Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friendship Perspective Taking

I went to dinner with a group of women friends recently. A very New England group - wealthy, fit and pretty, and live very homogenius lives for the most part. Tennis, PTA, coffees, husbands socialize, jewelry parties, you get the drift. Karen grew up in the area, has her family local, and has a wide array of friends from work, school, and the community. I have always been envious of her comfort and how easy her life seems to me. How nice is it that she has so many people to call for sitters, to go for coffee, a real solid base. I've told her she has an amazing life. She's offered to help me with the kids, which I've taken her up on before. She really gets it and is thankful.

I am somehow accepted into this group although I don't feel I fit in exactly. Good enough, they can be fun, our kids go to school together, a night out is always a plus. Anyway, one of the women, let's call her Karen, starts talking about another mom that's not there, Jennifer. Karen sets up her story first by saying the right things, "I shouldn't be talking bad about her, she's really nice, it's nothing really." We all lean in, eagerly awaiting any juicy story.

I felt conflicted because I recently met Jennifer and thought she was really nice, and better yet, was a UNIQUE person that had passion and good energy. I recently talked to her at an event, we didn't even talk about kids, a breath of fresh air. I thought I should "say something" but decided against it. I thought it may ruin the fun for everyone, knowing this is dinner party conversation, no need to be so serious. So I sat back and just listened.

She starts to say how Jennifer is very quirky, she learned how to knit, and then a month later went into the knitting store and bought yarn for 5 sweaters (for her family) and became totally obsessed. They all laughed about it, and I sat there thinking how I liked that about her, her passion and drive. She goes on to say that Jennifer's husband tells people that Karen's husband is "one of his best friends". And also tells people the same about her, that they are "good friends". They all laugh about it, saying how crazy that is, that they aren't even "friends", they carpool together and do PTA stuff, but that's it. Karen's husband states they aren't friends either, they went to school together, and in fact they all made fun of him because he was so nerdy and strange.

Funny, I had plans later that week with Jennifer, and that night I met her husband. Definitely an Aspie! I really liked him a lot. He didn't "get" that we were talking girl talk at one point, and continued to stand there. He even joined us with a glass of wine. It was a little threesome, certainly not what I expected, but still fun. I would've rather chatted with just Jen, but that's what was going on. At one point, he mentioned Karen and said her husband was one of his best friends!

I thought about the two different versions of friendships over the next day. I realized that neither person was "wrong". Jennifer's husband hardly socializes and doesn't have a large stable of friends like Karen's husband does. According to Jen's husband, his perspective is that YES, they are very close. According to Karen's, they are not, because he has a wide array of friends, and doesn't even consider him in the category of friend, just a classmate. Neither husband are aware of each others perspective.

I am very aware of the friendship disparity with my own situation. As a west coast transplant and Autism refugee, I try not to take it personally when I'm not at the top of the list with some of my friends. My "close" friends and BFF live peppered all over the country, none are local. I have many "good" friends locally, especially Autism friends. Even Karen is a good friend, we've known each other a long time. I am not sure if it's worth pointing all this out to Karen or not. Either way, I know it's not malicious, just ignorant, and maybe insensitive.

Seems that perspective taking doesn't happen as often as it could.

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