Two of my oldest and dearest friends (M and T) and I started calendaring regular dinners to make sure that too many months would not go by without us reconnecting. At first, we would pick restaurants based more on location on the day that worked for us all, so sometimes we would meet for acceptable pasta at Serafina, or try a new plant-based pizzeria because we were all curious, or splurging at Gabriel Kreuther to celebrate our birthdays.
When I left my corporate run in digital entertainment, I had more time on my hand and since I have always enjoyed cooking, I thought maybe we could eat-in versus go out. Somewhere along the way, we started to meet at M’s apartment which was sort of equidistant from myself and T, and M had the place to herself which meant we could talk freely and linger as long as we all wanted. M is a sommelier amongst us so she would usually provide the wine; T plays sous-chef and brings a course like dessert or makes a side dish though she would usually also bring a bottle of something recommended from her favorite local wine seller. And I would set the menu and prepare the meal.
I love thinking up menus for dinner parties. The parameters for these friends includes M being a pescatarian, and while T is an omnivore, she is allergic to scallops, crabs and shrimp, though clams are ok! I usually have to ask her of this list every month though now after several years, I finally remember.
I wanted to share our Supper Club ritual because it’s a wonderful way for friends to connect on a regular basis. We cover the gamut on topics and this month, we focused on ‘mean girls.
Menu: I have been lamenting not having a favorite place for chirashizushi and so decided to put in on the menu. Also, it was timely in that Hinamatsuri (Girls’ or Doll) Festival is on March 3 and it is common to serve this dish. My mom had given me some Japanese boxed containers and so I mixed and matched a few to make one big box of sashimi, and then we each had our own box. I also made a side dish of kimpira gobo.
Dessert: wagashi or Japanese sweets. My husband got me a box of specialty confections (mochi, kumquat, sweet bean paste) from Minamoto Kitchoan and I had no business eating the entire thing. Supper Club is also a great way to share (and save myself) from candy.
Conversation: Mean girls and ‘takers.’
This last supper club, we talked about ‘mean girls’ and being at a place where we are okay with icing them out of our lives. The motives are not sometimes clear and the tormenting or aggressive bully-like behavior happen over a period of time.
I think we all like to give people the benefit of the doubt and we also know that people change over time. T had known someone who who had a reputation for bad-mouthing people behind their back but had never encountered it directly . . . until she did. I could see the pain in her eyes because it came as such a shock. We all agreed that taking the ‘high road’ does not mean feigning graciousness towards someone who creates negative drama to no-end. No tit-for-tat counterattacks, but when at a party or other social gathering, active avoidance and disregard are appropriate.
And then there are women who withhold information which in and of itself is not an issue but it becomes suspicious when the info serves to cause pain down the road. M shared such a tale where a friend’s introduction to someone went down a path littered with stress and anxiety, and it was only along the way that information was revealed that raised concerns around the intent of the introduction. The proverbial “but why. . . “ yields into distrust.
I think the meanest girl I even encountered was in the workplace, where I was bullied. After being relatively quiet and stoic about it for years, I have only recently started to come clean to other former colleagues. I now share my distrust of her and offer words of caution.
On a more benign level, I have put the brakes on relationships with a few ‘takers.’ This term lives alongside people who are ‘givers.’ A good friend of mine shared her philosophy with me years ago– for the most part, people can be split into those that are ‘givers’ and those that are ‘takers.’
Who is a ‘taker?’ You know the person at a group dinner at a restaurant that loves ordering plates for the table, bottles of wine without asking preferences, and then loves just splitting the bill evenly. This can just be annoying but becomes insensitive when they know there are people with limited incomes. And over years, you never see this person really do anything that could be called generous. Everything seems to be tilted towards self-interest.
And then there are the ‘givers’ that would pick up the bill or a large portion of the tab in the above situation. They will give up time to help out a friend. This may sounds like what a friendship should be. And it would be if all involved would be generous in all forms. You know, it all comes out in the wash.
Sometimes, and perhaps it takes years, to realize some people are just ‘takers.’ For me, it happened with friends who were there only when they needed me, kind of a one-way street. One friend slept with a few too many of my male friends and was a no-show to my birthday party without telling me resulting in me calling around to see if she had been in an accident (she had not). As in the case with all ‘mean girls’ or constant ‘takers,’ self-preservation takes priority
Relationships are fragile enough things and we know how emotional pain can be the hardest to overcome. Unless they are family, cutting off bad relationships are a natural part of life. Like a plant, you need make sure to give relationships enough water and light for growth. And you need to prune the dead leaves and branches. Good riddance to ‘mean girls’ and constant ‘takers’ and cheers to making time to spend with quality friends.