I was born and raised in East Texas and have spent most of my adult life living here or Louisiana. But my parents are originally from California, which means that I don’t really have the necessary social capital required to happily live here. I am forever feeling left out of conversations as people talk about the mums they are making for their daughters’ boyfriends (say whah?), the “Texas Sized Bling” t-shirts I am required to wear by the dance studio my kids attend, the ton (literally) of recleaned deer corn they’re on the verge of purchasing, or express excitement over all the “hauling” they’re going to be doing with their recently purchased flatbed trailer. And although I spent some time on the political dark side (read = I may have voted for a Republican presidential candidate in my lifetime), I have become quite liberal, which doesn’t really serve me well in these here parts.
In short, I am in this East Texas world, but not of it.
And now, at age 39, and after having lived here for 4.5 years, I find myself in something of a new situation: I pretty much have no friends that live less than 2.5 hours away from me. Oh, sure I have plenty of people I am friendly with, but I don’t have anyone that I would, say, call up and say, “Let’s go to lunch!” or “Come rescue me from my kids!” or “Let’s go for a walk/jog together!” or “Come with me to get a Diet Coke.” Luckily, Brent does most of those things with me and, truth be told, he’s my favorite person in the world, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something missing in my life right now that’s always been there previously. And I think it’s the friends piece.
Growing up, I had plenty of friends. I grew up with a pack of pretty stable girlfriends that eventually expanded to include some boys. Then I went away—far away—to college and made friends with my roommates. And then I got married crazy young (age 19!), but we definitely had other close couple friends while we were at BYU.
Then we moved to Texas and made numerous good friends and one great friend, as in, soul-sister, why-don’t-we-share-actual-DNA friend?
And then we moved to Louisiana and made lots of good friends and a few great friends, as in, why-can’t-we-arrange-our-lives-so-that-we-live-in-the-same-town-again friends and why-do-we-live-on-different-continents friends? We had church friends in three different church congregations, neighborhood friends, book club friends, and PTO friends.
Now here we are, back in East Texas, and I’m kind of scratching my head and wondering what’s up. I consider myself—or at least I have until now—to be a pretty social person. I love to talk (urr – I talk too much, maybe that’s the problem?). I’ve never not had friends. So I’m developing some working hypotheses:
- I’m super obnoxious. This is more a statement of fact than an actual hypothesis, but if true, it doesn’t make sense that I would have had friends my whole life up until now. I didn’t just become annoying.
- We’re too busy. Brent and I are definitely working more hours than we ever have—well, I am, for sure. So that could partially explain it. When we’re not working, we’re tired and don’t feel like doing stuff with other people. And our kids are involved in way too many activities, such that we routinely have 4-5 places to be in one night.
- When our kids were younger, we used to make friends with the parents of our kids’ pre-school and elementary-aged friends. Now that our kids are older, it doesn’t work as well for us to choose their friends according to which parents we like. Our kids have more agency now to choose their own friends than they used to.
- We got married and started having kids so young (I was 23 and Brent was 27) that many of the people we know that are our age (or thereabouts) have pre-school aged kids, which just doesn’t work great with our kids who are soon to be 10, 13, and 16.
We do have lots of people here that we like. We enjoy when our paths cross between kid pick-ups or drop-offs or while at one of the kid’s activities. We sometimes talk about getting together with this or that couple or family, but we mostly don’t do it. And I have a couple friends at work with whom I eat lunch once or twice a month. But that doesn’t feel the same as gal pals.
I have some awesome online friends—most of whom I haven’t met, but a handful of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in real life—whose friendships I treasure. And occasionally I’ll get to know someone online and I’ll think, “Dangit. If we lived in the same town, we would totally be friends.”
But, let’s face it: geography is real. Those people aren’t around to hang out with. They’re not around to pick up one of my kids when I’m running late. They’re not around if I have a flat tire. Shoot—a couple months ago, my car was acting funny and I actually thought: If the car breaks down now, who am I gonna call to bail me out (since Brent works 75 miles away)??
And I was pretty bummed when I realized that my best bet would be to whip out my AAA card and just call for a tow.
Does anyone else find themselves middle-aged and friendless? What gives?