Jakarta, 14 March 2006
Written under Miss Sassy (14)
In our merry, party-filled, adrenaline-pumped single life, almost everything may seem all rosy, though they’re often not. In the days when things are just not that pretty, we take another sip of champagne, keep our chin firmly up, and wait until bubbly time comes back on.
But it’s tough to keep a cheery attitude when the zinger flies from a supposedly friendly territory. We’re trained enough to duck from obtrusive questions or politely ignore unsolicited advice from our couple friends, but nothing stings more than the unexpected arrows from our recently coupled-up friends.
These are the people that until, perhaps last weekend, were freewheeling singletons like you; barhopping, hobnobbing, shamelessly flirting, and even, bar-top dancing. And you all laughed along. But sometimes after your last hurrah together they found someone they readily declared their true love—which, as a friend, you’re happy about. But the thing is, now they readily declare that what you do with your life is wrong.
Take my dear friends Brutuwan and Brutuwati, for example.
Brutuwati and I were partners in crime since high school. Skipped classes we think unimportant, shopped with money we didn’t have, crashed parties we weren’t invited to, gave false numbers to boys we didn’t like, and committed other fun crimes any young girls would do casually.
I left the country for a few years right when Brutuwati was simultaneously seeing a lawyer and a junior banker. I blew her air-kiss at the airport and trusted she wouldn’t miss me much. We kept in touch nonetheless through my jolly grad-school years, my fabulous pre-9/11 work time, and the gloomy post-9/11 life. In the meantime she got preoccupied pursuing her bank career and the most appropriate potential husband to appease her demanding parents. Brutuwati could get away with dating just about anybody, but her parents drew the line at the man who should join the family and seed their grandchildren.
When I returned home I found Brutuwati in the midst of planning a wedding with the trophy groom she eventually secured. I threw myself into the pre-wedding madness, including encouraged her during a 2-hour jittery, is-he-really-the-one-or-not phone call less than a week before the nuptial. She was my best friend for years. I was thrilled that she finally found her Mr. Right and wanted her to sail through into the marriage smoothly.
Her immediate pregnancy only added to the joy. But she started to get distanced from us her high school buddies. Some of us were married with children, so we understood the new hubby-and-baby chaos. But she only drifted farther, bowing out of sans-spouse weekend brunches and out-of-town trips– and if appeared at all would drag along her sourpuss husband who’d just sit silently throughout unless spoken to.
And she started poking at me. Oh, how I would easily jet-off somewhere for a weekend getaway without people around me fussing (did I make her to live in the family compound with neighboring in-laws?). How I would spend like a shopping queen (while she admitted of hiding shopping bags under office desk to avoid her husband’s sharp comments). How I would unabashedly party through the night (wasn’t she the queen of the nightlife herself until walking down the aisle?). The first and second time, I shrugged it off. But over the time, it just got very irritating.
While I still haven’t got the idea to ward off this attack, suddenly I got another missile coming unexpectedly. During my years overseas I befriended a very nice, soft-spoken fellow who has since also returned and lived nearby. Let’s call him Brutuwan. Together we’d hang out on dateless weekends and trips, bitched and wailed over our failed romances, sweat our angst at the gym or simply drunk our sadness away. Heck, I even helped him grocery shopping on Christmas Eve so he could impress a paramour with his specialty grilled chicken for Christmas dinner. We’re buddies after all.
Work got so preoccupied that the next time we talked, aha, he’d already got a girlfriend. Not a casual date, but a real, steady girlfriend. Hey, I was thrilled. I wanted to meet her right away, the girl that was the reason my buddy Brutuwan sounded all so chirpy.
I’m willing to put aside the fact that during our high tea the girl gave me a cold shoulder and territorially scrunched her chair next to my buddy’s, draping her arms over him like a boa the entire tea time both of them had troubles lifting mugs off the saucers and actually drinking their tea. It’s the first few weeks when new lovers just couldn’t get hands off each other– I took it as an amusement.
But it stopped being amusing when during a brunch sometime later Brutuwan asked me and the other girls in the group to not sit next to him because she’d be jealous when she arrived. We grudgingly moved to the farthest seats, but I couldn’t fathom the silly jealousy. We braved living overseas together years ago, where as one of the few boys in the mostly girls group he’d drive us around, helped us moving, and generally being a much closer fixture in our lives than he is now. If Madame Girlfriend wants to get all jealous about us, then be jealous for the days when Gracie would group-study overnight at Brutuwan’s apartment during finals, weeks when I actually shared the apartment with him, or months when he helped Deija went through her lone pregnancy and settled into life as a single mom. For her to harbor jealousy over who’s sitting next to him during a brunch seems so trivial, and Brutuwan doesn’t help de-alienating her from us by entertaining her childish attitude.
Despite my growing irritation, I was actually even willing to forgo that incident. But when Brutuwan started to publicly criticizing my personal life, that’s pulling another string altogether. We’re having an email thread back in forth with other friends when Brutuwan proudly shared the girlfriend news and hinted at wedding bells in a near future, and out of a blue, pointed to me that if I kept looking for the perfect man I’d never actually get any man. And this came from a man who for the longest time couldn’t seem to find a woman suitable enough for his parents and extended family! Ouch, ouch, ouch.
People, I just don’t understand. What’s the matter with these people who’ve just found love? Isn’t love supposed to bring out warmth, care and affection? Shouldn’t love turn you into a more complete, content, compassionate person? What’s this judgmental, self-righteous mode that they seem to think was under their jurisdiction?
Since I basically love Brutuwan and Brutuwati, I tried to overlook the zingers and focus on what might’ve propelled them to shoot.
I started thinking about the surroundings where Brutuwati gets domesticated these days. Ok, so new baby, new in-laws (parents-in-law next door, sisters-in-law and their families across the street). Husband that doesn’t allow her to hang out often, criticizes her shopping spending (though paid by her own salary), and rumor has it follows her whenever she has out-of-town business trips. I suspect my friend is actually suffocating.
While Brutuwan.. hmm…. He seems happy, but has he started missing some much-loved pieces of his life? He hasn’t seen much of us the way I haven’t seen much of him at the gym. But perhaps considering how long the drought had been before little miss perfect came along, Brutuwan didn’t realize how the draping boa has become constrictive it denied him oxygen and led him to publicly denouncing his own friends.
So, trying to be a bit Freudian, perhaps my seemingly blissfully happy, recently coupled-up friends are suffering from an unconscious, deep-seated dissatisfaction caused by limitations coming off the other end of their love deal? Or worse, love ordeal?
I don’t know. Look, I’m not going to wish them ill. I want only the best for my best friends. I just wish they wouldn’t forget how some of us had accompanied them throughout their earlier, often lonesome journey, warding off obtrusive and offensive inquiries together, that the least they could do now that they’re off to coupledom would be NOT to throw the same obstruction and offenses at us. They’re supposed to be more understanding than others; they’re supposed to be our friends, and not the backstabbing, malicious court of foes… et tu, Brutus? Et tuuuu……