Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Dating Scene

So, I've been getting to know our new area the last couple weeks, and I have to say that I'm totally loving it. I love that most places are a five minutes' drive from the apartment, I love that we are surrounded by pretty hillsides, I love that we have a pool in our complex, and I love that I actually have counter space in the kitchen (I used to have to put the coffee pot away in order to open the cabinets).

Despite the fact that I can hear my neighbors' air conditioner turning on, and that they sound like elephants running up and down their stairs, and their damn kids always leave their bikes in my way. Despite the fact that not only does it sound like the train is headed directly into our apartment, but we can also FEEL the walls move when it goes by. Despite the fact that I don't have a kitchen table because our old one was too big for this place, and we can't afford a new one.

Despite all those things, I am thrilled with our new place. And one of the things I really love is that there is a nice park just a few blocks away. It was there, a few days ago, that I made a discovery.

I am not the first person to make this analogy, and I certainly won't be the last, but, it's something I didn't really understand until I experienced it firsthand.

The playground is to moms, what a bar is to singles. Meeting moms at the park, trying to find playmates for your kids, while hopefully also making the acquaintance of a mom with whom spending time doesn't make you want to blow your brains's hard. It's confusing, full of mixed signals and subtext, it's everything I imagine dating to be. I guess I had this coming after having married the man I fell in love with at 16, effectively escaping the dating scene.

This particular park is very much your stereotypical watering hole for stay at home moms, pulling up in their SUVs, extracting Starbucks cups from the drink holders, and chatting with one another while their kids run around the playground. Everyone seems happily partnered off or is part of a group celebrating a kid's birthday. I feel like the new kid in school showing up with only Charlotte and no tanned and designer-sunglassed counterpart with which to gossip.

Then I meet Shelly. She and I bump into one another in one of the little nooks under the playground equipment as we are both chasing after our toddlers. She has a two-year-old and a fourteen-month-old. Our kids are too little for most of the equipment, and they are certainly too young for us to supervise from a remote bench, like most of the other mothers, so we swap stories sitting on the ground pulling wood chips from the babies' mouths and preventing wayward climbing and sippy cup swapping.

At some point during the conversation I realize that, as always, I am talking too much. I'm a nervous talker, and I usually err in not only talking for too long, but also revealing too much. Sometimes it's not until I've revealed my entire life story or delved into my latest existential crisis, that I realize how obnoxious I've been.

Shelly either doesn't mind or is nice enough to pretend that she doesn't, but the self doubt is creeping in. I try to do some damage control, and she asks me if I have a hard time finding playmates for Charlotte. Then she tells me that SHE does and that most of the kids at this playground are too big for her kids. It's nice that Charlotte and her daughter are the same age. She tells me she comes here every day. When we say goodbye, she says she hopes we run into each other again.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not, like, desperately searching for new friends. I have friends, great ones. But, I figure having someone to hang out with at the park AND little buddies for Charlotte is a good combination.

So, today I go back to the park, hoping to see them there. They aren't there.

And, in the hour or so that we were there, I kept scanning the parking lot, thinking maybe I would see them arrive. I felt like I was sitting on a bar stool, looking over my shoulder at the entrance for the guy who said he's here "every night" and hopes he'll run into me. Did I just fall for a line?

Charlotte and I had fun on our own. We read books in the little nook under the playground, ran in the grass, and went down the slide together. We don't need anyone!

But, that didn't stop Charlotte from being a little dismayed when she smiled and said "Hi" to a mom and her boys, only to be ignored. Nor did it stop me from being kind of uncomfortable when that same mom's son kept insisting she do all the things I was doing with Charlotte. This woman wasn't friendly with me to begin with, but things were getting downright hostile when I went down the slide with Charlotte, and he said "Mommy, come down the slide with me!", or when he asked her to crouch in the little annex I was in with Charlotte, or when I gave C an apple, and then he asked her for one. Yeah, she seemed pretty damn annoyed. Mostly because she did not, apparently, want to do any of those things. nor did she happen to have an apple on her at that moment.

Oh, well. Maybe I'll have better luck next time we go back. Or maybe I'll just take out a personal ad:

Looking for mom friend with small toddler to sit in the dirt with me at the park. Must not roll eyes at me when I show up with homemade iced coffee because I can't afford Starbucks. Must not freak out when my kid takes a cracker out of her own mouth and places it into your child's mouth.

That'll totally work, right?


  1. I got a little taste of this today at the pool. Charlotte is so personable, and interested in other kids, but since they are older, they don't really want to play or get involved with her. I was really rejected for her....

  2. I have exactly the same problem. We go to gymboree, where everyone already knows each other, and NO ONE is nice to me. I get a little conversation here and there, but mostly from this one crazy mom who wants to know what all of E's milestones are and when he met them. (Okay, not that we don't all think those things, but you aren't supposed to INTERVIEW someone you don't know!)

    I have actually considered posting a Craigslist ad. No lie.

  3. @Perpetua- That is kind of creepy. Those sort of questions should come up naturally in conversation! Does she also shine a flashlight into your eyes?

    Screw the ad. Just move out here. :)

  4. I was lucky enough to meet some moms at prenatal classes that I could hang out with when we had our babies, but when I went back to work and my husband decided to stay home, he faced the exact same problem, PLUS he was always one of the only men around the playground. Some moms acted downright hostile with him when their kids seemed to want to spend time around him.

  5. Megan,

    This is too funny and sooooo true.

  6. You have a fantastic sense of humor and I imagine you'll soon have moms and kids swarming around you for that reason alone -- so necessary to laugh through the toddler years!

    I can relate to your experience with Charlotte. My 2 daughters were the more reserved type, but my son is jolly, open and extremely social. It crushed me to see his attempts to engage peers at the playground being discouraged every time. (And then he came home to two bossy sisters!) But later, in preschool and ever since, that social ease has been a big advantage -- made him a popular guy.

    My long view on connecting with moms and their kids is that you rarely get both. The children Charlotte will love being with probably won't have the moms you'll like best. But if you do both click with a family, you'll no doubt be friends for life.

    Thanks for the smiles, Megan!

  7. Sophie- I can totally imagine it being hard for your husband. My husband is great with kids, as well, and they sort of naturally flock to him. And some women just don't like that. Which, I guess I get, but it sucks. Women can be such bitches to men and other women, alike.

    Janet- Thank you! I'm sure you're right about there being a divide between my friends and the mothers of Charlotte's future friends. But, maybe I'll get lucky!