Traveling to London: Non-Traditional Families

My sister, Dominique, her husband George, Dave and I

Last week I found myself sitting in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for our departing flight. I was excited to learn that Dave and I had been upgraded to first class. My period had started hours before and I was excited to have a more comfortable flight.

We were traveling through Houston and then on to London. We arrived at the airport early.  I pulled out my phone to see that my sister, Brenda❤️, had texted me, wishing me safe travels. (She and I texted the entire way ❤️.) I responded and then began scrolling and decided to respond to my friend who asked,

“You have a sister?”

“Actually, I have three.”

My sisters

I thought about her question as I tried to respond to my brother-in-law, who was texting me at the same time. A few days earlier I sent Dave’s family the following text: 

“Dave was speaking with his doctor recently about having trouble sleeping. She mentioned that long term Benadryl use may contribute to dementia. She also mentioned that Benadryl can trigger restless leg syndrome. (You don’t need to use Benadryl long term to impact RLS). Anyway, your mom has mentioned to me that for quite some time she took Benadryl twice a night (something like that). She also mentioned struggling with really bad restless leg syndrome. I hope it is ok that I share this information with you. At the risk of offending you, I have pushed it off — for months. [Yet] the thought to share [it with you] keeps coming back. So I am doing it now. Please know I do care about your mom. I also feel a lot of compassion for the Adams’ Family delayed sleep phase issues ❤️. 

Anyway, I hope life is good. ❤️

much love, Beth”

NOTE: Experience has taught me that when I reach out to my in-laws, typically all the non-genetically related spouses respond, (which we usually acknowledge and then share some wonderful laughter). Occasionally I get a terse response. Eventually, the group text goes off the rails and my brother-in-law, who is married to Dave’s sister, begins texting me privately. True to our pattern, I received a “yup” from Dave’s sister and an accusation of being a gaslighter, “possibly” a non-intentional gaslighter, from Dave’s brother-in-law. In his defense, I was the first to ask a question. Of course, because I was raised to believe everything is my fault, I whipped out a frustrated, over-explain-y response. Because we were about to board a plane, I stopped texting so I could use the airport bathroom one last time. As I walked through the bathroom, I noticed that someone left their cellphone in a stall. When I returned to our gate, I observed that another woman abandoned her luggage near our boarding gate. September flying always makes me a little jittery. (I imagine I am not the only one.) I mulled my concerns over with Dave and then reported the abandoned luggage to the gate agent, who promptly thanked me and added,

“this is a weird time of year.”

“Yes it is!”

Within seconds, the gate agents made the announcement for us to line up and the plane began to board. Dave and I were in group one. We stood in line. Then everything came to a screeching and underwhelming stop. Announcement after announcement stated that our plane had mechanical problems. At that, Dave and I found a place to sit, which was also far away from the luggage abandoner. (Obviously, I had to make sure I would not get blown up from her suitcase bomb). Now forty-five minutes later everyone who had already boarded the plane was asked to deplane. Another hour went by and our beautiful, perfect-seats flight to Houston was canceled. Dave immediately hopped on the phone with United Airlines. I used the bathroom (again) and then decided to get in the long re-ticketing line. I stood near Ronny (a trucker and a farmer from Baton Rouge) and ZadRienne (like Adrien) from a small town in Georgia. (We are now Facebook friends and this was her second time on a plane.) After Ronny asked ZadRienne to put her mask over her nose (great ice breaker), we spent the next hour (and probably way more) discussing canceled flights, the pandemic, things like people who refuse to get vaccinated, and all the trucking accidents on along Interstate 80’s  Parley’s Canyon section. In truth, we spent the bulk of the time deconstructing the recent news story about missing (at the time) Gabby Petito and her boyfriend (still missing) Brian Laundrie. Ronny and I were convinced Gabby was dead. (Sadly, as the world now knows, they found Gabby’s body a few days after I arrived in London.) Ronny is a father of girls. I have sons and Z had just left her boyfriend (they had traveled from Georgia to SLC together). We all felt like we had skin in this dysfunctional relationship game. We talked about appearances. We talked about consent. We talked about the need to say no. We talked about emotional abuse and how dudes are really clever at appearing like the good guys. We wished the Utah police had arrested Gabby for scratching her way back into her van. Personally, I understand the frustration of “scratching” when you have had your worth beaten out of you. We also spent a lot of time talking about all the missing people, the ones who are not getting the same attention as blond-haired Gabby was. It is heartbreaking, and honestly, this conversation regarding domestic violence rattled me. Eventually, I motioned Dave to come over. Soon the gate agent was directing us to another gate.

“Run. Run. They can help you. I told them you are coming,” She said.

We ran. At the instruction of the gate agent, Z followed me. Now at the new gate, the gate agents were boarding another plane at the other gate. Everyone was confused as to why we were there. I helped Z get her new ticket. “This is only her second flight.” I told the gate agent. As I said goodbye to Z, we realized my and Dave’s flight (now to Chicago) was boarding at the gate we just left. Dave panicked:

“What about our luggage?” Will it make it to London?”

A male gate agent heard Dave, pulled out his radio, said something into his radio and ran away to do something — hopefully find our luggage. The gate agents confirmed we were on the flight to Chicago. In all the chaos, we realized that the door was about to close for our flight. At once I hear Dave:

“Beth, we aren’t checked in.”

The agents checked. We were not checked in and we lost our seats (again). Ally, (now I remember her name), the gate agent asked us to take a deep breath. We talked about the importance of being nice as she, Dave and I ran to our gate. Dave was clearly upset and struggled to contain his emotion. Ally kept assuring all would be ok. Now back at our original gate, the gate agents said,

“we only have one first class seat. Who do you want to have it?”

Dave was halfway on the plane and I said, “Give it to him.”

Right then Ronny walked over. “Are you ok?”

I think I said something like, “We are about to miss our flight. They forgot to check us in. I don’t know if we have our luggage. I am sorry, We have to go. It was nice meeting you.”

The gate agents asked me to, “hurry, hurry,” and I ran to my seat.

For approximately thirty seconds I was relieved to discover that no one was sitting next to me. I felt even better when the flight attendants announced, “Everyone has boarded the plane, We are going to shut the door and take off.” Usually this announcement signals that everyone is in their correct seats. Unfortunately, before they finished the sentence a large, partially-masked man plopped himself next to me and then let his body drift into my seat. Ew! I knew this wasn’t his seat. I wanted to tell him that I knew this was not his seat. Instead, I sat silent and began thinking:

“Dude, I had to take a Covid test to enter the United Kingdom. I have to take another Covid test two days after entering the country. AND, I may have to take another Covid test due to my flight delay! Put your damn mask on! Stop letting your big man-body touch mine!”

At that, I intently side-eyed him. He looked back at me and put his mask on, at least briefly. Gah! Perturbed, I decided to calm myself by scrolling through my messages. (Bad decision!) My brother-in-law texted again [insert big eye’d emoji here]. I have since deleted our entire text chain. I also took pictures of said chain — just in case. (Ask me about why I throw desserts away in the outside trash can. Deleting this text thread uses the same principle.)
Now confined and crammed up against the airplane window waiting for the plane to actually take off, I decided to deconstruct my interaction with my brother-in-law (in my head, of course):

Maybe it was because I had spent an hour talking about emotional and physical abuse. Maybe it was because the large man next to me felt entitled to sit where he did not belong. Maybe it was because I felt my brother-in-law’s tone was patronizing. In that claustrophobic moment, I did not like the (contemptuous) way I feel Dave’s family tends to see me. It was also clear that nothing I did would change that. Then I realized that I did not need to explain. Whatever was enabling my current emotion, I decided I needed a boundary. I needed to say no. I sent him a text and the plane took off.

(*Another time we were waylaid in Chicago)

Now in Chicago, it was late and our luggage was nowhere to be found. Dave and I knew the next day we would have to buy some clothes and supplies like tampons. I texted my sister, Dominique. She and her family live in Chicago. Then my mom asked if I was going to text her. Dave and I found a United airport lounge and spoke with Linda, who reminded me of my friend Carrie’s mom who is also named Linda and is just as sweet. Linda found us a hotel, gave us some meal vouchers, which were problematic to use (not her fault), told us to get some food upstairs and when we finished, she walked us out so we would know where to go. We talked about traveling. I told her I loved her hair color. She said it was Nice and Easy and was actually easy to do. She told us about solo travel and that she wants to visit the UK soon. We talked about Cornwall, the tiny UK country roads and our love of seeing the world. Then we were off to our hotel. On the shuttle we met newlyweds traveling home from their honeymoon. They were also supposed to be on the canceled Houston flight. In our room we heard the methodical bang of a headboard hitting the wall. I wondered if it was the honeymooners.

In the morning my sister, Dominique, texted me. She is actually my step sister. I have one biological sister and two step sisters. When my mom married their dad, they had this genius idea to separate the biological sisters from each other. (It was a terrible idea.) See, we were newly baptized Mormons and according to the LDS church we were now one big happy family. So from age one until age eighteen I shared a room with Dominique. We are very different from each other. She is tall and I am not. I cannot sit still. She is very talented and can sit still for days. She knits, sews, crochets, owns a tattoo/art studio, just had a fundraiser for Afghan refugees. She is married to a super rich hedge fund dude. She recently bought a house in Sedona to go with her 9,000 square foot home in Chicago. (I know it is 9,000 square feet because she volunteered to tell me a few times how big it was.) She complimented me for living in such a small house and seemed disappointed when I told her it was larger than she thought it was. A couple of years ago she commented on Instagram that I lived a “really charmed life.” Maybe it was the irony of her words that hit me wrong, or maybe it was because she and I were misaligned from the start. I never knew where to set the pain of our orchestrated relationship. I have not seen her since 2014 (at our family reunion). 

I love her ❤️ and I feel for her too. For starters, she had to share a room with afraid-of-the-dark, needs-her-blankie, short-tempered, rambunctious loves to run, plays-in-the-woods-with-boys me. Our relationship is strained, complicated and one neither asked for, but were given. I also care about her and I love her. I could write a book on us. One day I probably will, or at least, that is what I hope.

Somewhere in her text thread she said,

“George and I would really love to see you both. So if it means coming to you, we can do that.” A few texts later she said, “I’m trying to make up for so many lost times.”

At that, Dominique and I (George and Dave too) were spending the day together. We spent much of our day at some weird outlet mall near the airport. Dominique kindly waited as I looked for clothes. She assured me several times that she was there to help me. She wanted me to know they wanted to spend the day with us. She told me her very favorite trips ever is one she and George took with Dave and me. We took them touring throughout Southern Utah. It really was a fun trip. I was overwhelmed and not sure how to take in all of her generous energy. Like I said, our relationship is complicated. When Dave left his jacket in the mall, she sweetly suggested that they could wait in the super hot parking garage as we looked for it. I listened to her stories about her kids, her life and her business. I asked her about the tattoo on her arm. She talked about it being a work in progress. Dave suggested kebabs because he always suggests kebabs. George found a crazy Lebanese place about twenty-five minutes from the airport. They treated us to what was listed as a “dinner for 5.” I kept saying it was a dinner for fifty! We all laughed. At Target, she and I looked at pajama bottoms. She was like, “wait, that is not the fabric you like.” When Target didn’t have the fabric I like, she talked about fabrics she liked and that maybe they would work for me. I tried on a man’s tan zipper sweatshirt. I could not find any zip-up hoodies in the women’s section. I am pretty sure Dominique didn’t like her short sister in a man’s sweatshirt. She gently asked,

“Do you like sweatshirts so long?” Regardless, she was very nice and said, “I like the color.”

I was certain once we arrived at the airport that Dave and I would be out the door of their Tesla, the one with the crazy doors. Nope. Dominique found a parking spot. As we sat in their car, we visited and reminisced. Soon it was time to go. We gathered our things, took a few photos and they walked us to our terminal. I can’t say that things are exactly healed. I can’t say when we will see each other again. What I can say is that it was a good day. On this September day, she completely leaned in and was the best sister I could ask for. It felt good to be loved and for someone to consider me.

Dave and I arrived at our gate. I want this flight-to-London story to be over as much as you. I promise we once again had excellent seats. As we were standing in line to use our United meal vouchers, Dave’s phone alerted him that we were upgraded. Sadly, we lost our good seats and were in the middle seats of an “upgraded” section. I lost my mind, or at least I believe I had. We walked to the gate. The gate agent looked at us like we were crazy and made sure we knew he had no time for us crazy folks. I began to cry. He stared blankly.

“You can’t have your seats back. What do you want to do? I need you to get out of this line. I have other people to help. What do you want to do?”

I walked away, still crying. Dave followed. I flipped out and demanded Dave sit down and then I yelled at him. (*No autopilot in marriage: we still have worked to do ❤️.) Everything was wrong: one of us was sitting in one section and the other in another section. I asked Dave to see if he could get the gate agent to put us in the same section. We walked and gave the agents our tickets. One ticket had our new seat scribbled on it. We ended up in the upgraded middle seats. As we each climbed into our respective middle seats, a man seated next to Dave, who was sitting in the aisle said,

“Woah! I saw you two go at it out there. Are you ok?”

We assured him we are the kind of couple that puts it all out there. (Meaning, Dave does not put on a veneer of calm and wait to beat me at home.) Then the people in the section rallied for Dave and me. They said they were sorry we had such a crappy flight. Everyone was kind. Everyone seemed to get that we had already had a long journey. Our little section of our United flight Chicago – London restored my faith in humanity. So did my sister, Dominique. Before the flight took off, Dave asked the woman to his left if I could sit next to him. She was like,

“No problem,”

and offered to take my middle seat. I moved to the seat next to Dave. We held hands and were glad to (finally) be on our way.

We arrived in London the next morning. We were tired and happy to be here. 

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Clearing My Head About Pain

Athens, Greece

I was watching YouTube the other day when I happened upon a video of Pink on “Ellen.” To summarize, Pink said that she needs pain to make beautiful art. Ellen asked something like,

“Well, then what do you do when everything is going well?”

To which Pink responded something like, “Look around. There is enough pain in the world.”

I agree.

Salt Lake City, Utah

In fact, if all I wrote were happy awesome things like my tall blond boys are equally beautiful and awesome to me and everyone else; my marriage is the very best; I am healthy; I exercise; I do not age; I am my goal weight (even though I eat a lot of sugar); we travel all over the world; and of course, Dave and I have mind-blowing sex on a regular basis, including great orgasms (for both of us), I suspect you might want to hurl a knife at my eye, or better, if you are less violently inclined, you might mumble something softly under your breath like, “bitch.” I know I might.

In fairness, please let me share the painful reality: I am not my goal weight (and probably never will be). Regarding my awesome sons, recently someone stated,

“you know son apple is better looking than son orange, and you just have to deal with that fact.”

Then this person proceeded to support their assertion about my better-looking son, because (obviously) I knew it too. Ouch! That is some hardcore, mama-bear pain! Oh, Oh and I have tried Botox in my forehead (and really liked it). Dave and I fight. I cry. He looks at his iPhone. We do have sex (thank God)! We also fart during sex. I never wear lingerie. I may or may not compose a to-do list during foreplay, and my legs are rarely shaved, or better, they are often stubbly.

Budapest, Hungary

Hey, and I have also certainly rolled my eyes a time or two after I see a friend’s Instagram perfect bikini shot captioned with some humble brag like,

“Silly me for posting this bad photo. I am usually so shy about posting pictures of myself.”

(Screw you yoga, Cross-Fit, and “shy” friend with a perfect body. You win!). No. I am not writing about jealousy. Nor, do I want to. It is fair to envy.  I am writing about pian. We are human and I imagine most of the time our frustrated jealousy may just be reflections of how we feel about our own lives.


It is funny (not funny at all), after we attended the funeral of Eli’s friend, Eli said something like, “Hey, did you see so and so and his mom?”

I was like, “Yes, I did.”

To which Eli, said, “Isn’t weird that even at a funeral they had to act all better than everyone, like their pain was more important. The kid gave me shade and his mom was not very nice to you.”

I agreed and actually wondered the same thing. I was like,

“Why did they think they were more important? A kid committed suicide because he felt like he did not fit in. And as we were there to honor this young man, it appeared that this mom and son decided that it was the right time to remind us that we were not good enough, that we did not fit into the world as well as they did.”

Weird. I hope they are not people who think they are better than the rest of us. In fairness, maybe they are so used being on the top of the pecking order that they do not notice. I hope that is what it was. I  realize as I write this that I need to recognize how I convey myself to others. I need to wake myself up and play fair. Do I make people feel less than? Probably? I hope not. If I have, I am very sorry.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales

Nevertheless, I think the experience Eli and I had at the funeral is an interesting moment to deconstruct. I also think that is why writing pain (and awkwardness) is not only safe, it is compelling. Sadly, I imagine I am not the only one who has felt less than or rejected. I also imagine (hope) that when I share my own vulnerably (pain), my guess is that you may relate. It is compelling. In fact, no matter where we sit on the cool scale, the socio-economic hierarchy, or the righteousness ladder, we all know pain. Further, I would argue that showing our pain is a gateway to revealing our empathy.

Hold up. I say this with a strong caveat. If revealing your pain is all about,

“my pain is worse than your pain,”

then I think you need to step out of your self-centered cave, look around and see that you may have missed the boat, or the world exploding around you.

Russell, New Zealand

Ultimately, (because this is kind of a long, streaming thought), I think the incredible beauty of our world is connection.  And pain seems to be the catalyst for that connection. My pain allows me to relate to your pain. Sure (and another caveat), obviously there are many many people who have experienced pain that I cannot even imagine. Where I can relate (love) these people is by reaching outside of myself and showing them that I also have known pain.

And then we are able to LOVE!

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We are not friends and that is ok.  

Hands down, Dave is a my Best Friend. Here we are at Dyrham Park National Trust Site, Gloucestershire, England
Hands down, Dave is a my Best Friend. Here we are at Dyrham Park National Trust Site, Gloucestershire, England

Please do not take it personally. First, and foremost, I LOVE people and my relationships with them. Through years of practice, I have also learned that friendship is not an exact science. Thankfully, I have awesome friends; friends who are cool with who I am (or are super awesome at pretending).  And because I am a huge sucker for connection, especially the connection that the word “friendship” or “best friend” implies, I take my role as friend very seriously (like in a for-real blood oath kind of way).  I sincerely believe (again, in like in a freakish, overachiever sort of way) that love, loyalty, honesty, transparency, responsibility, integrity and follow-through are friendship’s core values. And like some sort of super-earnest, albeit a little sarcastic, Joan-of-Arc (or just like a very devoted pet) I completely commit to my friends.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I also commit to those who insist I am their friend, even those who literally have no clue how to be a friend, like those “friends” who are only “friendly” when they need a favor. And of course I have also found myself sucked into the blackhole of friendship with the occasional narcissist, stridently co-dependent, gaslight-er, sociopath and life-bloodsucker.

Hey and most relationship are cool and balanced, right?  It does not take much for me to heed the charge or enable an imbalanced connection.  Whereas, when the plane is going down and I should be putting my oxygen mask on first, all you have to do is show me your tangled cord and in the name of “friendship,” I will suffocate. If it means you can breathe, I will lose consciousness. All the while ignoring the fact that had I actually put my mask on first we both would be breathing. My dysfunction is on me.  And believe me, the dysfunction goes deep and is probably baked right into my DNA. I love the rush of helping others — sometimes even conflating help (being used) with true and connection friendship. I get it. Feeling needed feels good. Feeling needed, or better, helping is a great avoidance technique.  

I really like my kids. And yes, I will go against so conventions and say that I am so glad they are my friends. This is Kyle & I at Levant Mine and Beam Engine National Trust Site, Trewellard, Cornwall, England
I really like my kids. And yes, I will go against so conventions and say that I am so glad they are my friends. This is Kyle & I at Levant Mine and Beam Engine National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance, England

I love these boys! Land's End, Cornwall, England
I love these boys! Land’s End, Cornwall, England

The other day I needed to put my oxygen mask on. I was trying to sleep. I should have been sleeping. I was very tired. My back hurt. I was exhausted and catching a cold. The night before I was up past 1AM and then up again at 6AM. I wanted to say goodbye to Kyle. He was leaving for his Varsity Cross Country team run. As luck would have it, Kyle left his cellphone on the kitchen counter. And so it began… Every nine minutes I heard the beep, beep, beep of his cell phone alarm. Because I could not figure out his password, the only thing I could do is hit snooze, which meant I was also up every nine minutes. It never occurred to me to bring his phone into my room, hide it outside, or guess the password (which I actually knew). I was supposed to go walking with my friend Rita shortly.  Because I trusted she would kind and empathetic, I knew she would be cool if I canceled. She was. In her text filled with a bunch of heart emojis she said,

“No problem. Let’s go Friday.”

My friend, Rita & I after we finished the SLC Half Marathon. (It was epic.)
My friend, Rita & I after we finished the SLC Half Marathon. (It was epic.)

Feeling relieved, I went back to sleep. Within minutes I heard my phone beep. I was mad at myself for not putting my phone on “do not disturb.” I felt the obligation to look. Someone did need me.  I felt compelled to “be a friend.” It was only going to be a few minutes, but those few minutes also meant I needed to get up, brush my teeth, brush my hair and locate what this person needed. It also meant that I was up. So, Instead of sleeping I said,

“Sure. Come on over.”

Me & Easy E. He puts up with me & is a super considerate human. Man, I love this kid! Snowdownia National Park, Wales
Me & Easy E. He puts up with me & is a super considerate human. Man, I love this kid! Snowdownia National Park, Wales

I do not think I am the only one who feels compelled to be a “good friend.” I do not think it is bad to help someone in need either. What I am truly suggesting is balance.

Culturally, I think women are taught to put everyone’s needs before their own, especially in the culture I was raised in. I think this baked-in, I-must-serve behavior complicates true, bonded friendship even further. Many people feel such an urge to please others, even their own friends, that they forget to take care of themselves, or to have boundaries, like I did that morning.  Sure, our commitments and obligations are distracting. Time is short. Oh yes, and then there is the whole part about having our “me” time versus our guilt about being a good friend, or at least being seen as a good friend.  What complicates the concept of friendship even more is that from my experience, we are all different. And because we are different, there is a no roadmap to perfect friendship.

My friends, Emily, Andi & I, Galilee Grill & Bakery, Lindon, Utah
My friends, Emily, Andi & I, Galilee Grill & Bakery, Lindon, Utah

Moe & I, Red Iguana, Salt Lake City, Utah
Moe & I, Red Iguana, Salt Lake City, Utah

Because I have made many wrong turns, I hope I can help you avoid the detour by offering you a few directions.  I will start with the idea that friendship is not a one-sided service project. Meaning, friends are not a box to check or a badge to earn, someone to possess or a crazy, co-dependent feedback loop. Friendship should definitely not be a status or hierarchical-based relationship. (You can save that relationship for your boss, as a super-fan, or when you move to North Korea.)

In contrast, I would suggest that friendship really is mutual affection. Meaning, we both get to equally dictate the terms of our relationship (high fives to that). Friendship is boundaries and support (even when either is uncomfortable). We do not have to text everyday, talk every week, or even see each other every year. And because we stand by each other’s side, when we are together, our friendship has integrity. We mean what we say. We apologize when we are wrong. We are honest, (even when truth adjusting would be way more comfortable). We are loyal (even when it is not cool). Mostly, we forgive.

It took me a long time to fully digest the concept that for me to be a good and committed friend I cannot possibly be friends with everyone. Ok. Wait. I will push back here to say that Facebook and Facebook friendship is not what I am referring too. So in the Facebook realm, yes, I believe you and Mark Zuckerberg can friend the entire world. In support of my friend-the-world claim, Dave often observes:

“You have a super liberal Facebook friend policy.”

“Yes. Yes I do. I love people.” I respond.

Me & Big Daddy at Levant Mine and Beam Engine, National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance , England
Me & Big Daddy at Levant Mine and Beam Engine, National Trust Site, Trewellard, Penzance, England

Alas, Dave is correct and also proves the fact that the people you acquaint with are not all friends. See, a few years ago, a high-profile-on-the-internet guy friended me. Obviously liberal-Facebook-friend-policy-me accepted his request, even though (once again), we had not met. Of course, like I suspect many people do, I checked out his Facebook page before I actually accepted his request. When I saw his friend total, the smart-ass in me was like,

“Seriously, you 4,999 personal friends? You mean to tell me you know every single one of these people — by name?”  And because I am bubbling with dry sarcasm, I continued my internal discussion and said, “How do you have time for all of those relationships [long pause] and your family [even longer pause] especially your wife?”

Well, you don’t. For example, I saw this same dude recently at a Cross Country meet. I literally ran into him. By his long, perplexed stare, I assumed he thought he knew me. His wife looked similarly bewildered.  Dave was half way across the race course, so alone, I said “Hello.”

He paused and stared at me for a really long time. That is when I impatiently thought (because I needed to find Kyle & Eli),

“Wait for it. Wait for it.”

“Hi Barb.” He said.

Ok. I am kidding.  In truth he said, “Hi Beth,” as I began to lift my hand to give him a high five. Realizing he was not going to make the connection, I quickly & nervously brushed my hand into my hair as if I meant to do that.

Alas, even though he remembered my name, the uncomfortable moment would not end. As I answered, his wife, in sort of a stunned and freaked out way quickly asked,

“well, how do you know him?”

And that is when I gave her the name of one our mutual real-life friends.  I know they are real friends because tagged pictures of them spending time together always roll through my Facebook feed. His wife seemed to relax, which was good.

Easy E, Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah
Easy E, Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah

Kyle a t the Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah
Kyle a t the Pre-Region Cross Country Meet, Cottonwood Complex, Salt Lake City, Utah

Here is the deal. This dude (bless his heart), despite having met me in person a dozen times since we became Facebook friends, never knows my name. When he stumbles with any sort of recognition, I wonder if he thinks I am a super-fan or a stalker.  And because he is the one who friended me, his incongruous reaction always fascinates me.  Obviously we are not friends. We are barely acquaintances.

Doug, Dave & Easy E, Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas, January, 2017
Doug, Dave & Easy E, Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas, January, 2017

Dave & Ryan Raddon, SLC, Utah
Dave & Ryan Raddon, SLC, Utah

His incongruous reaction, like many others, got me thinking. Has Facebook eviscerated the connection of real friendship? Do we know some people way more than we should? And is there any real-life correlation between Facebook friend totals, real world relationships and imbalanced obligation?  I do not know. I think we all Facebook friend differently. Nevertheless, I do belive Facebook and social media are influencing how we friend. Just last week, because a woman who friended me seemed so cool and is a friend of a friend, I accepted her friend request.  And guess what? She is cool. And yes, you read that correctly. I accepted the friend request of someone I have never met, or at least do not remember meeting. I know I am not the only one. And because she now owns the title of my friend, should I give her the same friend benefits? Am I obligated to wake up for her when I should be sleeping?  I was friended by my friend Letti after knowing her for twenty minutes (and I really like her in real life). (Fun Fact:  twenty minutes was the same amount of time I knew my friend Mike’s brother before making out with him.) Moving way beyond my fun fact, I also have friends who I have met once (in person), only to become really great friends via Facebook. Doug Vandiford, we are talking to you. On the other hand, Dave Facebook friends only those he really really knows. In contrast to my interaction, Dave actually knew Doug Vandiford way back when they were in the BYU dorms together (with Ryan Raddon (DJ Kaskade namedrop). And guess what? These three dudes are still real life friends. Ok. I would also argue that there are many sides to non-discriminatory Facebook friend requests (which have absolutely nothing to do with the concept of friendship I began with).  That is why I would suggest is that bonded friendship goes well beyond today’s Facebook friendship friending rituals, and that the mutual affection of friendship actually takes effort. I would also suggest that having only a handful of friends is a very good thing.  Considering the effort it takes to be a friend, I would like to offer that we may only have healthy space for a handful of friends. Meaning, that the other 4,988 relationships may fall into the category of acquaintance. (I think that is ok, by the way.)

Me & Big Daddy, Venice Beach, California
Me & Big Daddy, Venice Beach, California

Think of it this way.  An acquaintance can be an ally without all the strings or obligations.  I would also argue that if you put most people into the acquaintance category, your disappointment will decrease, your awkward moments at your boys’ cross country meet will not feel like rejection, and that your expectations of reciprocity may soften. And if you see relationships through the acquaintance lens I would argue that your relationships with these people may actually be healthier, more fun, and more fulfilling (or even an serendipitous networking opportunity).  I would to think about it this way: An acquaintance is a friend without the loyalty and expectation. Do I care if an acquaintance blows off dinner plans? Do I care if an acquaintance makes up a lame ass excuse for not including me? Do I care if an acquaintance tells everyone I am high maintenance (dude, I have food allergies, get over it). Do I mind if an acquaintance tells everyone I  have social anxiety, or that I am too religious, or that I am not religious enough? Nope. Do I care if an acquaintance needs a favor, even though I have not heard from them in years? No. I am happy to help — always (even when I would rather be sleeping).

Our feet, Venice Beach, California
Our feet, Venice Beach, California

Bottom line: I say learn from me.  Figure out how you want to friend, and then trust it — (as long as you are not being a tool and are being transparent).

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Men & Women: The Great Gift Giving Divide

Dave in Mexico

Late last night I finished today’s post. I asked Dave to edit it (as he always does) and by the time he finished reading I could tell something was up.  When I asked, he said,

“Well, it is a good read. [insert raises hands up in a swooping motion here] I’m not sure. It just doesn’t feel complete.”

“What do you mean?”

“I wanted more. I wanted you to go deeper. I wanted to understand.”

“I know. I wanted to convey the fact that many women feel or have felt like I do, especially when it comes to holidays and gift giving, yet I did not want to out anyone else by sharing their personal issues. How do I convey both and make sense?”

“I think it is ok to mention that this topic came up while you were at dinner with a bunch of women and I think you should talk about yourself and how you deal with it.”

We talked a little more and then Dave went upstairs. In an effort improve my writing and to understand what Dave meant, I paused, thought about my post and followed him upstairs and sat right next to him. I asked him to pause the television and said, “I have been thinking. I want to get this right. I am not sure if I can. Tell me what you mean?”

“You imply that women are unsatisfied, but what does that mean?  I just want to know what we men can do?”

Continue reading “Men & Women: The Great Gift Giving Divide”

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