A fine friend

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That’s our girl. She’s at a party right now to celebrate a friend’s ninth birthday. It’s a sleepover with a luau theme, featuring pool time, bowling, and watching the birthday girl’s big brother run a 5K in our little town.

When I was our girl’s age, my parents would never have let me be at a party from 2pm till 9am. Things are different. I’m different. Parties are different. I’m getting nearly hourly updates via text on how the girls are doing.

I told our daughter as I took her to the party, “if you need us, ask Ms. J to call me.” She “mm-hmmed.”

“I know you probably won’t need me, though.”

“Yeah, I never need to leave a party.”

And not this party, especially. The birthday girl is a lovely person–kind and enthusiastic, laid back, independent… I love our girl to be around her. This friend is heading off to a magnet school. Our daughter will miss her but said, “That makes sense, though. She’s so good at so many things, she’s so creative and smart, she’s really special.”

She said all this with such blithe generosity. Not even an atom’s worth of envy or self-doubt. (I fear I learned those two last things too early in life.)

She saw a piano in this friend’s house. “Oh YES! I can play ‘Happy Birthday’ for you! I’m learning piano.”

She is a fine friend. The finest. She has no idea how to be anything but.

Here’s to a good night’s sleep.

An American girl in India

“Seven years ago, my husband and I uprooted our two daughters, Ranju and Malu, from their comfortable lives in Manhattan and moved to India to be closer to our aging parents, and to allow our American-born children to know their Indian heritage.”

from “For Girls in India, the Pressure to Conform Comes From Family” – NYTimes.com.

I cannot even imagine what would have happened, had my parents moved us back to India when we were young. I was last there when I was 11.

Pressure to conform.

I think that’s what I felt in India. An intense pressure to be anything but myself: as if “me” were inadequate, incongruous, generally incorrect. I didn’t have the wherewithal to silence those voices that Ms. Narayan describes. I didn’t know how to push back without being rude. (I may have learned how, since then. And my difficulties then may have been exacerbated by the severe illness I had–my maternal uncle used the word dysentery–making me lose 15 percent of my bodyweight.)

Maybe that’s one of the myriad reasons I haven’t been back since. It’s embarrassing that my 11-year-old self dictates the actions of my 43-year-old self. But it does. (for now)

I don’t know Ranju and Malu. But they impress me. Tremendously.

on balance, what remains

A friend of mine and I spent some time talking about the relationships on HBO’s Lena Dunham vehicle, “Girls.” He said, “Adam and [Charlie] are bookends for each other in regards to what degree of danger/comfort women want in a relationship with men.” Adam = Danger. Charlie = Comfort.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how other wives (or soon-to-be-ex-wives) I know have tried to find a balance between “danger and comfort,” or between passion and contentment, with their spouses. Passion can fade. Contentment can get dull.

Is it possible to find that balance? Is there any excitement in all that is predictable, that could make any routine more appealing? Can one be content with all that is unsettled, in order to make life less scary?

***

In 1963, my parents met. At their wedding.

They have lived through or enjoyed international relocation, grad student life with English as a second language, a lay-off or two, four more domestic relocations, another lay-off, starting and running a business, raising three children to be equipped to put themselves through college and/or grad school, three weddings yielding two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and seven grandchildren, a heart attack, cancers and their remissions…

They’ll celebrate 50 dangerous, comfortable, exciting, boring, devastating, and thrilling years of marriage in a couple months.

I don’t know how they do it exactly, but mostly, it seems they want to. Be married to each other, that is.