I am currently attending a training in DC. It is interesting and I am learning a lot - not all of it in the classroom (ask me about my working theories on socialization patterns during out of town conferences someday...) - but a week is a long time to be away from my family - my rock.
The first night I was here was a travel day and I hadn't met any of my fellow trainees yet, so I ate alone in the bar. Mostly olives.
The second night - after the first day of training - I ate alone as well, but this time I treated myself to a lovely dinner. I had it coming to me, because I had felt like a kid attending a new school at lunchtime - looking for a group with whom to sit and feeling like I was on the outside looking in. It's no big deal, right? I'm a grown-ass woman, after all. Who cares if I called my mom and lamented, "Why can't I make any friends? No one wants to sit by me at lunch....." She dusted off the same speech most parents end up using at one point or another in their parental careers. She probably thought she'd packed that one up for good, but I like to keep her on her toes. Just another service I provide.
I comforted myself by reminding myself that while everyone else was probably indeed having more fun than me, I wasn't HERE to have fun, I was here to LEARN. I was even able to convince myself that this made me just a LITTLE BIT superior.
I was just warming up my orthopedic shoes for a nice little superior dance on the third night - when Kate said, "Do you want to get a bite to eat?" "YES!!!" was out of my mouth before she had a chance to put a punctuation mark on the end of her sentence.
Kate and I must have looked like quite a pair as we set off for points unknown with a restaurant guide in our hands. She was tall and thin - wiry, even - to my short and - hmmmmmm - let's just go with zaftig, shall we? We are at different places in our lives - her kids are grown and spread out over the country. She is contemplating retirement. Mine are at home getting ready to go back to jr. high and high school. We found that we had much more in the way of common ground, though, than we did in the way of differences. Our conversation was easy and a high point for me was when she told me that within five minutes of meeting me she had me pegged as - and then she went on to describe me exactly as I am. I was so pleased to think that I actually exude a vibe that is accurate. I worry about that sometimes. (When I run out of legitimate things to worry about)
We went to a Thai restaurant where we delighted the waiter by asking him to bring us his favorite dishes and he delighted us by doing so. It was delicious and nothing we would have ordered without his suggestion.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to sit on a stone bench on a bridge. She wanted a cigarette - "I only smoke at trainings and conferences" and I wanted to rest for a moment. The sun set and I wanted to hug the world.
The next night, two beautiful women, Cindy and Linda, who I've known since jr. high, met me at the hotel to join me for dinner. I originally typed, "two high school friends", but that makes it sound like all we have in common is the indiscretions of our youth. Of course we DO have that in common, but through the glory of Facebook we have been reconnected for years now - so we came together not as women who shared a distant past, but as women who know each others day to day lives. Conversation did not revolve around nostalgia, but took place right in the good old here and now.
Our visit was far too fun, and far too short. I left them for my evening session with a spring in my step. (This is an excellent phrase, no? My fifteen year old used it a couple weeks ago and it struck me - because it was so NOT a fifteen year old thing to say. I was going to say, "...with a spring in my step and a song in my heart", but I didn't want to push it.)
I had dinner with a new friend.
I had dinner with two old friends. (It goes without saying, I hope, that I mean old in the sense of - I have known them a long time, not in a sense of them being actually old. They are my age, after all, so them being old is virtually um-possible.)
And I had dinner with a new old friend.
Shall I elaborate?
The third dinner referenced in the title was with Mary. Mary and I have known each other a long time, but this dinner was the first time we'd actually met.
As is so common in this digital age, we know each other solely through the blogosphere and Facebook. We have common ground like crazy. We have shared stories for years. Now we have shared Greek food, a little wine, and some pretty darn awesome hugs. We were both, as the conversation unfolded, a little nervous about meeting the other, but that melted away instantly. She was as down to earth, funny, and sincere as I knew she would be. Like there was any chance that anyone as obsessed with Springsteen as she is was gonna be high falutin', right?
When we parted ways in the hotel lobby - she to go home to her family (I miss my famileeeeeeeeeeeee) and I to go to my evening session - I knew that I'd be ok if I had to sit alone at lunch tomorrow.
Sitting alone every now and then doesn't mean you don't have friends.