Clearly, I missed a class somewhere. Maybe it was back in second grade when I had strep throat and chicken pox for three weeks (and also missed US Geography). Maybe it was in the first 45 minutes of Hebrew School that I missed every Tuesday and Thursday because my school went an hour longer than the public schools.
I've moved a lot in my life (the count is between 16-18 homes and apartments since I was born, and that's impressive for a nonmilitary kid). So I don't know if that made a significant difference. But I missed out on the social aspects that help people make friends and lifelong connections.
It occurs to me that, with all the women I see around here -- all the hugs, cheek kisses, PTA meetings, volunteer gigs.... I don't have the kind of friends who, say, vacation together. Or, rather I do, but we're not in that equation. I have a lot of friends in my community with summer homes, but we're not one of the families who travel to them. (Possibly because we can't reciprocate?) I do try to set up outings and parties, but I'm always anxious that people won't show. And because I can't do it often, I never know if what I'm doing is appropriate.
And this passes along, somehow, to our kids. I was at Danny's baseball game with Benjy last week, and Benj made friends with a little kid in a purple t-shirt. After they played together for something like 45 minutes, they came to me for water and Benjy asked for gum (I always carry sugar-free bubble gum), so I offered some to the new friend. His name was JJ, he said. And then he pointed at Benjy "He's my friend. Can he come to play at my house tomorrow?"
"Well, I don't know, honey," I said. "Maybe I should meet your Mom or Dad?"
And the boy immediately rattled off his mom's 10-digit cell phone number, which I couldn't hear. So I took out my business card, wrote on the back of it "Benjamin's mom -- played at baseball game" and told JJ to give that to his mom, or show me where she was so I could say hello. (And NOT tell her that, while I was super-impressed that her son had her number memorized, maybe he shouldn't give it to every chubby psycopath at the park?)
JJ snagged the card and ran off, Benjy trailing, to his mom, who was watching the game from the opposing side. (I guess I should mention that this was the baseball "commissioner's" team, and they were slaughtering us mercilessly.) I got caught up helping Danny with his cleat, and then trooped over to where the boys were talking with, I assumed, JJ's mom.
JJ's mom wore a sleek black tee and a Marrimeko skirt. I wore floppy madras shorts from Wal-Mart and a tee that probably had a lemonade stain on it, with a navy baseball cap. My face was slick with sunscreen and bug spray. JJ's mom was perfectly coiffed, and wore heeled sandals (not a good idea at this field, but she looked smashing.) She took her time noticing me when I came up and said hello.
"Hi," I said. "I'm Benjamin's mom -- he and your son have made friends." I put out my hand to shake, until she looked at me oddly.
"Hello," she responded. And looked back at the baseball field.
Okay, I now officially felt awkward.
"We're here because my son Danny is playing on the other team. Um, your son sort of invited Benjy over for a playdate tomorrow, but I thought maybe we should meet," I said. "I gave JJ my card...." and he handed it to his mom. She looked at it and looked, honestly, confused and irritated. And didn't say anything.
"Anyway," I said. "If you want the boys to play at some point, let me know.... no big deal.... we hit the beach and the pools a lot, and are happy to meet up at a park....." I trailed off. "So..... enjoy the game."
I trooped on back to the other side of the field and mentally buried my head in my hands. What the heck was that? That just felt SO bizarre! Was it me? Was that wrong? I mean, are kids only allowed to meet if they're in a class? And it's not like a give a shit if Marrimekko Mom didn't call. Benjy has friends. And I've got my hands full. But WEIRD! Can't you be friendly and pretend it's like when you're in your 20s and exchange numbers at a bar and say "I'll call you!" and neither person ever does? It's insincere, sure, but polite....
The whole thing is ridiculous (especially in spending this much time writing it all down) but to me it's endemic of how I feel socially. I am, without question, home pretty much every weekend night. I would love to entertain more but (a) super-small house I'm trying to get cleaned and (b) not a whole lotta money, so it's hard to invite people over -- things I'd like to work on changing.
But how do I start? Help me, interwebs! I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love!