My friends have nice husbands. That observation came about when a friend’s husband briefly chatted with me as I started a zoom call with his wife. Later that same day, another friend’s husband did the same thing. They made me feel included in their lives and that I was their friend too.
Because of them, and a few other husbands (who often do the same thing, wave included), I lost the last vestiges of the bitter lumping together of all men that had been lingering since my divorce in 2007. Their generally kind demeanors have forced me to be more accepting and to become a feminist who is not against men, but for women. I don’t know if it’s more effective in getting women through those darn glass ceilings and with complete authority over their bodies, but it feels a little calmer inside me as I go about my life. It's nice not to distrust every man.
At the same time that I made that realization about my friends’ husbands, it also occurred to me that most of my friends are married. That hadn’t been the case for a long time. When I was getting divorced and then for years after, most of my friends were divorced. Except for one (and I wonder about that now), we all had stories of control and abuse—emotional, verbal, or physical—that we bonded over, where “to bond” means that someone understands you without blaming you or telling you what you should have done differently.
Perhaps the good guys do finish first since their marriages are the ones that last. Seems to me the charismatic guys that some of us were drawn to turned out to spoil, like the last piece of cake that turns your stomach because you just couldn’t resist eating it even though you knew that you already had enough and were going to get sick if you had any more sugar. Next time, you keep hoping, you will finally listen to your body and stop.
These men, who wave and say hello in the background of zoom calls as they go on their way, and their wife and I settle down to analyze our lives and the world (and the horrible things that, mainly, men are doing—ah, the temptation to generalize because sometimes there is truth behind the generalization), add a dimension to my life—in addition to what their wives add.
With one friend, we have had mutual “speaking to the choir” rants for years, where we basically echo each other’s thoughts about the state of the world and the people in charge. Another friend, who I have known since elementary school, while she has a much different life than mine, our similar beginnings and the things that matter to us have created a strong friendship. I’ve joined a relatively new friend in trying to change the world, which is, surely, a powerful bonding experience. (Wave to husbands and wives here!)
And now another realization: with these friends I focus on the external world, rather than wallowing in the warmth of self-pity (which I did enjoy; I don’t understand why self-pity is a bad thing when it’s a building block of “things can only get better”). Until this moment, I didn’t even realize that I had made this transition. I had mourned the loss of my divorced-friends’ friendships, but I see now that it was more of a sloughing of what was no longer essential. Our important work was done. We had built each other back up. Sharing our bitter stories helped me (us, I hope) heal into appreciating a wave of hello without feeling a stab of regret and thoughts of bad choices. Rather, they helped me to think that maybe I could have a small slice of cake now.