I want to take this opportunity to say hello ... and goodbye to my friends. If you've been wondering where I've been lately, as my pal Mickey did in a phone call last week, I've got a new girlfriend (let's call her Alison), and I won't be seeing you around much anymore.
Let's be clear: I love my friends. They've stuck with me through thick and thin, and now I've dropped them like hot potatoes and consigned them to the ash heap of history without so much as a fare-thee-well, all because of a broad. They've done nothing to deserve such shoddy treatment, but I've always been one of those guys who meets a woman and then disappears for a while. I take a powder. I never claimed any different. No one stuck a gun to my head.
Still, you have to be careful in case the relationship goes bust. It has happened in the past that after a few months of romantic bliss, I return, tail between legs, broken-hearted, looking like a busted umbrella, practically begging them to take me back. They always do. There's an old saying in business that applies here: Be good to the people you meet on the way up, because you may need them again on the way down.
Among my friends, there are the Alison haves and Alison have-nots. Those who have met Alison seem to like her, but you never know. You hope that your friends will tell you what they really think, but they seldom do. They'd rather watch you make the biggest mistake of your life and tell you that they knew it all along when you're crying about the alimony payments. That's what friends are for. Why didn't anyone warn me about Lisa? Because they wanted to see me fall on my face, that's why. I'm sure it was very amusing. Could've saved me a lot of time, money and heartache, fellas. Thanks a lot to all of you. Thanks.
Now I'm in a bit of a tricky spot because those who have not met Alison are convinced that I'm keeping her away from them -- and with good reason: I'm still trying to impress her. Mickey, for example, is a lovely guy, and we go back a long way, but if I introduced him early in the relationship, there might not be a relationship. He makes a nice addition to my collection of colorful friends, but I'm not exactly trotting him out as the poster boy for good mental health. There are certain people who I think should be kept in the closet until maybe our 10th wedding anniversary. (In years past, I might have hidden her from Mickey, because there was a decent chance that he would steal her -- or at least try.)
To be fair, some of the people who are clamoring for an audience with us are married with kids and have virtually disappeared off the face of the planet themselves. If you want to see them, you (a) come a-calling or (b) have dinner within a half-mile of their house at 5:30 p.m. on the one day a month they can work out a baby sitter.
To be even more fair (get your own column), when I was an unattached single guy, I was the third wheel for a lot of these married friends. They weren't exactly falling all over themselves to make sure I wasn't lonely, and now that I actually don't need their company, they're acting all hurt and jealous that they're being snubbed. Ha! The irony thickens.
Part of the problem is that I really like spending time alone with Alison. There's still a lot of "getting to know you" to do. I already know these other guys. They are my old friends, after all.
I find that now, after dating for a few months, there is a tacit accounting going on in terms of trying to meet each other's friends. I wonder if we should be going out with someone a second time before we get around to covering the entire phone book. Are we democrats or elitists? Of course I have to meet her friends, too -- and I have to be nice to them -- all of which cuts into my social calendar.
So now we start to weigh our friendships. Our time is more valuable as a couple than when we were two singles. Suddenly, we're a hot commodity. People like being around us, breathing the air of people newly in love. We're like a sold out show or a table at the new restaurant in town. I can't blame my friends for wanting a piece of the action, but it's hard to make everybody happy. "Let me see, I can fit you in a week from Tuesday -- 6:15 or 9:45?"