What do you do when you meet your boyfriend’s friends for the first time, and you don’t like them?
It’s a situation I’ve often felt uncomfortable about: a negative opinion has tended to suggest that I have less in common with the person I’m thinking of dating than I initially imagined. Generally when I feel as though I probably would not have anything to say to a partner’s friends, it’s meant that I’ll eventually have nothing to say to my partner.
I met Camera Technician’s friends at a live music show a few weeks ago. We happened to be on a date, and they happened to be there. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the caliber of the interaction; it felt that they were interested in partying and having a drunken good time, and the level of conversation wasn’t particularly stimulating. I know, not everyone’s an academic — nor should I expect them to be. There are really some ways that working in this field has made me socially unsuitable for smalltalk and ordinary contact. My level of patience for superficiality has decreased rather substantially in relation to the amount of specialized knowledge I’ve accumulated. It’s an attitude that’s generally associated with elitism, an ascription I both loathe and yet, it’s also a position I am loathe to relinquish.
So when I met his friends, an ad director, a filmmaker, and a television producer, all of whom hold rather sparkling, intriguing jobs, I felt very ungenerous when I struggled to find some common ground. They didn’t want to talk shop outside of their work hours, and the cultural capital they had was of a more mainstream variety, which left me rather bored. And so we eyed each other warily, superficially, scanned each other quickly and surmised that we swam in very different oceans, and that we’d probably best give each other respectful, if nevertheless wide berth.
Last night, I had my first “we are a couple” dinner party at my boyfriend’s apartment. We’d invited over two of my current boyfriend’s friends, a couple who paint sets for movies and tv shows. We quickly found that we shared a knowledge and passion for organic gardening, so the evening went along pleasantly enough. But it was a strange space to be in, to be talking about mulch, compost and keeled potato slugs with interest and vigour long into the night. They smoked, I tried not to cough, and we smiled at each other.
Then we talked about bikes, riding, and the summer. The conversation was punctuated with questions about my stay in New York and my summer plans to be away. In the silence broken by the sounds of inhaling smoke, Camera Technician’s friends cast sidelong glances at him and at me, gauging our estimations of each other.