It has been one of my least favorite questions. Especially in a year where “nothing much” is a fairly positive answer and the other, more excitable answers I might have would foot to details that might be found mundane or annoying or alienating.
It wasn’t always like this. In youth I found that the constant metamorphosis meant that this question often elicited exciting tails of new romance, adventures, jobs, projects.
All of these elements might exist in some level, to this day, but what I have found, as time goes on, is that those most likely to ask this question really don’t want the answer: acquaintances, social friends, distant relatives, are asking a question that can only be answered by details that will emphasize the path that has eroded out intimacy, or details too intimate to share with the kind of person who would ask this at a party.
Natural instinct here leads me to the topic of CHILDREN. Kids. To breed or not to breed and the slow and whistling chasm that seems to widen between those who do and don’t make that leap, making this question especially annoying for everyone involved. You are asking me what is new, and I will tell you all about little Timmy and his first tooth, and you will smile and wonder when my run-of-the-mill boring story that only reveals how mundane my breeder lifestyle has become will end. And I will wonder why I didn’t talk about my job or working out or something.
But because this is a sensitive area and people love to defend and object to the reality that this gap exists, I am just going to use another topic, for the sake of metaphor, instead.
Let’s say I got really damn into …vegan movement and conscientious eating. When I went to a party of my old paleo buddies and you asked me what was new I might discuss my latest discovery into my newly fetishized eating regimen and you would nod with a mix of fake amusement and barely hidden contempt as I went into the many ways my new life didn’t cause as much death and destruction as it once did. In contrast, walking into a room full of all natural vegans might yield a different result: excitement over where to find that new fake cheese or joyful pats on the back and we congratulated ourselves on our latest lifestyle choice.
Do I sound judgmental? I mean to. I mean to sound every bit as judgmental and tone deaf as I just did.
Because all vegans aren’t like all parents aren’t like all health buffs aren’t like all venture capitalists. And some paleo people might be fascinated by this transition, and want to know more, knowing you were an educated fascinating person who took their consumption seriously. Sadly, this isn’t how it always goes, though.
And walking into a room full of people who tolerate, but do not support your life choices invariably tends to lead to the same tone deaf conversations in which one person asks what’s new out of polite hope that you will pop up with the one thing you once had in common and the only thing they cling to as proof that you are still an asset and not a hold over obligation, and when you predictably can’t produce a lengthy diatribe about said commonality…well, we know where that goes.
I am not done with old friends. I am not done with childless friends or vegan friends or friends who moved to Peru, or friends who can’t get their shit together, or friends from “that” part of my life. Truth be told, I miss them. I am often hoping someone will tell me a story so far from my own experience that I don’t even know how it will end. I mean sure, your decision might sounds completely insane at first blush, or I might expect to find the details of your new tech job dull as doornails. But I also very much may not. It just depends on you and I am going to grant you the benefit of the doubt, even the open respect to imagine that every decision you make deserves respect, and means something to and about you, or you wouldn’t have made it.
But what I am done with are events that are characterized by a bunch of people who have written me off because they lack the creativity to imagine that each diverging life choice is multidimensional and as interesting or dull as you make it, and those who populate it. I am done with friendships that require me to be a ghost of who I once was because someone can’t imagine the value in who I have become. Which is awesome. Maybe. If you like me. And if you don’t see that, you aren’t a friend, and I would rather talk about the TV then tell you what is new