My best friend from college got married late (around 40) and had two cute kids in fast order. It was something she'd always wanted. But now, several years later (her kids are 2 and 4), it's nearly impossible for me, her married with no-kids friend, to see her. Her husband, who stays home with the kids, doesn't let her go out often, and usually it has to be post-8:30 after the kids are in bed. She works, he doesn't, and he smokes a lot of pot, which I think makes him unmotivated to leave the house, and slightly incredulous that anyone else would want to.
The result of this is that it's very, very hard to see her, even if you go to her house and hang out with her and her kids. There are rules about times or day, etc. Like if you try to come for dinner after 7, that's a no-go, because she has to put the kids to bed. If you ask her on a kid-free activity, she'll ask if we can do pedicures at 9 o'clock at night or ask if she can bring the kids (which is sometimes fine, but they can't come to the symphony!). If there's a long-scheduled girl's night, there's a high probability that her husband will come up with a last-minute home DIY project and she won't be able to come. It's gotten to be that I won't even ask most of the time now. I feel too much like she's taken some sort of weird vow. She complains that she doesn't see mutual friends (most of them with kids); I think it's because they come up against a similar wall.
I've adapted by going over to her house more often to watch movies, during which her husband sits back in his study and gets stoned (I see the bongs, I smell the weed). Sometimes he's so gone by the time I leave that he can't even say goodbye.
Other friends of mine with kids of similar ages seem to be different. They'll say, "Yeah, I told John I'm coming out with you ... see you then." As opposed to, "I'll ask Potbeard if I can go, but I probably can't." Other people will have my husband and me over for dinner with their kids around, and not be freaky about bedtime and us interfering.
A big part of me has accepted that this is how she'll be for the next 10 or 15 years. But it disturbs me. I want to see my friend, I'm tired of feeling guilty for even asking her to the movies and I hate to see her in this weird marriage. And I frankly worry about her kids growing up around this.
Is there anything I can do, or do I just keep my mouth shut? We've known each other for 20-plus years at this point.
Disturbed in the D of C
This used to be normal to me. I knew people like this. It's like, yeah, they have kids and the husband is somewhere with his bong.
He's a problem but he's not a violent problem. If he were a violent problem then she'd go to a shelter and there would be drama. Since he's a quiet pothead his authoritarianism has a velvety feel to it. It's like he's a crooner of oppression, in the secretive and creepy brand. Nobody's calling the husband an addict yet. It's like his hobby. His hobby is to be unemployed and stay at home fucked up on weed all day and keep his wife a prisoner.
This is normal to me.
I don't mean that it's good. It's just that so many people I grew up with were potheads and their lives got really tiny like this and the men came up with these ways to bully their wives without seeming to. And their wives shrunk. And their kids wandered around like What the F? And the wife adjusted in these ways that seemed unfair but there was no talking about it. And, I dunno, every now and then you say to the pothead husband, Uh, you still play bass? And it's like all out of tune in its case and the case has dust on it. And there's like an old model airplane kit half-finished piled on the bass case. And he takes a hit and says, Yeah, sometimes, bro.
You've lost your best friend from college to a creepy, pothead-husband situation. And think of the compromises she's made, right? Because she really, really, really wanted to have the husband and the kids? So she made these compromises. And who knows what problems he is medicating? Like some ADD, maybe, or some depression, or some secret shame and anger and loneliness that he cannot express? Yeah, yeah, you can go as deep as you want with this one. And I guarantee as deep as you want to go, it's all there, the whole story of addiction is there, it's always there. But I just don't feel like going there for the umpteenth time in my very earnest and dedicated way. Partly from periodic aesthetic exhaustion and boredom, like I just read this wonderful new Haruki Murakami story in the New Yorker this morning, sitting in the fog, and I'm filled with a quiet wonder about things. I'm not angry and indignant. I'm like, yes, this is how we live our little lives: We get a lifetime supply of pot and a roster of rotating bongs and we stay in the backroom while the wife has her friends over, and isn't it cool that I'm a stay-at-home dad so I can smoke all day and hang with the toddlers?
I can feel you looking at me and starting to get angry like I'm not taking you seriously. So let me be frank. It is a big loss when a friend gets kids and a pothead husband. It's a fucked-up way to live. But what can you do?
OK, to feel less weird about it, one thing you can do is start to be more open and direct about what you observe. At the very least, this can make your time there less creepy.
So why don't you just say to your friend that that if she had cancer or diabetes you and your friends would be all over the issue and that this is kind of like that. It's like she has cancer or diabetes except everybody pretends.
Let's say you were a person with good research skills and contacts. You could give your friend lots of information about wives living with pothead husbands and what to do about it.
If I were you, I'd say to myself, from my privileged vantage point of having survived some pretty nasty stuff and seeing how very fast it all happens, and how crucial every decision is, I'd say, at 40, now is the time for her to really get serious about this situation.
I'd give it everything I've got. I wouldn't let it slide. I'd take a chance on it all blowing up. I'd take a chance on being seen as the unpopular bitch and messing things up.
I'd do it for the kids. Seriously. And I'd do it for her. Because she's getting a bad deal.
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