Eating out was a rarity when I was a kid. Whenever we had the pleasure, it was a special occasion. After my brother left home, and while Dad was still traveling with his business, Mom and I would go out to our favorite restaurants–none of which are still in business today. Sometimes when we went out, either Mom and I or all of us as a family, we’d run into friends, and next thing ya know, we were pushing tables together to make room for everyone. As a family, we always had fun; but as a family eating with friends, the fun was amplified. Good times squared. And it was always that way. I don’t remember a single time when we ran into friends that they didn’t invite us to join them or vice versa.
So that’s why yesterday took me by surprise.
MSB and I have lived here almost twenty years, and for the most part, they’ve been lonely for me. Years ago, my best buddies moved away–the ladies I’d do things with, go places with, call for no reason. Only one can I call for no reason now. The others moved away and severed ties. But while they were here, we were best buds. For the most part, all of us were new to this area and turned to each other for friendship. We were all neighbors. My neighbors now are . . . private, I guess would be fair to say.
I love my church and the people in it, but I’m not as involved as I should be. Part of the reason is, between Mom and me, we’ve been pretty ill the past several years. I’m either with her in Bryan, or here being sick. When I am well, we run to see the kids. So, I’m not blameless. I could be more involved.
Still, something hit me as rather strange, and I’m wondering if things have changed that much. Is this a common experience in the 21st century?
Yesterday, MSB and I went to a restaurant after services. Two couples from our church were already there, each couple at their own table. I didn’t see one of them until they were leaving, but we greeted the other, then chose a table for ourselves. There we were, three couples, all from the same church, sitting at three different tables. As they left, each pair acknowledged us, and the wife of one stopped to give me a hug. It’s not that we’re not loved, but . . . isn’t that a bit odd, or is it just me?
So here’s what I want to know: What’s your experience?
I have had the same experience as you, Linda, once I left my hometown. However, even before that, things changed. Rarely did we end up having dinner with friends unless it was arranged prior to going out.
My husband has an interesting theory. First, with the advent of the automatic garage door opener, interaction with neighbors occurs less often. We drive home from work, pull into the garage and never see the neighbors. With high privacy fences, you rarely see a neighbor in the yard and have that opportunity to get acquainted over the fence.
Most people I know, and try to keep contact with, say they run constantly and have very little time to socialize outside of family and very close friends. I have dear, sweet friends, but as you mentioned, no one I would/could call just because I wanted to chat. At least rarely. We exchange e-mails, arrange for lunch every few months. Sad isn’t it? I sometimes wonder if they are as lonely as we are, but don’t know how to reach out. Yet, as I listen to their stories, it seems they are busy with established relationships and between work and those social commitments, there isn’t much time left for developing new friendships.
Interesting to know it isn’t just me.
My sister-in-law and her neighbor cut a gate in the fence between them, and they visit all the time. Her phone rings all the time, and they’re always invited out–and always invite folks. That’s what I miss. I love all my cyberpals, but it would be a tad difficult to meet someone for a lunch date.
But that is what this post is about mostly: We’re growing more and more disconnected to people in the flesh, even as we’re growing more connected to people in cyberspace. We’re also closing in on ourselves more–family, friends, work relationships. No room for newbies. But I guess I’m getting just as bad. I’m getting used to things the way they are, so I haven’t bothered to reach out either.
I wonder if maybe this mindset differs in different parts of the country. Honestly, only in rare circumstances would I invite another table of friends to join mine – or expect to be invited to join theirs. Of course, I’m a planner who likes things to fit in nice organized boxes. When I go out with one person, I want to be with that person. If I wanted to be with the other folks, I would have called them up to begin with. Not, of course, that I wouldn’t stop by their table and say howdy.
I’ve discovered there are a lot of scenarios I didn’t consider. Another single friend sent me an email saying something similar. The way single people act when their out is often different from how married people act. However, I’m also discovering that the way I was raised is apparently different from everyone else–but I’m not the only one who’s having a hard time fitting into a small town.
I also am a person who is not likely to invite others to my table. If I’m at dinner with family or with some other person, I may want to talk to them about things pertinent to us, and having another person there may interfere with what can be discussed. I don’t think that it’s just you though. I think that people are maybe less “friendly” then they used to be. But part of it may be upbringing too. My parents would never have invited someone from church to eat with them – my mom is friendly but my dad is a bit “asocial” and they don’t even have a lot of really close friends they spend time with. I also think that maybe it differs region to region. But I would always stop and say hello. 🙂
Both of my parents were social beings, loved people and enjoyed being with them. I’m the same way. Maybe we’re the weird ones. 🙂