Now that I'm making friends and socializing more in Small Town, it's nice to interact with people and say something other than "Get OUT of my parking space, FREAK SHOW!" (to my neighbors) or "Put your cell phones DOWN!" (to my students).
One thing about socializing, though, is that it can be expensive. Recently I was invited to a birthday party at the only fancy restaurant in Small Town. The birthday girl said that we didn't have to get her anything, but I knew that several other people would bring gifts. I didn't want to be the only person who showed up without a birthday gift. Not to mention I didn't have enough money for a meal at a fancy restaurant, especially considering how most of my meals consist of pasta, peanut butter sandwiches, or toast and scrambled eggs.
Due to the debt I accumulated from my move to Small Town, as well as student loans, car payments, rent, and other expenses, I just don't have enough money for an active social life sometimes. I know that you can't put a price on friendship, but you can put a price on gifts for those friends, like gifts for birthdays, weddings, baby showers, housewarming parties, etc., etc.
I don't tell this to Small Town Guy and his friends, because they've all been so nice and welcoming to me. But they all make a lot more money than I do, so I think it might be harder for them to relate to the fact that I can't afford a ticket to a play in the nearby big city that they want to go to, or a shopping spree at a mall in one of the other big cities (the closest thing that Small Town has to a mall is Walmart).
I could try giving them homemade gifts. But although I've gotten a little better at cooking, it's still difficult for me to bake anything without cringing immediately after I taste it. I can't sew or knit without accidentally poking myself (usually in the eye) with the needle.
It reminds me of that episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie Bradshaw had to spend a bunch of money on gifts for her married friends, but lamented over the fact that single people like her rarely received gifts for their own special occasions (the fact that they were single apparently meant they had fewer occasions to celebrate).
But here are a few of MY ideas for special occasions that single people like me would like presents for (I know it'll never happen, but still, it'd be nice):
A gift for all the times my mother tells me about all the women younger than me who are already married with children, and then she calls me a spinster or an old maid (one of the times she did this was when she called me on my thirtieth birthday).
A gift for all the bad dates I've been on, like the one with the guy who waited a month to call me after our first (and only) date, and then he got mad and insulted me when I made it clear that I was no longer interested.
A gift for all the hours I spent poring over online dating profiles, only to dismiss more than half of them because the guys my age made it clear in their profiles that they only wanted to date women who were at least ten (or fifteen) years younger.
A gift for all the messages on online dating sites that I received from guys who were twenty (or thirty, or, in one case, forty) years older than me.
A gift for all the times I had to tell my parents' friends that yes, I'm still single; no, I don't have a boyfriend right now; NO, I'm not a lesbian. (I WISH I was making that last one up.)
A gift for the time I sat next to a couple in a coffee shop who kept making out and calling each other cutesy names, and I resisted the urge to eat the croissants they were neglecting and/or throw those croissants at them.
It would be nice if single people got their own special day to celebrate being single, similar to how couples have Valentine's Day and anniversaries to celebrate their relationships. But we're not supposed to celebrate our single status; we're supposed to keep looking for love, or else be accused of being old maids or lesbians (as if there's something wrong with being either, which there isn't).
Oh, well. Either way, I am grateful to the people who have extended their offers of friendship to me, even if I have to occasionally decline their invitations to hang out. It's just too bad that I can't give a peanut butter sandwich as a gift.
What about you? Are there any occasions in your life that you wish you could get presents for? How do you deal with the costs of socializing?
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