For my friends -- and most 30-something women -- brunch is a ritual. Plans are made weeks in advance, restaurant recommendations are vetted and you know to block out two hours or more in order to properly catch up on the status of everyone's busy lives.
This past Sunday we celebrated one girlfriend's engagement, got the details about another's three-week honeymoon in Thailand and heard the latest in the never-ending parenting adventures of my two other girlfriends and their kids. (There are five between the two of them.)
As for me? I filled everyone in on the new dating apps I downloaded over the weekend.
The brunch group
In my 30s and newly single after ending a long-term relationship, I recently found myself navigating unchartered territory with my best friends. These are girls I have known for years, who are like sisters to me and have been there for me through the best and also worst moments in my life. How was it that I suddenly felt like I didn't fit in? There was a time when text messages between my girlfriends and I centered on what bar we were going to that night, the drunken texts we had mistakenly sent to that ex-boyfriend, or who had the worst hangover. These days, our texts read a bit more like the "Real Housewives of Chicago."
After we ordered cocktails, the conversation immediately turned to my girlfriend's recent engagement. We heard all about the proposal, learned about the venue she had just booked and were informed that she would not be having bridesmaids (phew). My other married girlfriends chimed in to give advice or recommendations for hair, make-up, wedding planners and everything in between. Meanwhile, I quietly sipped water from one of the pink-striped straws with a cut-out diamond on it that someone brought to brunch as a party favor.
Truthfully, all the wedding talk had me feeling a bit anxious. I was incredibly happy for my newly engaged and recently married friends, but being two months out of a relationship, I felt slightly discouraged. I was starting back at square one -- they were settling into the rest of their lives.
Friendships change when your friends get engaged or married, and it doesn't make it any less difficult to adjust when you're the only single gal in the group. You're busy swiping left or right while they are busy wiping their kids up and down -- or tracking down a Lanvin dress for their wedding. How can they possibly relate to the bad date you just went on while they are planning Disney World vacations with their husband and kids?
Meanwhile, your calendar fills to the brim with engagement parties, wedding showers, and children's birthdays that the best excuse in the world couldn't get you out of, yet when you try and plan a night out to celebrate your recent single status, no one can find babysitters, dinner reservations at Next can't be rescheduled and staying out past 10 p.m. is a thing of the past.
After wedding-planning discussion, ogling my girlfriends' engagement ring and hearing hilarious mommy-disasters, I did, however, find that my "single girl" stories were their own source of entertainment for the group. I talked about my solo post-breakup trip to New York City to see friends, shop and have some much-needed fun, and they couldn't have been more encouraging when I mentioned the date I had gone on with a very cute, successful guy I had met through one of my numerous dating apps. They also didn't fail to mention that they never liked my recent ex and were very happy I had moved on.
It was then I realized that although I was in a totally different place in my life than my friends, it didn't stop them from caring about me. They might not be clued in to the newest dating app nor I to the latest Disney phenomenon, but true friendship never changes. At times, it can be challenging to accept all those differences, but that doesn't mean you are inadequate or don't fit in with your friends anymore -- your journey might just be a little different than theirs. If you are lucky enough to have great friends (as I certainly do), it shouldn't matter if you are single, married or divorced -- your friends will love and support you no matter what.
Most importantly, they'll be there when you dust yourself off and get yourself back out there to find your Prince Charming -- or at least someone who won't make you split the check on the first date.
Jennifer Rottner is 34, lives in Old Town and works in Communications for the City of Chicago. She hates cilantro, loves Dateline and would love to meet a nice Jewish boy.
For more stories in the "Single, Jewish and Figuring It Out" series, visit oychicago.com/single.