My sister and I used to be each other’s number one priority. As not just family, but best friends too, we both would drop whatever we were doing to be there for each other. Then she got married. I thought for sure I’d lost her, but we still remained constantly there for each other. It was when she had my nephews, Jackson and Elliot, that what I had always feared finally happened: I was no longer priority number one. I had slipped down to priority number three behind those two ridiculously adorable monkeys.
As a woman in her early-30’s, my priorities are my family, friends and career. I do not have a husband with whom I have to cater, or kids I have to take care of and nurture. As I watch my parents age, they are my number one priority, as well as my sister, but since that has changed on her end I wonder if I should change it on my end.
This is just something that happens with a sibling, it’s also something that happens with friends. There was once a time when something monumental or even trivial happened, you could call your friends and they’d be there for you in a heartbeat, and vice versa. But as I watch my friends get married off one by one, and end up preggers, the tide is changing. The fact that I was stood up on a date or wasn’t offered my dream job no longer gets the same quick response of, “Oh my god! Let’s get a drink and talk about it!” Now I wait for a couple days, sometimes even a week or more, before I even get a call back.
I wish I could say that I fully understand, but I don’t. I don’t, because I’m not married and I don’t have kids. I can see how difficult it is to be a mom, but because that part of my life is still faraway I can’t fathom just how much my life will change. I know it will involve lots of spit-up and sleepless nights, but I like to imagine I’d still be there for everyone at the drop of a hat, if they needed me.
It’s not easy trying to maintain the close relationships you once had with friends or family members who have married and evolved into that stage of the game. When they do call you back, a lot of the time they spend the majority of it either cooing over their newborn or reprimanding Suzy and Bobby for getting into the cookie jar. Then, of course, is that part where they put Suzy or Bobby on the phone and you’re trying to be nice, but when Suzy and Bobby have a vocabulary that consists all of 30 words, you just end up asking the impossible, because you don’t know what to say: “So, ah, what do you think of that Paul Ryan character? You know, just mommy back on the phone.” The rest of the conversation is mostly one-sided with more reprimanding of Suzy and Bobby and when you finally get off the phone you realize that the input you wanted from your friend was never received because Suzy and Bobby have become priority number one and you’re somewhere else. You don’t even know what slot you’ve been downgraded too, but it’s evident and you slump over on your coach and wonder if maybe it’s time to shift your priorities around, too. Everybody else is doing it.
I’ve asked my mother why this is, as any confused child just might. “Because this is what happens in life – it’s called growing up. You should try it sometime.”
“But I still have interesting things to say,” I respond trying to defend myself.
“Mandy, it’s no longer about you. Why can’t you understand that?”
“I’m your number one priority, right?”
“Yes, but only because if you’re not at least someone’s number one priority, you’ll probably throw a fit like a three-year-old getting her way.”
And, of course, she’s right.
Since living in New York, I have gone through several groups of friends. It’s not like it is in high school or college where you to cling to your friends in this impossibly devoted way that has no room in adulthood. People are constantly coming in and out of your life, people are changing, people are moving, people are mostly out for themselves, and at least that I understand. I guess it takes a selfish person to understand another selfish person, as opposed to one who has moved on to the next chapter of their life.
I have not spoken to my sister, whom I used to speak to almost everyday, in almost a month. I know this is because she has a lot of shit on her plate. She’s dealing with an extremely sick sister-in-law, a dog who was just diagnosed with cancer and two sons who are that age that they’re pretty much hell on wheels. And while part of me is sad and misses her, as I’ve been unable to hear her voice and share what’s been going on with me, another part of me is doing her best to truly understand. I need to comprehend that this is just how things go. I need to grasp the fact that I haven’t heard from my best friend Thal in months is because she and her husband thought it would be a great idea to take their 10-month-old to Paris to expose him to a city he’ll never remember having gone to in a first place. But hey, George is her priority now and that’s that.
I’m the first to admit I’m selfish and self-involved. I’m the first to admit to all of my flaws, because I am overly aware of them and try my best to have at least somewhat of a handle on them. But still, I’m at a loss sometimes and feel truly alone. So I call my mom and have her explain it to me again:
“I can’t believe we have to go over this once a week.” she always says. “Where on earth did you come from and why can’t your brain accept reality.”
I don’t know, but understanding people who don’t think like me has never been my strong suit. At least I’m aware of that, too.