Archive for February, 2010

A Secret Admirer

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Dear Entourage,

You are not the least bit romantic.  You are not soft-spoken or sensitive.  You do not whisper loving affections into my ears.  You are more interested in one-night stands than good-night kisses.  And yet, I am so in love with you.

I love you for your characters.  Vince, who, whether shoulder-deep in success or failure, is never too proud to stand up for his values or his friends.  E, who takes Hollywood’s beatings ad nauseum and always comes back swinging.  Drama, who is loyal to a fault, and beloved by his friends in spite of his overzealous efforts and embarrassing misadventures.  Turtle, who is steady and reliable, always willing to take one for the team.  Ari, whose ruthlessness makes me simultaneously cringe and cheer, but whose devotion to his family is unbounded.  And Lloyd (oh, how I love Lloyd!) whose committment to his boss is surpassed only by his care for their clients.

I love you for your glitz and your glamour.  On evenings when I am at home in my pajamas and ponytail you whisk me away to celeb-studded parties, movie shoots, and high-powered lunches.

I love you for your 26-minute running time with no commercials.  Just long enough to eat dinner, and with a built-in bathroom break before cueing up the next episode.

I love you for your humor.  You spare no one your insulting jabs.  Your barbs are jagged and harsh, but well-intentioned and filled with love.  Never unexpected but always inspired, they are funny because they are true.

I love you for your smooth social skills.  You always know what to say.  Whether it’s an awkward encounter with an ex, a fight with a friend, or a sexual escapade gone sour, you never stumble over your words and you always land on your feet.

I love you for your tender moments.  They are not frequent, but they are genuine. 

I love you for your cameos.  Mary J. Blige, Anna Faris, David Schwimmer, Tom Brady, Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Alba, and Bob Saget all playing themselves.  It makes me feel like you are, perhaps, a little bit real.

I love you for your tirades.  Ari, you are an explosive egomaniac and I love you for it.  I could never say the things that you do.  But I secretly want to.  I live vicariously through your wrath and righteous indignation. 

I love you for your depth.  Despite the hot cars and hotter women, you remember where you came from.  You went back to Queens when Hollywood let you down.  And you know that for all the see-and-be-seen emphasis in your life, you are more than your review in Variety or your photo in People.

And most of all, Entourage, I love you for your rerun marathons on HBO so that I can record you on DVR and watch you all over again.

Starstruck,
Gale

This post is part of the Valentine’s Day  Love It Up blog challenge issued by Jen and Sarah over at  Momalom.  You can find other bloggers’ love letters linked on their site. 

Learning to Share

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

About a year ago GAP and I, rookie parents both, went through the whirlwind process of hiring a nanny.  My maternity leave was drawing to a close and after many months of debating the best path for our family, we decided that I would continue to work and that IEP would stay home. 

Hiring a nanny is not an easy thing to do.  Today, with a year of experience under my belt, I’d probably conduct the whole process quite differently if I were doing it again.  However, in spite of our novice level of experience and clumsy search process we couldn’t have found a better person for our family.

She is nothing like we are.  And yet she is a perfect fit.  She is playful and affectionate.  She is calm and assertive.  She is engaged and invested.  She is a good communicator and a good teacher.  IEP smiles with giddy excitement when she walks in each morning.  He waves bye-bye when she leaves each evening.  I feel good – truly good – leaving him in her capable hands each day.  He has never had an ounce of separation anxiety, and I believe that is due largely to having three loving adults sharing in his care on a daily basis.

Here we are a year later.  The newborn who could do nothing but coo and cry twelve months ago is now a walking, playing, laughing, babbling (“talking” would still be a stretch at this point…) toddler.  He needs interaction and stimulation.  He needs a break from his daily routine.  He needs… a friend.

Monday brought him that friend in the form of our neighbor.  Two doors down lives a family with a little boy just three months younger than IEP.  And moving forward IEP will share his nanny for half of each week.  Two and a half days out of five he will have a buddy, a playmate, and a partner in tiny toddler mischief.  I suspect they will have quite a lot of fun together.

But along with all the fun will come some challenges for my little boy.  He will have to learn to be patient, to be gentle, and to share.  He will come to learn that sometimes there are other people who need help more than he does.  He will grow to understand that he is not the only boy craving attention and affection.  And he will begin, in some rudimentary way, to see the world that exists beyond his own set of wants and desires.

For the past year I have relished in the dedicated nature of nannying.  As an infant IEP never had to cry because the student-teacher ratio left him to fend for himself.  But it’s time for my little boy to start learning some of these lessons.  They aren’t easy lessons.  They are lessons that we struggle to remember even into adulthood.  But they are lessons that will serve him well throughout his life.

Monday morning when his new playmate arrived at our house IEP walked over to him, pointed, and said “This!” 

“This is L,” I responded. 

But a more profound statement might have been, “This is your friend.”  Because in spite of the value of all the other lessons, learning about friendship is easily the most important.

The Friends And Family Plan

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Today’s post is the fourth and final installment in my friendship series.  To read the previous installments click here, here, and here.

When I was pregnant with IEP we did not reveal our chosen baby names to anyone.  I was anxious about dissenting opinions and well-intentioned meddling.  So we kept them under wraps.   But we did give hints.  And one of those hints was that the middle name was a family name.  In actuality the E comes from our best friend.  It is his middle name, and we thought it perfect for IEP. 

This friend was the best man in our wedding.  GAP was the best man in his.  We have driven and flown long miles to see each other – both in times of crisis and times of leisure.  We have seen each other through hook-ups and break-ups.  We have spent weekends together laced with wine, beer, and witty banter.   We have braved first jobs, unemployment, graduate school, and cross-country moves in each other’s embrace.  We value and trust each other immeasurably. 

And so, in offering the hint of a family name, I didn’t really factor it in that our friend is not technically our blood relation.  He may not be.  But he is still our family. 

Similarly, GAP and I are both fortunate enough to come from happy and in-tact families; families who are indeed our friends.  I talk to my mother, father, and sister multiple times weekly.  GAP is slightly less communicative, but still talks with his parents and siblings regularly.  We also have extended family members whom we consider friends, despite longer breaks between visits.

Now this is all quite lovely: friend = family and family = friend.  Très charming…  But I wonder about the boundaries of family and friendship.  I’ve been blessed with a family whom I love and enjoy.  But, like most people, there are a few outliers; people I don’t know as well, can’t relate to, don’t quite know what to say to.  What’s a girl to do with these folks?

I sit here and say that I value family.  I believe they are important.  I believe they are worth sacrifices.  They merit a not-altogether-insignificant amount of time, effort, and expense toward the end of nurturing the familial bond.  They are relationships that cannot be replaced, and they should be treated as such.

But yet, when I look at the family members to whom I’m closest, they are the ones whose lives most closely resemble my own: similar ages, similar lifestyles, similar interests.  And once some imaginary threshold of difference is met, my efforts to nurture and build that relationship diminish.

So I worry about being two-faced and duplicitous.  I worry about where I draw the line.  I worry about whether or not I should match the level of effort I extend to certain relatives to the entire lot of them.  But it’s not a small group of people.  So I then worry about how quickly I might go positively batty if I did go down that equitable path.

A few generations ago the family – both nuclear and extended – was the lynchpin of society.  Before the interstate highway system was built; before transcontinental flights took off from every airport hub many times daily; before cell phones and the internet made us accessible at all hours of the day and night; before all these things came about, the radii of our lives were shorter.  We stayed closer to home and closer to our relatives.  And these questions of how awkward to feel upon seeing a family member who is indeed your blood relative but whom you hardly know were rarely asked.  Similarly, less frequently did we all jet-set about the country (or world) for the purposes of career, climate, or courtship.  So less critical was the need to develop friends who became stand-ins for our families.

It seems disingenuous to say that these two relationships – friendship and family – are interchangeable.  In some nuanced way each relationship is distinct.  But I struggle to discern what that distinction is.   Where do the lines of friends and family become blurred?  What does each type of relationship lose (if anything) by being labeled as the other?  Do we overload friendships with pressure and commitment by thinking of them as family?  Are family relationships undersold by being outlined with the same, sometimes fickle, brush strokes as friendship?  And further still, such questions presuppose that the family bond is always stronger than friendship.  But history has borne witness to far too many family feuds for the family bond to masquerade as invincible.

I do not know the answers to these questions.  Frankly, I’m not sure what answers would bring to the table.  We are all different; in our families; in our friendships; and in the ways we bridge the gaps between the two. 

What I do know is that as human beings we need both; or at least people who fill both roles.    We need people whose bond to us is temporary, allowing us to learn, grow, and move on in our lives.  Not all relationships are meant to last forever.  But we also need people whose ties to us are enduring and permanent.  We are social animals, in need of many forms of companionship. 

I am lucky to have been blessed with both friends and family.  Not only that, but friends and family who defy the boundaries of conventional labels.  This doesn’t mean that I have perfect relationships; that I don’t sometimes still feel lonely or isolated.  But it means that when I do have those feelings I have people to share them with.  And whether it’s the door of a friend or a family member that I knock on, the presence of the door itself is what matters the most.