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Friday, March 06, 2009

Mommy Friends

Over at Momversation there’s a nice little video that basically asks, “How do you make mommy friends?”

Oy.  How do you make friends, in general?  I mean, it seems easier when you’re younger and you sort of become friends simply due to common proximity.  “We live on the same street,” or “We sit next to each other in such-and-such a class.”  But what do you do when you’re a busy mom doing busy mom things and don’t really come in contact with other people (much less other women, much much less other moms) often enough to have any sort of meaningful contact that could possibly blossom into anything akin to friendship?

I’ve often joked that I should just go up to people and put on big doe eyes and guilelessly say, “I’m lonely.  Will you be my friend?”

On the surface, that plan really has no flaws.  Admitting a need and asking for assistance in meeting that need is something I spent three years working on in therapy, so it seems (again… on the surface) like a good idea.  Of course, when you look deeper and start really analyzing the plan (which of course I eternally do) it’s easy to see major flaws.  I mean, let’s just look at the creep-out factor.  It’d be like a guy going up to a stranger he found attractive and saying to her, “I’m horny.  Will you touch me?”  Ew.  Just.  EW! 

There is a little wooing and courting that must go on before a friendship can be entered.  It is a different dance than the mating/dating dance, but it’s similar.  There’s a considerable amount of push/pull, though not as much “chasing”, I think.  Most of us put on our bright and shiny face and then drop our guard slowly over time, letting a little of this and a little of that slip as we show our emotional dings and dents.  The funny thing is, it’s the dings and dents, the damaged part of people which leaves me loving them so dearly.  Perfect people either bore me or irritate me.  Damaged people are real and beautiful and precisely how they should be. 

Well.  You know.  To a point.

There have been folks who were damaged beyond what I was willing to tolerate.  There were people who were violent or volatile or just plain ass backward crazy.  Those people, well, I had to leave ‘em behind.  I like a particular brand of broken, and call me a snob, but that’s what I shop for in a friend.  I don’t think that if the folks I have loved over the years with that particular brand of broken and crazy had “let it all hang out” straight from the start, I would have loved them any less or any slower.  If anything, I’d have loved them sooner.  Still, we do the dance.

The problem is, and I think this is key, when you’re a mom you don’t have TIME for the dance.  You don’t have time to do the little flirty, “I bite my nails,” (dings and dents, people… even the little things count) countered with an I-See-You-And-Raise-You, “Sometimes I steal packs of gum just to see if I can get away with it.”  Pretty much you have time for, “Oh yeah I like Ritz crackers except when they have…. STEEEEEWART!  GET your hands out of the VCR!” countered with the desperate, “Oh it’s ok he’s just… oh dear, is that peanut butter all over his fingers?”

And that’s when you’re lucky because you’re kids are small and fairly portable and not involved in six different after school activities not counting Scouts and have to have your help with 14 page reports on Canada.  Mmnyeah.

The problem is, as a mom, you have to be able to multitask pretty darn well, so you’re merging tasks.  You’re scheduling play dates so you can “get to know other moms”, or you’re trying to get to know other women by attending PTO meetings, during which ya hardly have time to cover the business items at hand much less do the get-to-know-you dance that’s required when testing the waters for potential friendships.  There’s this whole expectation that, as a mom, you’re supposed to be doing something for your kids at all hours of the day and night, and even if you are one of the smart ones (I never was) and budget time away from your kids just for yourself, if you haven’t got friends with whom to hang with already, what’s the point of having kid-free time? 

It’s just tough to even field out potential friends, because, remember, without that push-pull flirty dance where you reveal a little here, reveal a little there, you don’t even know if you’ve got the chemistry to try to be friends, so it’s not like you’re use your precious kid-free time to try to scope out new friends unless you’re also doing something else.  Not only are we hard wired to make the most of our time, it’d just be creepy to stand on a street corner with a big cardboard sign that says, “Will Work For Friends,” and how else are you going to go out specifically to meet potential friends?  It’s definitely more complicated meeting a friend than meeting a guy.  You could pick up a guy (not necessarily a good guy, or one well suited for you, but still…) at a bar, but you’re not really going to be able to pick up a friend, not even a sucky one, by offering to buy a girl a beer.  (Are you? Would that work, I wonder? Heh…) 

In recent years, the few times I have gone clearly out of my way to try to make friends I have crashed and burned horribly.  In one instance, it was because I was desperate and not smart.  I was looking for the first thing that came up, and just like going to the bar and offering to take home the first guy ya meet, I just wasn’t compatible with the group of women I landed upon.  Had I taken the time to try to do the dance, had I listened to the signals they were putting out, “We’re not interested, mmmkay?” rather than solely to my own needs, “Buuut… I’m LONELY!” I would have skipped the scene much faster and gone looking elsewhere.  Instead, I kept trying.  And trying.  And I kept coming back frustrated because it was never going to work.  We (collectively or even individually based on each of the women) were not compatible.  And that’s OKAY.  Lesson learned… assess the situation before investing. 

The second time wasn’t really my fault.  I think the woman accepted me (all my crazy and everything) but I couldn’t accept her brand of crazy.  Her dings and dents were too erratic and erroneous for my tastes.  She was too needy, and those needy shoes were on my feet at the time.  I couldn’t give her what she wanted and she just annoyed me (hmm… in much the same way I annoyed that other group of women, I suspect), so alas, it was not to be.

More recently, it was really just the fates conspiring against me.  (Or, at least, I’d like to blame that.)  The little flirty dance began, and I’m going to condense it all into one conversation, though I assure you this took place over months of platonic “checking each other out”. 

“Oh, hi.  I suck at putting my laundry away so sometimes I leave it in the laundry basket until I’ve used it and then leave the dirty clothes piled on the floor of my closet….” (long pause… wait for reaction) 

“Oh! I do that too.  Plus, sometimes when I have unexpected guests come over I’ll take the dishes out of the sink and just shove them all crazy like in the dishwasher and wait til the guests leave before properly loading it.” 

My gut reaction was to jump up and hug her and yell, “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU!”  Instead I giggled and said, “I’ll have to try that sometime!”  It seemed to be going so well.  And then…

“Oh, so we’ll be moving soon.”


Well damn.

And so it goes. 

Honestly, it’s hard not to believe that it’s personal.  It’s hard not to believe in my darkest hours that perhaps I really am just a bad person and no one wants to be my friend.  I have to seriously fight off the whole horrible voices that tell me I don’t deserve friends.  I’m hard to be friends with, ask Andrea or Ben or Jeremy or Libby or Erica.  I think they’d say good things, too, they are all very clever, very goodhearted people (in their own unique ways) so I suspect they must have their reasons for tolerating me, but I think they’d all agree that I can be very difficult to be around at times.  Still, is it that bloody impossible to believe that someone around here might want to be friends?  Why must all my friendships be long distance-internet-based relationships?

Maybe it’s my breath.

Posted by Liberty on 03/06 at 11:23 PM
Posted under: See-Through

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