I think we have more friends in our someday-future-who-knows-when home of Mérida than we have where we live now, and I think I know why. One reason is that expats heading to Mérida tend to be kindred spirits on some level. We’re all in the same boat, and we’ve all volunteered for the ride. Lots of us don’t want to be captives in our indoor-outdoor luxury courtyards, either, so we’ll tend to reach out to each other, maybe more than we would have back home.
Thinking back 20 years ago, however, when I moved to coastal Connecticut, got paired up with my partner and bought a house, I envisioned myself part of a social whirl here. We had dinner parties all the time. We went to fund-raisers at the drop of a hat. A new restaurant opened 20 miles away in Stamford? We gotta go!
Maybe we’ve gotten jaded, or just plain tired, but we just don’t socialize that much anymore. Restaurants in Connecticut feel like a money drain. Conversation has died; since about 2006, I’ve noticed party guests tend to bury their faces into their cellphones, texting people who aren’t there. People at dinner parties, right at the dinner table, will answer their cellphones if someone calls, and then start a new conversation with the caller. That’s been going on since the late 90s! Connecticut is not a naturally social place; we all live in our homes and after work, that’s where we make a bee-line. I’ve burned out and have lost interest in meeting new people in the area. Isn’t that an awful thing to admit? Even more, I harbor no sense or regret. I feel relief. I feel contentment to stay home with my husband, sitting on the deck watching the sunset, surveying the birds out back, marveling at the clouds. The other day a swarm of dragonflies appeared, gobbling up mosquitos, right over our heads. A week before we watched high clouds quickly disappear, yielding to a clear blue sky. Lower clouds were caught in a gust, exiting stage right. That’s the kind of entertainment we prefer these days. Our biggest challenge is hearing the doorbell when the delivery man arrives from the takeout restaurant.
Disengaging from others results in some surprises. On Facebook, a friend (not a really close friend, but still a friend) posted a photo of a small farewell party to celebrate his move to another state. I had no idea he was moving out-of-state until I read it on Facebook. I was not invited to join them, although I’m friends with nearly everyone pictured in the Facebook photo. And the zinger: The restaurant is about five blocks from my house. And to top it off, I understood it all perfectly and didn’t care. I didn’t blame them for not inviting us because we’ve been so detached the last few years. We’re off the social radar. Two or three years ago, he invited us to a party at his place. I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to go and cancelled last minute. Tacky, eh? This is how to get not-invited to get-togethers that are five blocks from your house.
When did we start to detach? Maybe around 2008? The economic crash has been painful and has inhibited us. Socializing is expensive and we’re more thoughtful with our money these days. Two years later we decided to segue to Mérida. Although this project is at the top of our minds every day, we still haven’t shared our news with a lot of our friends because (1) if it doesn’t pan out, we don’t want to be embarrassed; and (2) we didn’t want people to start detaching from us. But it’s happened anyway.
Adult friendships after the age of, say, 45, are tough. As grumpy old men, we do tend to disengage; nothing’s new and exciting anymore; we tend to dig in our heels more often. I’m less patient with all the effort it takes to maneuver around real-life social networks, as opposed to the online variety.
But in Mérida, we’re suddenly partying like it’s 1999 (or the way the 1990s were for us): Invitations to someone’s home for lunch or cocktails, trips to the bar or out to dinner with my circle of friends. People are interesting again and worth the social maneuvering; I really want to know about them and they seem interested in us. We’ve rediscovered people, and we’re working on sharpening our people skills. It takes no effort at all to muster our enthusiasm.