Ask the Grumpies: Traveling preferences?

Leah asks:

What are your favorite places to travel? What are your main priorities in places you travel?

I am such a homebody.  But I do love going to Los Angeles, especially the Westwood and Santa Monica areas.  That would probably be my favorite place to visit.  The food is just so amazing even from 4/5 star restaurants and there’s sun and everything is beautiful.  I also like San Diego, San Francisco, and Palo Alto for similar reasons (though the latter two are less beautiful… for one thing they’re paying attention to water restrictions).  Berkeley has great food but I find the downtown area kind of boring.  Cambridge, MA I’m extremely familiar with so I’ve got favorite places whenever I visit there (which I tend to do 2-3x/year).  I’ve got friends I like seeing in DC.  Manhattan has good food.  So does Montreal.  But I don’t go out of my way to go to either of the last three places.  Anytime I’m in Ann Arbor I stop at Zingerman’s.   Can you tell that I do most of my traveling for economics conferences?

I like going new places with my family.  I’ve been to Madrid twice without my family and loved it, but I’d like it more if I could take them with me.  I don’t think Germany would have been as nice without my family and I wouldn’t have gone to Luxemburg without them.  Of course, we mostly just go to the rural Midwest to visit DH’s extended family, so where we go doesn’t really have anything to do with where we prefer to go.  Our time is spent on family rather than on new locations.

My main priorities are:  1.  food (as discussed above) and 2.  transportation.  I prefer places that are walkable and have great public transit so I don’t have to drive around in an unfamiliar city.  (Though I have driven so much in LA that it’s pretty familiar at this point, still, who wants to drive in LA?  That’s probably why I prefer Westwood and Santa Monica– walkable and the Big Blue Bus.)  Mainly though I just need to make sure my kindle is loaded up with novels and I’ve packed a pair of pajama bottoms in case my bedroom is too cold and under blanketed.

#2 says:  I don’t want to travel now that I live in Paradise.  I live somewhere great and coach-class air travel has only gotten worse over time.  When I have to travel, I hope there are friends on the other end.

#1 says:  Awww.

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It’s not you, it’s me: We really are busy!

A lot of folks on the interwebs have been talking about a need for socialization, and wanting new IRL friends.

I remember feeling like that when DC1 was a toddler, but I don’t feel that so much now.  Really I haven’t felt like that that since DC2 was born.  So some of that is that I’m just getting a lot of interaction at home, both overall and with people whose maturity/cuteness quotient is greater than 1– as DC1 grows up, interacting with hir is more like adult interaction, and there’s only so much personal contact this introvert can have before it’s too much.

Part of it, I think, is that I get a lot of interaction at work.  I consider a lot of my colleagues to be friends, and I get some socializing each day.  It helps a lot that even in this male-dominated field, my department has a lot of women!  And there’s junior guys at similar life-stages to my own, so we can talk about kid-related stuff, from, you know, an economist perspective.  I don’t do a ton of socializing at home other than the occasional kids’ party.

Right now, we’re living someplace super easy to socialize.  I have friends from high school and college within a 30 min drive (some are even in walking distance!).  DH has friends from high school and graduate school.  I’m working in the same building as professional friends.  It would be so cool if I were an extrovert or had lots and lots of free time.  (I mean, it is cool, but I’m really not taking advantage, you know?)

And it was really cool… back when we first moved here, when I was recovering from moving and didn’t realize that I had pressing deadlines about to attempt to suffocate me.  Friends from various parts of our lives used our moving here as an excuse to throw parties so we got to see a bunch of people (and often their new babies) all at once.   We had obligatory dinners or lunches with several other close friends from previous lives.

But now.  Now I am just so tired.  DH and/or I are out of town for seminars/conference/work/grants/#2’s wedding every week from the month after we got here until November.  Relatives from outside of paradise are setting up times to visit (even though we don’t have an extra bedroom).

I haven’t told my college roommate who lives a few towns over we’re in town.  I swear I will… once things settle down.  Once we have some time.  Which may be never.

It’s not that I don’t love my friends.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy hanging out with cool and amazing people, both new and old.  It’s just that it’s nice to grab some time to myself.  Or with just my family.  Where I don’t have to watch what I say.  I don’t have to perform.  I can’t feel foolish.  Or I can just quietly be.  Maybe with a cat or two.  And I do have close friends who accept me for who I am… but they’re still not close enough that they want me hanging around without pants.  That’s really an immediate family-only thing.

Do you want more social interaction? 

I encouraged my (heterosexual male) partner to have dinner with another woman

… even though we’re planning a wedding!

How’s that for a click-bait headline?  Clickkkk baaaaaiiiiiit.

Seriously though, this is another post on the importance of networking.

My partner’s company was imploding and it was time to get out.  So he tapped a network, went out to dinner, and came back with a referral to a new job that included a raise, a better commute, and three weeks off for the wedding and honeymoon.

Wooo networks!

(And boo patriarchy for allowing the headline of this post to sound even the least bit interesting.)

Making friends as a professor or as an adult

One of the problems with being a young untenured sort of person is that, outside of your department, the majority of people you meet your age are graduate students.  Graduate students have this unfortunate tendency to graduate and LEAVE.

You can be friends with colleagues, but you can’t tell them too much before tenure.  And sometimes if you get too close you realize they’re not only crazy but you have to work with them for potentially the next SIXTY YEARS.  So a little distance with most of them can be nice.

If you have kids, you will end up socializing a lot with parents of other kids, but a lot of times even though your kids may be able to discuss Minecraft for hours, you actually have little to nothing in common with them.  Of course, if you’re not extroverted, then having kids and kids having activities uses up all your people time and you’re just kind of stuck not really wanting to talk to anybody else.  (Hopefully you enjoy spending time with your family!)

If you live in a thriving metropolis, you can meet people with your interests online or through meet-ups.  Even in smaller towns you can be active in interest groups.  Maybe politics.  Maybe school board.  Maybe board-games.  If your hobbies and interests go more in the direction of watching bad tv and reading novels, that’s not going to work so well.  (Recall that book clubs seem like *work* to many academics.)

In the end, after my new friends left and graduated, and I found the right amount of closeness/distance with colleagues, and I split children’s activities with DH, most of my new friends are conference buddies.  I see and socialize with people I like and enjoy talking with (small-talk even!) a few times a year.  Sometimes we email in between, sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we miss each other for a year or two or three, sometimes we see each other several months in a row.  Sometimes we make time to have meals, sometimes we just chat at 10 min breaks.  It’s odd having closer friends that I travel and see than I have in my own home town, but I bet I’m not alone in this.

Have you made friends as an adult?  How have you gone about it?  Do you wish you had more or are you happy with what you have?

Losing touch with friends: Drama or No biggie: A deliberately controversial post

Occasionally we’ll see a blog post or forum post in which the woman (and it’s always a woman) complains that her friends have lost touch with her and that means they’re horrible selfish people.

All of our really good friendships are ones in which people go in and out with no harm no foul. People get busy, lose touch, and when we reunite it’s like we never left off, even if it’s been 10 years.

We assume the best of everybody we (temporarily) lose touch with and assume they’re assuming the same for us.  It’s just easier that way. If that’s not what’s happening, then no big loss. The only people in our lives who get to act offended and have us take that seriously if we unintentionally ignore them are our significant others, and for #1, my kids (in theory also my mom or my sister, but they’re pretty chill so I can’t imagine that ever happening). I should not be important enough to anybody else’s well-being for me being busy to cause them to take personal offense. It’s not like this is middle school or like we’re living lives of socialites with nothing better to do but create drama.

But I do know from reading the internet that there are people who take strong offense to other people losing touch with them (or not calling, or failing to answer a text right away etc. etc. etc.). Those people are far too dramatic (or, more positively, not laid back enough) to be my friends.  Which is probably best for everybody involved.

What do you think?  Should people take offense if their friends lose touch with them?  Do you?

On the importance of networks

Most jobs are found via networks.

DH found his new job via networks.  At the time he accepted, another member of his network was urging him to come out for an interview so they could give him a counter-offer.  People who know DH academically know he does good work and is responsible and amazing.  They’re willing to go to bat for him with bosses or to hire him directly as a telecommuter.

Scaring up new, local, networks had been much more difficult for DH.  He met people at happy hours and networking events.  He tapped linked in and asked former colleagues to introduce him to people.  But it didn’t get very far.  Maybe that’s because the job market here is different, or maybe it’s because the new people DH has met have no real reason to trust he’s high quality enough to go to bat for him.

But why do our older networks have these opportunities?  DH and I both went to elite graduate schools.  We also went to an elite high school.  (Our colleges were elite too but for some reason we’re not as networked there, not sure why not.  I bet my college roommate could get me a job if I needed one… but she also went to my grad school.)  Our friends have done really amazing and lucrative things with their lives.

The advantages from our high school, in particular, weren’t as obvious when we were younger.  But now many of our friends are millionaires and entrepreneurs (also professors and doctors).  They help each other out.  Heck, one guy buys up companies so he can hire his friends to work at them.

It makes me wonder about my kids… I have no desire for them to leave home for high school, but perhaps a gifted and talented high school experience will serve them well in their later years.  Well, that and DH’s family has a long history of marrying their high school sweethearts.  Maybe we should send our kids away to an academically talented boarding school for high school so that their later life will be more connected.

Have you ever tapped a network for job opportunities?  Where did you meet those people?  How did it work out?

I will not marry my best friend

… and I’m sure #2 is pretty happy about that.

(#2 says:  Awwwww!  I’m blushing! … Or maybe that’s sunburn…)

I know #2 probably disagrees with me here, but I don’t think your spouse or life-partner should be your best friend.  If they are, I feel like maybe you’re not getting out enough (and I say this as one of nature’s most introverted people, ever).  The cultural myth that you must marry your best friend both devalues friendships with anyone else, and also puts way too much pressure on your romantic relationship. People who believe in perfect soulmates tend to get divorced more often than those of us who know that real relationships take work.*

*This sentence is backed up by data but I am too lazy to dig out the citations from the class I took in college a million years ago.  Either look it up yourself or just take my word for it.  It’s a blog.

Friendships are in a different category for me, and I think it’s really important to have intimate emotional connections with people outside your primary romantic partnership.  I wouldn’t say that what I have with my partner is a friendship, though it shares many aspects: we hang out together, enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh, have in-jokes, share our feelings, are there for each other through thick and thin, are authentic around each other, etc.  But it’s so qualitatively different for me from a friendship, and not just because of the sex.  We have a piece of each other’s souls.  My friends are great, don’t get me wrong (hugs to #2!), and I do love them, but they don’t complete me the way my lover does.  They don’t make me want to be a better person the way he does.

By the way, to all those people who say things like “This chocolate mousse is better than sex!”, I have something to say to you:

There is nothing better than sex.  Nothing.  If there is something in your life better than sex, I sincerely feel that’s really too bad, and I sincerely and deeply hope that you can find peace and healing in your sex life.  You might want to check out Emily Nagoski, Sex Nerd.  Unless you identify as asexual, in which case, rock on with whatever it is you do to recharge your spirit!

#2 offers a different perspective:  I’m totally a hopeless romantic and my partner, if not my only best friend, is definitely my best male friend.  And it is true that we may be a little codependent, but we’re ok with that.  We have been a couple for almost 17 years now and he still makes my heart pitta-pat and I still want to hear what happened in his life during the time we were apart each day.  (And no, our relationship really doesn’t take work, but that’s only because he’s perfect and I recognize that he’s perfect.)

Do we think this post is controversial enough?  Readers, is your romantic partner your best friend?