One of my favorite ways to end a long day is to grab a bag of chips and a cup of coffee, hunker down in my favorite "Talking Spot" -- under the big tree in the corner of the parking lot next to my apartment building -- and chat on the phone with one of my long-distance friends.
I prefer to talk outside of the bounds of my apartment building because I'm free to speak at my normal volume, which I've been told is at best "commanding." Whenever I endeavor to have a phone conversation after 7pm in the confines of my apartment building, no matter how hard I try to speak in low, soothing tones, I'm met with ironically loud "SHHHHHHs," even while my building manager feels free to sing vaguely operatic versions of "Blurred Lines" or Backstreet Boys at all hours of the day or night.
The walls are thin and my neighbors are persnickety. As the minority "volume challenged" tenant, I try to keep the peace and just take a walk when I'm hankering for a conversation that doesn't include my husband or my TV.
Anyway, point being, I cherish my phone time not just because I can comfortably use the full range of my vocal glory, but also because I live so far away from my closest friends on the mainland that my phone time gives our friendship a temporary feeling of normalcy.
During these interludes, my friends and I whine about work, gush about the latest weird, gross thing we found on the Internet, gleefully come up with hare-brained schemes that rarely come to fruition, and -- without fail -- talk about relationships.
Occasionally I have worries or qualms to talk out in regard to my husband, but as we've been together for approximately 100 years, most of our troubles have worked themselves out by now or are as mundane as the battle for fridge space. (My husband likes to get to-go boxes for his food at restaurants and then hoard them.)
"The Onion" posted an article a few years ago titled something like, "Happy Couple Disgusts a Nation." For the most part, that's us.
It hasn't always been this way, but we've gotten used to each others weirdness, and we even like a lot of it.
But I'm not everybody. A good number of my friends are dating, and are in various stages of relatively new relationships. When those relationships hit the inevitable growing pains every relationship hits, we talk about it. I attempt to give the best advice I can, the kind of advice I would have wanted when I was in their position back in ye olden days.
However, I realize more and more that I'm a little rusty. The memories of dating life are just that, memories, and the freshest experiences I have to draw from come from a life of coupledom.
I can't help but wonder if it's ever frustrating or even irrelevant to get relationship advice from someone who is so far out of the game?
Sometimes I get the feeling, and this could entirely be my own self-consciousness speaking, that it's irritating for someone who is in a long-term, married relationship, to be telling someone how to navigate the waters of dating life?
And no, I'm not apologizing for my relationship. We struggled and muddled through just like everybody else, and we continue to struggle in some ways. But to be quite honest, the struggles we face in a nearly decade old relationship are just not the same as that of a one-year, or six-month, or 6-week, relationship.
I fear sometimes that I'm out of touch -- out of touch and out of my depth.
It all comes from a place of wanting to be a good friend. When my closest friends come to me with boyfriend or girlfriend woes (and I suppose it's to my credit they do still come to me), I want to be able to offer them advice that helps them in the best way possible.
But as a friend recently said to me, not unkindly, "Louise, you're talking about how it SHOULD be, not how to GET to how it should be." And there was that moment of realization that as dear as we are to each other, as close a we are, there is a gulf of experiences dividing us, and neither of us knows how to build a bridge.
Look, I know that I cannot MAKE my friends happy. I am not personally responsible for making their relationships happy ones. My relationship is not one to aspire to, it is simply MINE. The best I can offer is how I got here.
I wonder if when I ask my friends about their dating life or relationships, if I'm unconsciously pushing them to give up the dirty details. My closest friends and I are an oversharing bunch, but in the interest of missing them and desperately wishing to maintain a level of intimacy that can really only come from the everyday, I wonder if I'm being overzealous with my advice?
And please understand that I am in no way trying to perpetuate any "singles vs. marrieds" divide. I fully realize that the questions that I'm raising here, by their very nature, sort of feed that divide, but that's not my intention.
Just as many of my friends are trying to figure out how "this stage" of their romantic relationship works, I'm trying to figure out how this stage of our friendship works.
I guess I'm just asking: is it annoying to get relationship advice from your boring, old married friend?
Do any of you feel this way? I'm genuinely curious.
Do any of you married people out there wonder about this too? Have any of you experienced any such "gulf" with your friends?