Sunday, January 19, 2014

water under the bridge.

Tonight was the annual cocktail party at my old house in Oakland. It's one of the least exclusive events I know, and you're encouraged to bring friends or co-workers--often it turns out they know someone else at the party anyway. Sometimes, it's a small Valley.

When Anna and I were dating, I once told her that if I got married, I could easily invite 200 people to the wedding without thinking very hard. She was skeptical, since she was still deciding whether I was a fountain of bullshit--I am, but not so it matters--but then she started meeting the horde, and saw that I wasn't showing off. It is actually a very big group, and while relationships vary as you'd expect, by and large we know each other well enough. The accumulated weight of shared experience.

Tonight there was my ex-girlfriend C, who was quite justifiably angry at me for a few years, until I got my head out of my ass and apologized, and eventually we became able to talk like old friends. Just last week, at a dinner party, I got to tell the remarkable story of our first date, which is one of my favorites. Of course everyone at the table has known me for years, and known her almost as long, and that just makes it all awesome.

There was also my ex from The Bad Relationship, who doesn't want to remember anything about our mutual past, but we did have quite a civil conversation about the labeling of the numerous cheeses. She reportedly acknowledged Anna's presence in the room, as well. Small steps toward a more peaceful world.

Many of us have dated, several have been married and divorced; sometimes the pairing up happens within the community, and sometimes the pairing up brings in a new person. (Or several, in my case: on the way home from the party when my late friend J and his wife H first met Anna, H commented how much she liked Anna and how well Anna and I seemed to fit together. J said, "Yeah...don't get too attached. We've seen this before, and they don't necessarily stick around." Anna was unable to convince H to tell this story at our wedding.)

(In my defense, this seems a little unfair, since my pre-Anna girlfriend was around for 3 years and still talks to my friends, if not, for mysterious reasons, to me. Nonetheless, a valid point.)

Most of the gang is a bit older than me, so they've had the pleasure of watching me grow from an obnoxious, if usually charming, twentysomething single guy, into a charming, if occasionally obnoxious, thirtysomething husband and father. These are my people. We've all grown up together, gone to Burning Man, eaten lovely food, helped each other, trusted each other, adjusted our expectations to what we're all capable of.

Across the community, biological families range from the fabulous like mine, to varying levels of dysfunction, all the way down to the horrific. No matter what we each started out with, now we have each other, too.

Our traditional dinner toast is "Here's to the family you choose."

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