the sensitive curmudgeon’s guide to one-off friendships

mom-friendsI’ve always felt like I was born without a certain social chip. Let’s call it the “Steel Magnolias” chip. I mean, sure, my eyes have been known to glaze over when looking at a $700 pair of shoes, but what you didn’t see was the girl-power chant I was incanting in my head and the deep slumber I fell into for weeks afterwards from having exhausted my limited powers.

Pregnancy, for a time, buoyed me into an orbit that I had previously only gazed at longingly as though through a department store window. I could finally communicate with women! I cried for no reason! I even started up-talking. 

Five months post-partum, I still have a few new “mom” hormones, but I’m mostly back to being my old self, with all my old problems and also a new one–

Being a stay-at-home mom can even be isolating for me. So, I subscribed to the local mom’s listserv that is quite active and another stay-at-home mom sent around an invitation to meet up. Our daughters are two months apart and she seemed friendly and open. We played text tag for a week or two trying to sync up.

During that time, I Facebooked her.

The first thing I noticed were her Crazy Eyes™–but crazy in itself is hardly a deal breaker for me (glass houses, etc.). Then I noticed that she disabled adding her as a friend–red flag. But again, not a deal breaker. There are plausible explanations (I imagine). Then I scrolled down further.

“Baby,” I whispered hoarsely to my husband. “Her husband is wearing a cape.” I closed my laptop and sulked at him, wearily. “I can’t do this.”

“Baby, you’re setting your bar too high.” He countered.

“No I’m not! I can’t do it. How can I do it?”

“So what…you’re just not going to do it?”

(long beat)

“Fine. I’ll do it. I’ll do it.”

So we met up for a walk one afternoon, and talked for forty-five minutes or an hour. She watches Girls and I didn’t get her Girls reference. (I actually hate Girls.) But so what? We both voted for Bernie this primary but for Hillary in ’08. She said she would cut off her little finger to make Hillary president. I agreed pending the conditions I was heavily anesthetized and it would be reattached immediately, and she allowed me those conditions. There were some things really stressing me out that day and I likely over-shared for a first encounter, but I don’t really worry about that kind of thing because it tends to sort itself out.

It seemed like she got a bit weird towards the end, though. I was just a few blocks from my house when she announced she had to get home because it was about to rain. I offered to walk a few blocks in the other direction with her to the edge of my neighborhood, and once we got there, I was waiting to cross the street to go home and she suddenly announced she had to go grocery shopping in a totally different direction from her house–weird, but again, no biggy. Maybe she had just remembered something she had to get.

I got home, put my daughter down for her nap and texted her that it was great meeting her and I’d love to go for another walk next week or so. She texted back, “Yes, let’s definitely go for a walk soon!” Wait, wait, record scratch–I once blogged during my dating days about how “definitely” means “never” (which I stand by).

I never saw her again. In the old days, when I was used to losing the few friends I had when we moved to place to place as a kid, or as I then moved place to place as an adult, I would have been devastated. My world was either kept small for me or I kept it small, and I struggled to make the people right in front of me work out. Perhaps since I felt disconnected from everyone, anyone would do. Or perhaps the fear of rejection and the exhaustion of new social encounters simply kept me with people I didn’t connect with to the point I began to believe that I couldn’t connect with anyone.

Then, the next week, I met a woman I genuinely liked. And I realized I did things differently. I made sure not to overshare this time. Not because of any lesson learned from the previous encounter, but because I actually wanted to be friends with her so I was thinking about it.

Which made me realize–maybe the other woman was being really weird at the end. But maybe I had also over-shared on purpose. And maybe, when you’re a stay-at-home writer who mostly talks to her husband, going for a walk and letting off some steam with someone you’ll never see again is perfectly okay.