While the children were happily munching their snacks at H’s fourth birthday party, blue marshmallow pops stickily and rapidly disappearing, J woke up from his nap. I excused myself, and headed off to quickly get him up and fed so I wouldn’t miss present opening. As I washed my hands after changing him, I got the following text. (Please note that I am not responsible for the poor grammar.):
I am so ready to go. This is boring and the momma are weird.
The blood drained from my face and every party planning, living-up-to-other-moms phobia I have flooded into my chest with a whoosh as I read this text, sent from one of the moms in the next room, at my daughter’s party.
Was this really just sent to me? Surely she meant it to go to someone else? What mom was she calling weird? Should I say something? Should I let it go and be the bigger woman?
It was too rude to let pass. I had also spent too much time carefully cutting bathing suits out of scrapbooking paper, making tissue paper puffs, and crafting a swimming pool cake complete with teddy graham swimmers. The children had all been playing wonderfully; they liked the craft I’d pulled out of thin air two nights earlier when it was clear that the thunderstorms in the Midwest would make our kiddie pool too cold for swimming; no one had complained about our snacks. The text came from a woman that I’d been friendly with all school year. I had thought we were friends—not besties, but more than just acquaintances.
With shaky fingers I sent her back a message saying, “I think perhaps your last text went astray.” I am non-confrontational. I expected her to either ignore it or to somehow explain herself. I still felt sure that she had sent me this message by mistake. By what explanation could it be justified to send it to me on purpose? Immediately, she wrote back and asked if she could come talk to me. She came into J’s room while I nursed him. I could go into the attempted explanations, but it’s not worth the space. Suffice to say she apologized, and I thanked her for doing so.
As you get older it’s harder and harder to make friends. As a mom especially, I find myself talking to women on a regular basis whom I know only as Susie’s Mom, and with whom the only connection I share is the commonality of our kids’ ages or extracurricular activity. I spend lots of time talking about kids and parenting, but rarely do I discuss myself. I almost never talk about the fact that I play two instruments or that I used to ballroom dance or work in corporate communications. I don’t discuss my favorite authors, bands, or the latest piece on NPR.
On the other hand, I’ve never heard anyone on a playground or in line to pick up kids discussing in depth, life-long-friend making topics. I hear the same banal, “How’s your day going?” conversations that I’m having myself. Yet, I always feel as if these other moms have somehow created the type of friendships I’m looking for. I wonder when they find the time, and why they never invite me along. Is there some secret handshake I have yet to learn that would give me access to coffee dates at Starbucks and lunches out? My own newness to the area and my penchant for seeing the best in people leaves me open to false friendships from the type of people who smile at your face and sneer at your back. Every time I run into someone like that I’m shocked because it’s just not how I operate. What you see is pretty much what there is to see.
With a smile plastered to my face and a raw hurt in my heart, I rejoined the party. It wasn’t my day. It was H’s day, and no matter how I was feeling, I wanted her to enjoy herself. After the cake had been eaten and the goodie bags handed out, I showed my husband the message and shared its aftermath. I realized that this woman, who had taken my daughter to school and whose daughter I’d watched in return a few times, was in fact a virtual stranger to me. Despite countless 10 minute conversations, I know almost nothing of her actual life or character. I don’t know her favorite anything or how she met her husband. The relationship we had (which is now very much over from my viewpoint), was based on the fact that we happened to be in the same place, at the same time three days a week to get our girls from preschool—nothing more.