There’s this weird transition that’s happened a few times in my life, usually during some fundamental shift in my lifestyle. It completely changes my dynamic, and as a result, the friends I’ve curated over the course of my lifetime. I’m currently in the middle of such a transition.
When I was a kid, we moved from Massachusetts to Phoenix, but since I was so young and attending school, it wasn’t difficult to make new friends. Some of them made the transition to high school, and the some of the ones I made in high school also transitioned to college.
But after that, it was hard making new friends. I’ve never been a drinker, so going to the bars and hanging out just wasn’t my scene, no matter how hard I tried. And besides, being a heterosexual adult male, it’s weird to see if another guy wants to go hang out. Seriously, try it sometime. “Hey bro, want to go to the mall and check out cool shit? Wait. Why are you punching me?”
I tried the car club scene for a long time, but it just never took. There’s always been this weird thing where I know I don’t fit in, and I know they know it to. Sometimes I wonder if those people just tolerate me because I do the work that I do, or if I’m a legit friend of theirs. I often find out when my phone rings — or doesn’t ring, as the case may be.
I don’t have a job where I go into an office every day, so there are no opportunities to go out for drinks with the crew or have lunch with a buddy. Even when I do think I have a potential friend like that, something hits the fan and it just doesn’t work out. Lunches get postponed. Meetups get cancelled. Phone calls go unanswered.
But the single largest shift — the one I’m going through now — is having a child. Prior to KJ, I could do anything with anyone anytime. But now, hanging out with our single or married friends who don’t have kids is a different experience. They don’t understand — no matter how hard they try — what it’s like to have to change your lifestyle for your kid. Sure, they may have access to children — nieces, cousins, what have you — but it’s not the same. It’s why I can’t go out for drinks after work because I’ve got to get my son from his grandmother’s house, or why I’d rather spend a Saturday afternoon on the couch with my boy than pretty much anything else.
I’ve often wondered if it’s just me. I am a bit abrasive at times, and since I say what I like (and often that’s not very polite and/or clean) people tend to take offense to my words. I’m also a fairly liberal person living in a very conservative state; talking about my opinions on politics or guns has already brought the readership of this site to a grinding halt, and I even talk in hushed tones when I bring up the subjects in public. Seriously, yesterday I was talking about Romney to my wife while we were eating lunch, and I caught a dirty glance in the corner of my eye — and I didn’t say anything negative about the man, either.
Which brings up another question: is it where I live? My parents have never felt that people in Arizona are as friendly as they were back in Massachusetts, but I never really agreed until recently. Sure, people smile and wave but often they don’t want to get involved with you in any way. Want to find a babysitter? In Framingham, we could ask one of a few dozen kids in the neighborhood who wanted the extra work. Here, I’m lucky if two kids hit our door at Halloween. Seriously, our son did the trick-or-treat thing on lonely streets that night.
Admittedly, our neighborhood is full of older people, but even though there’s a family with kids about KJ’s age just up the street, we’ve never talked to them. I don’t know who the people are who live two doors down from me, and they moved in back when I lived in this house the first time around. I tried to say hi to a new couple who moved in a few months ago, as they were expecting their first child. I offered a friendly hi, we did introductions and then nothing. Ever since, they don’t want to say a word.
Maybe it’s my appearance. Often I’m seen wandering to the mailbox in a pair of 13-inch inseam Dickies and a T-shirt, with my octopus on my leg and choo-choo train on my arm. Maybe they think I’m an “unsavory element” in the neighborhood. I could just live in the wrong place.
Which brings me back to the location again, but this time, it’s a bit more broad. Is it Phoenix? Thoughts of moving to a more “Whipps friendly” city have crossed my mind recently, but again, there are a lot of reasons why that’s not feasible right now. Sure, San Francisco or the Bay Area might fit my political or personal beliefs a bit better, but financially it would be tough and there’s no way I could move my son away from his grandparents like that. It’s not fair to him, nor to them. So is there a more friendly city nearby? It wasn’t Tempe, because in the five years I lived there no one wanted to say a word to us. And between the neighbor who we caught pissing on his fence in the alley or the family who smoked pot in the carport, it wasn’t very welcoming.
I wish I had an answer to this problem, but right now it’s just not there. I guess for now I’ll do my best to socialize a bit more, make a few new friends and say hi when I can. Maybe things will change when KJ gets a bit older and we can do more activities with other families. Until then, I’ll do what I can.