This Is When You Know

This is how I found out a good friend of mine—we’ll call her Lauren—was engaged: I was at her birthday party, and I ran into this other girl I know through mutual friends, and when I asked her how she knew Lauren, she said, “I’m a talent manager and her fiancé is my client.”

I nodded and pretended I knew what she was talking about. When she walked away, I asked the guy I’d been talking to—we’ll call him Max—if he had heard the news. He looked wide-eyed. “Did you see a ring on Lauren’s finger? I didn’t even look.”

I went over to Lauren and smacked her on the arm with a paper plate. “You know how I found out you were engaged? From Brian’s manager!” She giggled and showed us her left hand. “It just happened yesterday! I was going to tell you guys, I swear.”

I didn’t know that many people at Lauren’s party; since she started medical school in September, I’ve barely seen her, and most of the people there were her med-school classmates. I took refuge in talking to Max, who I sort of knew in college. When we started talking, the topic of my boyfriend came up, and then it came up that we were living together, and then Max looked at my left hand and said, “Oh, I was just checking to see if you had a ring. But you guys aren’t engaged?” This was a question-statement.

“Uh, no,” I said.

He told me he had moved to New York and into an apartment with his girlfriend, who was a lawyer, but they’d broken up soon afterward, and he’d been living with roommates ever since.

 

I recently got back in touch with another friend—we’ll call her Catherine—I hadn’t seen since college, except a couple years ago when we ran into each other in the West Village, right after she’d moved back to New York from Los Angeles. Anyway, we’ve been hanging out. She’s single. The other day she was telling me that most of her friends from college (except for me and a couple others) are married, and most of the married friends have at least one kid. Catherine was in a sorority, and I’m convinced that there’s a correlation between sorority membership and getting married by 27 and having the first kid by 29. My younger sister, who is 24 and was in a sorority, seems like she will bear this theory out, though she got offended when I proposed it. Then I found out she had shown our mom engagement rings on the Tiffany’s Web site, just in case her boyfriend should turn to my mom for advice.

So. Catherine. Apparently, most of these sorority sisters of hers live uptown and work in finance or marketing or law. A couple of them don’t have jobs anymore. She is their “downtown,” “artsy” friend because she lives in the West Village and is in graduate school.

 

At a wedding the other day, the bride threw the bouquet into a scrum of women pretending not to care. A particularly tall, blond coltish one caught it; she seemed to take it as a good omen. Later, as everyone was leaving, she was heard asking if she should go back into the party tent to find it.

 

A friend of mine—we’ll call her Natalie—is moving in with her boyfriend in brownstone Brooklyn, even though everything’s so fucking expensive these days that you might as well just move back to Manhattan. She met this guy at work; at the time, she was involved in a torturous long-term relationship with another guy, one of those relationships people get into in their early 20s and then wake up one day and, hell, they’re 28 or 29 and nothing has changed, he’s still the same guy they were vaguely annoyed with all those years ago, except now they live together and he does things like punch walls when he’s upset.

Those kinds of relationships are always good to get out of before it’s too late, and by too late I mean that both parties get in so deep that they end up just saying to hell with it and getting married, which is sort of what happened to this other friend of mine —she’d been with the guy pretty much since we graduated college, and then they got married in this beautiful ceremony and had a really fun wedding party, and the next thing I know I’m running into her on the subway and she’s blurting out that she and Paul are getting divorced and she’s dating a mutual friend of theirs and Paul never wants to see her again. She says no one has ever made her feel the way her new boyfriend does. Meanwhile, Natalie told me that she’s been trying to get her boyfriend to go down to City Hall and just get this over with.

 

My friend Ellen has been dating this guy for years. I mean, really, ages. She’s a few years older than he is, and he once told her that he didn’t want kids, really, really didn’t want kids, and he knew she did, and so he didn’t want to be holding her back. So he didn’t break up with her, but merely encouraged her to break up with him, which she didn’t. Now they’re long-distance, and even if she does still want kids, she says that she doesn’t. It’s sort of like those other friends of mine who have been with their boyfriends for a million years, but, you know, he’s from some country where they don’t believe in marriage and so now she doesn’t, either.

 

Another friend of mine has been dating a married guy for four years.

 

I know this other girl who’s been involved with this guy for the past few months. A couple weeks ago she told me over IM that he had broken up with her, but that it was slightly confusing because they were not, technically or to anyone’s knowledge, “going out.” I suggested that maybe that meant he just didn’t want to sleep with her anymore, and a few lines later she lamented her predilection for what she called the “RETARDED GO NOWHERE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RETARDED IMMATURE DUDE.”

I think they’re still sleeping together.