Posted by: roamingolivia | August 25, 2010

Learning from families

I am staying with my friend Jude in the suburbs now – actually living in a real house, and even in a real family for the week. It is lovely, as I have already written about on my other blog, when I lived with my friend in 2008 (! time flies etc).

Last night, I got home from work (somewhat late), and came home to join a dinner conversation with Jude’s mum’s friend, and proceeded to be treated to a litany of entertaining, hilarious, human stories about their exploits. Jude’s mum and this woman have been friends for 40 years, since they went to college together, and they had amazing stories about how they met the important men in their lives, and how they lived in the 1970s. These stories include:

  • one of them possibly bankrupting a small company by just writing cheques (checks) for all its bills without, you know, checking how much money the company had.
  • how they made friends with a shopowner and his girlfriend – one of their other friends was having an affair with the shopowner while the girlfriend was out of town. She later asked them to go see what the girlfriend was like (she got kicked to the curb when the girlfriend returned). The girlfriend recognised them, but the shopowner said they were cool, and they became (sort-of) friends.
  • their dinner parties using the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook (printed 1970). This thing is awesome. And their memory of the recipes was awesome.
  • the time they had a sort-of double date to go to the park with some guys, who’d been told their Sunday lunch was amazing (every Sunday they cooked themselves amazing Sunday lunches – roast chicken, pork or lamb – and ate them together). The boys invited themselves over to the flat when the girls said they had to go back to eat their lunch. It never occurred to the girls to invite the boys to eat, and so the boys sat in another room, hungry, while the girls stuffed themselves. Weirdly, one of the boys and one of the girls eventually got together.

We moved onto other topics, including life, dental implants, menopause and bra sizes eventually.

It was a lovely evening, and reminded me a lot of my childhood. My and Jude’s role was not to really contribute to the conversation, but to listen. Not that we were ignored, but just that these women had interesting things to say and a lot of stories to share, and we listened with rapt attention. It reminded me of chats my mom used to have with the next-door neighbour about all kinds of things, including breast milk, various women’s health issues, make-up, budgets and husbands, and many more things.

I think I picked up a lot of information or what I would call “intelligence” about what life might have in store from listening to them, or from listening to my mom and other female relatives talk, and I think it is beneficial. I could in theory be in that group of female relatives now (lots of them had kids at my age), but I don’t feel like I know anything.

It made me realise that my intelligence on life basically has dropped off since I was about 15 and started hanging out more with peers than tagging along with older people, and I miss it. I feel like listening to those conversations, you get a lot of information about problems you might face, issues you might have, and how other people emotionally or practically deal with these things. It is one of the things I’ve lost not living close to family – something I hadn’t realised before. I still talk to my family, and I ask them questions, but those questions are by definition chosen by me – and thus not necessarily the most important aspects that they are going through or have gone through (and thus that I will face eventually). Listening/eavesdropping is a less selfish process.

So now I just need to find a group of older people (men and women welcome, but these groups are more common with women, I think), who will let me sit next to them and listen to their most intimate conversations. Any volunteers?



  1. I enjoyed reading this.

  2. Ditto on Ravin’s comment. My memories of sitting with my parents’ friends as a kid and hearing weird stories of violin teachers from all over the world have always stayed with me. These are always dinners and dinner companions I aspire to myself…

  3. you forgot the ‘fled to spain’ part of bankrupting a company! Very funny post (for me) to read, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, we’re most enjoying you being a guest. Mum and Anne will be proud to have provided some intel! xxx

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