You’re right. They’re not like the rest of us very now and then, a single woman will find herself socializing with married people and realize, all of a sudden, how profoundly different they are. They issue dinner invitations for a whole week and a half in the future not for “later on tonight” or even for “tomorrow,” the way normal people do. Also, they are likely to serve more than one side dish, they own German-made knives, and they use cloth napkins instead of paper towels. Differences run deeper than dinnerware, however. So I’ve come up with some pointers to help you navigate the social orbit of married folk.
To start with, don’t get discouraged; socializing with married people does have rewards. “My married friends are so comfortable, so available, so loyal,” says Becka. “They’re not caught up in the whole dating frenzy, so they can be particularly nurturing and generous with me.” That said, it still pays to remember the following advice.
Assume that every married couple is a two-headed monster Whenever you think you’re talking to just one partner, you’re really talking to both. A woman named Marlene reports: “I’ll be updating my best friend Laura on the saga of some guy I’m entangled with, and she’ll say, ‘You know, Frank thinks you should…’ and then go on to state her husband’s take on the situation. I like Frank, but it’s still a jolt to realize that he automatically knows everything she knows.” No matter how sincere she is when she swears she won’t tell anyone about your latest episode of coitus terribilis or current family upheaval, she definitely will tell her husband, so remember to edit your revelations accordingly.
Equally important: Forget everything you know about a couple’s premarital history. “Once the honeymoon is over,” says Becka, “you’re supposed to act as if you never heard anything about the size of his penis or how she cheated on him with a ski instructor the year before they got engaged.” From the wedding day on, pretend you don’t know anything her husband doesn’t know. Accept your roles: They’re Ozzie and Harriet, you’re Shannen Doherty “My married friends count on me, not only for the names of trendy restaurants but for thrilling stories about my dating adventures,” says a friend named Samantha. “Even happy couples get hungry for outside entertainment; they need to experience a little vicarious single life.” So they’ll probe and question, and you open, honest and engaging person that you are will oblige. But when you try to turn the tables, they’ll be carefully unre-vealing. “I coughed up every gory detail of a scene I had with this guy in a cab,” says Samantha, “and then I asked this couple earnestly, ‘So what do you two fight about?’ What did I get? A wall of silence.”
Don’t take them at face value If their demonstrations of coupled contentment leave you feeling awestruck, jealous and lonely, comfort yourself with the knowledge that married people like to show off. They put their best side on view nodding at each other’s insights, laughing at each other’s jokes, engaging in nuzzly kitchen displays of affection in much the same way they trot out the sterling-silver flatware and the cappuccino maker. This behavior is especially flagrant in newlyweds because they’re still trying to figure out where the institution of marriage ends and they begin. Rest assured that even the most blissful couples get bored and bicker sometimes just not when you’re around.
Guard against parental virus Something about getting married makes people feel older and wiser and more protective toward single friends. Immunize yourself against their compulsive parenting by not acting the child’s part. “I spent one weekend at a couple’s beach house being babied and clucked over by both of them,” says my friend Lisa. “By Saturday night I’d age-regressed to about nine I actually felt nervous about joining the ‘grown-ups’ at the cocktail party downstairs.” Luckily, she found the antidote. “The next morning I got up early, drove off on my own to get the paper and made us French toast for breakfast. My feeling of autonomy was restored.”
Develop your inner anthropologist Spending time with married people is not unlike eating in an Ethiopian restaurant for the first time culture shock can give way to comfort and wisdom as time goes on. Observing married friends may help you understand yourself, what you do and don’t want from your own marriage someday. If it doesn’t, don’t try so hard or stay so late. Because there’s one last fact about married people you need to know: No matter what they promise out of their overabundance of love for you, each other and marriage itself married people don’t know anyone to fix you up with anyway.