This weekend, on Saturday night, I went to a coworker’s play.  It was “just” a community theatre production and she was “just” in the chorus, but she was excited, she had worked hard on the show, and she had brought fliers to work so we could read all about it. 

When we went up the stage after the show to greet the cast and offer our congratulations, she was stunned that I had come.  I guess if you believe no one will come, you’re set up for lower expectations, and won’t be as disappointed when no one does come.

Like my craft show the following day.  I’d been talking it up at work, somewhat shyly at first, as I like to keep work separate from home, and I don’t like to brag.  I, too, was excited, I, too, had worked hard for my show, and I, too, wanted to share it with my coworkers.  I sent out the mass e-mail to everyone in my building, I fielded questions about it all week.  And then Sunday came and went, and the only person who showed up was a colleague who literally lives 2 blocks away.  He bought a skull-appliquéd necktie, which he promptly announced he will never wear.  I had advertised the ties as being “for your inner hipster,” and he insisted he had no inner hipster to speak of. 

Aside from that lukewarm support, no one came.  I sent out a Facebook message to everyone on my so-called friend list who lives in SE Pennsylvania; it was about 73 people in total.  Three people bothered to tell me they wouldn’t be coming due to prior commitments, two put themselves down as “maybe” (ah, “maybe,” the bastion of false hopes), but no one, outside of my husband, RSVP’d that they’d be coming. 

It’s all well and good to hear people offer airy praise about my crafting, to ask if I sell on etsy.com, to pay lip service to boost my ego by complimenting the things I make, but if they don’t actually show up to offer real support, it’s almost meaningless.  It’s almost like a fib.

Granted, not everyone is into a craft show, a haymish little affair at my branch library where they serve homemade lemon squares and elderly Jewish spinsters.  Not everyone is into jewelry or ceramics or furniture, or baby gifts or knitted items.  But I thought they were at least into me.  Apparently my craft fair and I are too easy to ignore. 

I know social loafing is in effect.  I know mass e-mails are easy to ignore, and shameless self-promotion is all the rage.  I receive e-mails soliciting donations for charity walks, inviting me to alumni social events, and asking for money for every possible cause there is.  These appeals, by and large, come from “friends”.  I know the return rate on a blind appeal is something abysmal like 2%, but these are allegedly my “friends”.  These are colleagues with whom I spoke in person, individually.  I thought that made it harder to ignore.  I thought it made me harder to ignore.

When 4pm had come and gone, without any more familiar faces, I sank into a stupor.  I had netted about $204 from the show, probably my all-time high in the 3 years I’ve been doing the $25-$30 table fee craft fair circuit (If you can count 5 shows as a “circuit”). Yet I was depressed.  I was utterly crestfallen that no one had come.  I checked and rechecked my e-mail, looking for acceptable excuses, looking for a smattering of guilt that might have trickled in, some half-assed apology out of a sense of obligation, as to why they had missed the show.  I would have been mollified by a good excuse.

“So sorry we missed your show!  The dog had explosive diarrhea all over our front foyer and we physically couldn’t leave the house!”

“You won’t believe what happened!  We went to the movies last night and fell asleep.  They locked us in and we couldn’t get out until just now. So sorry we couldn’t be there.”

“My car died.  When I had it towed to the shop, they said squirrels had gnawed through my ignition wires, and, due to my phobia of germs and public transportation, I couldn’t take the bus to your show.”

“I have Legionnaire’s Disease, which is extremely contagious and I didn’t want to infect the old biddies at the library.  Fortunately, it has a short course, and I’ll see you at work on Monday.”

“On my way to your show, a freak hail storm blocked the road.  Though I finally made it through the storm, the road was barricaded.  I tried to get a National Guard escort to the craft show, but the troops were all tied up trying to restore power to the tri-state area.”

I might have even believed them.  Instead, I began to believe they were not truly “friends” as I had thought of them.  Friends are supposed to show up even if it’s not their cup of tea.  Friends are supposed to be there, to stop by, to support you in small ways. 

A few years ago, when Mr. Apron and I were married, I invited nearly all of my high school friends, even though I hadn’t seen most of them in years.  They were scattered from West Coast to East, from Washington State, to Florida, to D.C., to Connecticut and Minnesota.  And they came.  More high school friends, in fact, than college friends, attended my wedding.  They even brought guests who I hadn’t been as close to, including my Senior Homecoming date.  They bought plane tickets, stayed in hotels, and came to my wedding.  I felt privileged to have such dedicated friends. 

Until I noticed a friend’s last name had changed abruptly on Facebook, signifying that she had completed her engagement to her long-time beau by becoming his wife.  I was aware of her engagement, having congratulated her on her Facebook “wall”, the only socially appropriate thing to do.  Of course, there were photos online of the nuptials, including photos of many of the same folks who had been at my wedding.  That was probably the first significant event I felt truly excluded from by a group of girls I had thought were my friends.  Middle school is torturous for most, and I was no exception, but if I was tormented by trying to decipher the code to popularity, I was at least under no delusions that the popular girls were my friends. 

This weekend’s events only seemed to strengthen that feeling of being left out, abandoned, and forsaken.  I doubted my worth as a so-called friend, doubted the strength of any of my relationships, be they family, friend, or collegial.  I began to wonder if my continual reluctance to share anything emotional, personal, or upsetting with any of my friends had finally caught up to me.  Maybe, I thought, they don’t even know me, because I am too afraid to show any weakness, even with friends I have known for years.  None of them, save one, even knows about the miscarriage.  They don’t know me because I have not let them.

At work this week, there have been the usual pleasantries and polite exchanges about weekend goings-on.  Half a dozen coworkers have inquired, uttering bullshit excuses.  I just didn’t make it.  We got really busy.  We lost track of time assembling our Ikea TV stand (that one I believe).  Or not at all.  They ask how it went, and I say, “Great.”  After all, I did alright by the books.  There was plenty of traffic at the fair.  I received the usual compliments on my work (without accompanying purchases).  But it wasn’t great.  It should be reinforcing, but it’s not. 

Mr. Apron related this to receiving praise from people who “don’t count”.  It’s one thing for him, an actor/singer/performer in all things Gilbert & Sullivan, to hear the shriveled old lady from the front row gush compliments and ask if his (real) teeth are “joke teeth”; it’s quite another entirely to hear an ardent G&S fan, or a respected actor commend him on his interpretation of the role.  So, too, does it “not count” as much when my parents or my husband tell me how great my work is, or how creative I am.  As parents, they have to say that.  And as for my husband, he remains the most supportive person I have ever known.  And because he’s in love with me, his opinions of my greatness are, at the least, biased, blinded, and horribly skewed.  He can’t help it. 

He would do anything in his power to make me feel supported and empowered and lauded, but he cannot substitute for friends and colleagues stopping by, getting to know one more piece of me through my extra-curricular activities. 

On Monday night, he and I traveled a short distance to a private high school auditorium, to hear an 11th grader perform a scene from “Proof”.   She is a student I have been tutoring in various subjects for almost 3 years.  We sat on choral risers propped on the stage, my ass going numb as we saw confident 11th graders say “fuck” and “cunt” in front of their parents.  The scenes were from real plays, good plays, and I enjoyed the shock value.  What I enjoyed even more was the e-mail she sent me later that night:

“Thanks so much to you for coming to see me in my drama performance. It really meant a lot to me. Thank you for always being there for me whether through tutoring, on stage, or just being a good friend.
p.s.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t get to go to the craft fair, but I’m sure you made some awesome stuff, and I hope you raised a lot of money :)”

I firmly believe half of any job, task or responsibility is just showing up. Showing up implies ready to work, ready to listen, or just here to say hello.  When you get hired to your first fast-food job, the most important thing you can do is show a basic level of responsibility by showing up.  When people sit shiva after a Jewish funeral, the point is just to be there, to sit with the family, to support them.  They may not remember what kind of desiccated fish they ate, or what you said, but they will remember that you were there.  Maybe that’s too high of an expectation for other people, but it’s still important to me.   I’ll keep showing up, and maybe one day, my friends will, too.

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