Monday, May 14, 2007

My Dinner with M

I just had a really nice dinner with my friend M. M and I have been friends since high school; she now works in some kind of finance-related field and makes enormous amounts of money, all of which she's about to sink into her Very First Home-Ownership Experience. Through no fault of her own, dinner with M always makes me feel like the kid in our relationship; for example, at the restaurant we went to tonight (her choice), I glanced at the wine list and then passed it to her.

"What do you like?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "It's all a little rich for my blood." (The cheapest glass was $9, the cheapest bottle $40.)

She looked it over. "I think they raised the prices," she said. "I'm pretty sure the bottle I usually get was $35. Oh well; we'll get a bottle, and I'm paying for it."

Then I pretty much followed her recommendation for dinner (by default--it was the only vegetarian option), and let her pick out the appetizers. And more or less order for both of us. And then when the check came, she refused to take more than $20 from me. I hope this doesn't sound critical here, because it was all done in a very civil and not-condescending way; essentially, she knows I'm a Poor Student, and is happy to share her income. Also we only see each other every four or five months.

And, of course, the advantage to being The Kid is that Mom/Dad buys you a nice dinner. So.

But anyway, I told her about my job, kind of expecting/fearing that she'd be sympathetic, rather than congratulatory. Not that I'm averse to a little sympathy. But her career is so eminently practical; I worried that she'd say something about the insanity of academia and how soon can I get a job in a real city. She's one of the only people I know--perhaps the only person--who has, historically, teased me. A lot. I don't much like to be teased, but for some reason M is allowed to demand to know why I'm wearing such-and-such an outfit or what on earth did I ever see in such-and-such a boyfriend (whom, more often than not, she'd never met). She's a strong personality. We didn't agree on much in high school--I was goth, she was Catholic; I was the liberal vegetarian, she was the meat-eating Republican (that's changed, actually; Bush has made M into a...well, if not a Democrat, than at least a moderate! Huzzah!). Maybe one of the things I liked about her was the fact that she felt so free to disagree with me, as annoying as that could be, at times.

And yet! She wasn't sarcastic or even sympathetic. She was flat-out congratulatory. And interested in hearing about the classes I'd be teaching. And just generally all-around supportive. I hadn't expected her to be mean or anything, but I guess--and this is probably just my own issue--I was a little bit prepared to be defensive. It's so nice when people surprise you in a good way, like this.

She also enlisted her car service to drive us both home, which meant that I accidentally left my Signif.Oth. to make his way home alone. Which he's perfectly capable of doing, of course, but now it's almost 11 and I'm still waiting for him to get back.

2 comments:

squadratomagico said...

I think it's very easy for academics to look at their age peers in other professions and feel exactly as you describe. The academic world has a vastly extended adolescence, and while others in their late 20s-to- early 30s are buying homes and new cars, traveling luxuriously, and starting families with daily childcare assistance, we academics are still working really hard for a pittance. But in spite of it all, I believe that if you succeed in academia, it's a far better, more fulfilling and meaningful life than that offered by the business world, with all its perks. Beyond having a basically comfortable living, I cannot imagine organizing my life around the pursuit of money. I would be terribly unhappy in that world.

jb said...

Absolutely. And then my friends wouldn't buy me dinner, so what's the advantage, really?