Monthly Archives: March 2014

We Are Going To Be Friends.

I’m sure that at one time or another each of us has been in one or both of the following situations; either introducing two friends from different parts of our lives, or being introduced to people from another part of a mutual friend’s life. I’ve been in both situations recently. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. A couple of months ago, my sweetie suggested that we get together for drinks and tapas with some of her friends one Saturday afternoon.  This is, as you know, something of a major development in a relationship, and I took it as an indication that she was comfortable enough in our relationship to introduce me to her wider circle. So, off we hied to a local tapas bar for Happy Hour, during which I met three of her best friends. They were all charming, witty, intelligent and amusing, so things went well, with lots of jokes and a level of  casual intimacy that suggested that I’d passed the test. Yay for me!

This  belief was confirmed when the five of us got together for dinner a couple of weeks later at the home of one of the aforementioned friends. All went well, as did a second event last week, in which I supplied ample amounts of home brewed beer. It’s always reassuring to learn that you have been accepted by a wider group, and that your sweetie has the confidence to want to introduce you to their wider circle. No matter what we might think, the approval of our friends is an important aspect of any relationship. Having seen how my Ex has alienated her two closest friends with her choice of new partner, I know how much effect this can have.

My sweetie has already met my friends – see “Girlfriend Is Better” and “Tango Funebre”, and passed the test with flying colors, but there is an even more important test in my situation; meeting the kids. My ex and I had agreed not to introduce anyone new to the kids until the relationship had reached the six month mark, and agreement to which I, and only I stuck.  I will admit that I had more than a little trepidation in broaching the subject with my sweetie, as it is much more of an acid test than meeting friends. Luckily, she had already told me about a museum exhibit that would interest the kids, so I suggested that meeting us there would be a good introduction; we’d be on neutral ground and the kids would be interested enough in the exhibits that her presence would not be seen as anything unusual, there being plenty of other distractions.

My other major concern was how the kids would react to the news, so I brought up the subject at dinner the night before. They already knew about the museum trip, and to my surprise and immense relief were completely nonplussed to learn that “My friend” would be joining us. As we waited outside the museum, my daughter, as expected, was all questions and nervous energy, making both me and my son dizzy as she did her best impression of a Whirling Dervish on speed. To my immense relief, the visit went well;  the kids were intrigued by the Lego sculptures and spend quite a while making their own, before we explored the rest of the museum. I must admit that whilst my daughter enjoyed the ‘Hands on” exhibits, my son was less than enthralled, and my failure as a father was rubbed in a few minutes later when he announced that the Jimi Hendrix exhibit was “Not interesting”.  Mind you, this is a boy who listens to medieval English plainsong and polyphony in order to get to sleep and listens to The Blackeyed Peas in the shower, so  he still has a way to go, although my daughter refers to Frank Sinatra as “That really good singer”.

We retreated to a nearby pizza restaurant where my son really came out of his shell, which I had expected,as he takes a while to warm up to new people, whilst my daughter, the social butterfly had been fully engaged since the start.Thankfully, my sweetie really liked meeting the kids. As someone who had made a conscious decision not to have kids, I did wonder how she would react, but she took it all in her stride.

So this is the elephant in the room; what would I have done if things had gone differently? If the kids had  not liked her and spent the whole time being sullen and sulky, or if my sweetie had been unable to cope with the kids, what then? Would I have brought the relationship to an end? There is no way I would have my kids around someone who didn’t like them or whom they didn’t like, and the bottom line is that my kids are part of the deal.  I will admit that I had spent several days on tenterhooks prior to last Saturday as it was pretty much a make or break event and I was mightily relieved when all went well.

We will be taking things slowly, but now that they have met, it should be easier from now on. The next step is her coming to the island and meeting us for dinner. We want to take the process slowly and not rush ahead to the part where all four of us are in the house over night. That may take a while but on the basis of this first step, I think things should go well.

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My Funny Valentine

I’m not the most romantic man in the world. Are you O.K.? Hang on, I’ll wait while you get a cloth or something to dry off your screen and keyboard, because I know how embarrassing a spit-take can be. I hope you didn’t choke or aspirate. Maybe you should take a couple of minutes to recover.

Is it fine for me to continue? Good. Now that you are over the shock, let me elaborate. Valentine’s Day is a con, a multi-billion dollar scam designed to make us spend money we don’t have on things we don’t want to buy. Getting a card from a secret admirer, while potentially creepy, is not unwelcome, but the modern Valentine’s Day industry has removed not only the romance, but also the mystery from the day.

Let’s be honest. If a guy doesn’t buy a card and a gift for his S.O. he is going to be in a world of hurt. For the married man, this is doubly true. Over the course of my marriage my interest in the so-called holiday waned, from the initial enthusiasm of the newlywed to a perfunctory duty as it became increasingly clear that our marriage was nothing more than a domestic arrangement. There was one bright moment, though. When my son was about six, I was sitting at the table waiting for my wife to come downstairs, and he asked me what was in the  box on the table. I told him and explained that it was a Valentine’s Day gift for his mother. Eventually, she came downstairs, and with an air of fake interest asked “I wonder what this is?”, to which my son, in a bright clear voice full of enthusiasm announced; “It’s earrings!” Thanks, son.

Fast forward to this year. My sweetie came over on the 10th, and as we planned our weekend, she said “You realise what Friday is don’t you?”.

“Ah. I was going to talk to you about that”. I explained that I regard Valentine’s Day as a scam and how I resent the societal pressure to express my feelings for someone in a public display of consumption in front of strangers. Much better, I said, to simply prove it to the person concerned on a daily basis, rather than on one particular day, my example being Christmas. Why the emphasis on “Peace on earth and good will to all men” on 1/365th of the year? Why not apply that tenet every day?

“But we’re still doing  flowers and Champagne, aren’t we?”

Which is why I found myself in Costco on Feb 14th, surrounded by concerned looking men who were  enveloped in a fog of desperation and despondency. Yes, I bought roses,and yes, I did buy Champagne. I have always put quality above quantity and refuse to drink sparkling white wine. What I do resent is the 50% hike over the price I paid for a bottle just before New Year’s Eve.  I’d already bought her a gift, so I’m not entirely stupid, no matter what you might think.

She came over on the Friday evening, but timing and circumstances meant that it wasn’t until Sunday that we actually celebrated. I baked a mushroom strudel from scratch, made a salad and provided dessert to go along with the roses and champagne, and I must admit that it was the most enjoyable Valentine’s Day I’d had in a long while. To be honest, it didn’t feel forced at all. I enjoyed the evening, and at least I spent it in the company of someone who doesn’t treat me like a mildly retarded house N*****.

Am I wrong here? should I have said nothing and just gone along with the game?” I’m not perfect, ( sorry, I hope you had the cloth nearby) but at least I know when the hill isn’t worth dying for. It’s not that I don’t appreciate her, it’s just that she’s the only one who really needs to know that, and I can do that in much more effective ways than the production of dying flora and carbonated alcohol.

 

 

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