things. I tried way too hard. I threw myself into new friendships prematurely. I expected very different friends to befriend each other. I expected unwieldy groups of people to get along. I’ve pushed and nudged my friends. I’ve also raged and sulked and felt left behind.
I hope you’re starting to understand how hard it can be, because having great friends and not feeling neglected takes a fuckload of toil and trouble as an adult. You need to know that. You need to know how to stay open to making new friends at all times, and you need to know how to forgive your old friends, and you also need to know when to give up and walk away. You need to learn how not to expect too much from every single friend. You need to learn how to allow people to have a bad night or even a busy year. You need to know how to ask for exactly what you want and you need to hear people clearly when they say “I just can’t manage that” or “I’ll try.” But you also need to hear when they say, in their own ways, “I’m not sure you’re worth it to me.” You need to check in with yourself and ask “Is it worth it to me?”
And even if you reframe your language, you’ll still feel left out occasionally. WE ALL DO. Having friends as an adult is nothing like having friends in your 20s. Plus, people can be so fucking careless these days. It blows my mind, honestly. I wish I could prepare you for that part. It’s hard when you’re sensitive, single or not single, kids or no kids, to prepare for the many disappointments ahead, friendship-wise.
This could have – and sort of did – come out of my mouth just last year.
When you get married, have kids, and a full-time job, the time for friends quickly dissipates, even though the need for them does not. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is. Which is yet another reason that it’s ultra-important to marry your best friend and not just some dude you’re attracted to. If you’re going to spend every day for the rest of your life with one person and only see your best friends a handful of times each year, nothing is more important than figuring out what kind of man will make you happy forever.
When you get married, have kids, and a full-time job, the time for friends quickly dissipates, even though the need for them does not.
Havrilesky ends on a proactive, positive note about self-definition for the OP.
“You have to redefine what “moving forward” might look like to you. Merely mating and procreating is not necessarily moving forward. Merely being single and childless is not stagnant. Figure out what feels like forward motion to you (and you alone!) and embrace it and own it and savor it with all of your heart. You are the author of this story. Throw that sugary, simplistic board game out the window, and learn to respect the grace that lives and breathes in every cell.”
Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.