“Why can’t WE be friends?”

My husband and I have many things in common, but certainly not everything.*

It’s the same way with most of my friends, and yes, he’s one of them – en fait, he’s my best friend. We believe that being each other’s best friend is not only possible, for us it’s pretty much imperative. Despite our “Mars/Venus” natures, we talk to each other, listen to each other and do things together.

And – we laugh with each other.  Just like friends do.

Being each other’s best friend doesn’t mean we each don’t have other close friends. It also doesn’t mean we always communicate well, or that we always treat each other the way friends we should.

But we do keep trying.

Way back before we knew what we were getting into, we became friends (I kept telling him, “We’re just friends,” but luckily he didn’t take me seriously.) It was the 1970s, and a popular song  was “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by the group WAR. We’ve sung the chorus to each other many times since then:

Why can’t WE be friends?
Why can’t WE be friends?
Why can’t WE be friends?
Why can’t WE – EE be friends?
 
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WAR

 

And we laugh when we do.

We became more than friends, but friendship is still a solid basis for our relationship. We like to hang out with each other. We encourage each other’s interests, whether we share them or not. Yes, we sometimes take each other for granted, criticize and even hurt one another – but we always forgive. We count on each other, and together we’ve faced more than one crisis.

What about other friends? And other family? Friends are people I met, got to know, and with whom I somehow connected – we accepted each other as friends. We talk, we listen, we do things, and we laugh. We don’t criticize, we don’t boss each other around, and we don’t (normally) offer unsolicited advice.

Family members (besides mon mari) can be, well, not exactly like friends. Yes, we met and got to know each other, but we may not have connected as friends. Because we’re related, we’re sometimes together. Hopefully, we accept each other, talk and listen to each other, and maybe we share some laughs. We probably interrupt each other more than friends do, though. Ideally, we don’t criticize or tell each other what to do.

But when things aren’t exactly ideal, I often wonder why we can’t be friends. Why we can’t just treat each other the way friends do.

The answer is, we could if we wanted to – it would be much more fun than WAR.

* Another one of our oft-repeated song lines is from Bob Dylan: “We like the same things. We wear the same clothes.” Well, we don’t anymore…

“The Funny,” part deux (two)

I’ve never lived in New York, and I’ve never been a nanny – though I had a friend at UNC who was an au pair in France the summer after we both spent our junior year of college there.

But I did raise four children of my own, sans nanny or day care. So when the book THE NANNY DIARIES by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus came out 10 years ago, I loved it, not because it was about bringing up someone else’s a child, but because it’s hilarious!

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My copy of THE NANNY DIARIES 

I love to read anything that makes me laugh, and I don’t know why others wouldn’t. I call it “the funny;” it’s a necessary ingredient in some types of fiction and non-fiction. (But not all: the book I’m currently writing is a Thriller, sans badinage, mais c’est une autre histoire…)

Some people have a different sense of humor than mine, and some don’t have one at all. C’est dommage (that’s a shame), à mon avis. For me, being able to laugh with others has been essential, especially during life’s trials.

In my novel MAKE THAT DEUX, Jenny (the protagonist) is 19 turning 20, just a few years younger than Nanny, the au pair in TND.  Like Nanny, she’s dealing with a world very different from the one she’s known: une culture étrangère. Jenny does the best she can, under the circumstances, and (I hope) with a sense of humor. Her story is quite different from Nanny’s, but in a way, Nanny’s story influenced the way I tried to tell Jenny’s: through the eyes of a 20-something young woman who tries to keep her sense of humor while dealing with stress.

Stress isn’t easy, and we all face it now and then, or maybe, continually. Il vaut mieux en rire – it’s better to laugh about it than cry – even if we don’t feel like laughing. But I’ve found that a little levity helps, even in the worst of times.

One of my sons is a brain cancer survivor. He was diagnosed almost 3 years ago, on his 19th birthday. The next 6 months was the most difficult period in our family’s life – and we’ve been through some other serious trials. He underwent two surgeries, one them incredibly scary, and five weeks of radiation therapy. His first “clear” MRI was done that fall, two days before his grandfather, my dad, passed away peacefully at the age of 83.

My son has been cancer-free since then, and when he and I look back at that time, we don’t just remember the shock and fear that we both felt, the tears that we shed. We also recall – and still talk about – the funny things that happened in the midst of it. We thank God – and the talented doctors at Duke – that he survived, and we remember being afraid that he wouldn’t, that he might lose his young life. We weren’t looking for “the funny” then, but somehow we recognized it when we saw it: some of the things that happened made us laugh – out loud. And they still do, today.

Life is precious. Laughter is necessary. My father made me realize that when I was young. His quirky sense of humor was terrific, and he was a great joke-teller.

And he could always find “the funny.”

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