DEBORAH CROMBIE: Remember pot luck? It was this thing where neighbors got together and everyone brought something. People ate and visited and caught up on all the gossip, kids played, and sometimes confidences were shared.
But sociologists believe that today we are less socially engaged than previous generations, that we spend too much time on Facebook and not enough time face-to-face, and that this has serious consequences for both our civic and personal health. When I read in Real Simple Magazine that a Philadelphia writer named Sarah Grey had started a tradition called Friday Night Meatballs, I was intrigued. There's a lovely paradox here--she used Facebook to invite people for real-life get-togethers. She blogged about the experience, the blog went viral, and now there are Friday Night Meatball dinners all over the country.
This made me examine our own social life. Friends and neighbors often drop in at our house for tea or wine or impromptu meals,
but we don't do much on a regular schedule, the sort of things that
build a sense of tradition and security. But the only regular thing on
my calendar is "Hair Party." Two girlfriends and I go to the same
hairdresser, who is also a friend and works from her home. We make our
appointments together every five weeks, usually for late Friday
afternoon, and we rotate who brings wine and snacks. We spend a good few
hours catching up on everyone's news, and we all look forward to it
So why not do more? It doesn't have to be dinner. It could be bridge night (although I don't know a single person who plays bridge these days...) or quilting bees, or kids' play dates. It doesn't matter. What does is the fact that we are all enriched by regular real-life face-to-face contact. I want to institute regular Sunday dinners, maybe once a month (start small!). What about you, Reds? Do you have regular social get-togethers?
HALLIE EPHRON: I PLAY BRIDGE! We've been getting together with the same two opponents for decades. Once a month. Once upon a time I had a writing group to go to, and a book group, and I threw dinner parties (I love to cook and eat my own cooking.)
Now we see friends, but not so much casually and more often we meet at a restaurant. And can I count going to my fitness center for my favorite class where I get to reconnect with lots of casual friends?
Here's what I miss. Phone calls with friends. Now if the phone rings 99% of the time it's a robocall or sales or scam. The Do Not Call list is a joke.
Here's what I cherish: Facetime or Skype with my kids and grandbaby.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I have been thinking about this SO much. Time goes by so quickly, and suddenly I feel that very strongly. Dinners with friends are so precious to me--but they go by so fast, and not one every gets to talk. I am beginning to think there needs to be female friend lunches--which I never do, because I'm always at work. And more more more dinners. I'd love to have movie nights, or theme dinner nights, but the key is-- no competition. That's the attraction of put luck, right? Theoretically.
Phone calls? Not me, so much. And I will confess that when I am on the phone sometimes I am reading emails at the same time, so nothing is very satisfactory. SO I avoid it.
One problem is that everyone's schedules are so crazy---whenever we try to make plans, it's like this big elaborate email flurry to try to find a date that everyone is available, and that turns out to be months away. I always tell our friends: We are great spur-or-the-moment--if you have a free Friday, call us that afternoon!
The "time is going by" thing is truly haunting me.
RHYS BOWEN: I'm the sort of person who needs to be with friends and/or family. I have a group of women I've hiked with once a week since 1982 and they are my primary therapists as well as almost-sisters. I have another group I sing with in church. When we moved to Arizona I felt really disconnected with only daughter and family at first. But now we seem to have quite a hectic social life here. Dinners, travel club, new church choir, English girlfriend, fun American girlfriend both of whom I can laugh with. So important
I have writer/mystery world friends I love to see--Barbara Peters, Jackie Winspear, Cara Black. We get together quite often. .
Also I will talk with my children on the phone for at least an hour at a time, much to John's despair "You spoke to her two days ago. What can you possibly have to talk about?"
And yes, Hank--the time going by thing haunts me too, especially as John's age creeps up (well, mine too I suppose, but I choose not to think about that.)
LUCY BURDETTE: We seem to have a very busy social life while in Key West--though it sounds similar to you, Rhys, we worked hard to meet people so we would feel at home here. I serve on the board of the Friends of the Library and we are busy with our church and lots of neighbors and friends. And being that Key West is such a splendid place to visit in winter, we see many friends and relatives that way too. When in Connecticut, we have a supper club with 5 other couples, which is kind of like a potluck, only a little fancier:). And my writers group pals and reliable critique buddies, Ang and Chris, come over every 2 weeks. Honestly, I have to cook for people because I have an obligation to post a new recipe every Thursday at Mystery Lovers Kitchen! And I do treasure my online friends, like the amazing Jungle Red Writers. I'd love to see much more of you guys!
everyone brought something. People ate and visited and caught up on all the gossip, kids played, and sometimes confidences were shared.
DEBS: Hallie, I am so impressed--and envious-- that you play bridge! My parents were avid 42 players and played regularly with two sets of aunts and uncles all through my childhood. I grew up to the sound of dominoes clicking, but I was never very good at at, and now would be hopeless.
Hank, yes, time passing, and if we don't make time--or find time--now, when will we? We are all so busy, which I guess is a good thing, because wouldn't it be dreadful to have nothing to do? But when we make time for friends and family and neighbors we're never sorry that we did.
(Our lovely Easter dinner was only slightly marred yesterday by my daughter cutting a big chunk out of her finger with a mandolin... What's a holiday dinner without a crisis? Now that's a good subject for another blog!)
But I must say, as important as in-person time may be, I feel very enriched by all of you who show up on Jungle Red every day. We are a community, too.
Readers, what about you? What are your face-to-face get together traditions?