People will tell you that when you first have a baby, a lot of your non-parent friends will drop off the radar. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact your nipples hurt for a solid three months (all those midwives and breastfeeding experts lie to get you to hang in there), or because the mama bear killer instinct leaves you so hyper-focused on meeting the 24/7 needs of this crying lump of poo, burps and pee that a sleep-deprived bitchy Dr. Jekyl takes over. It all ends badly when you reach your breaking point and scream at your skinny, well-rested yet perpetually whiney friend: “Do you really think I give a f**k about your stupid-ass job and loser boyfriend? I was ten centimeters dialated–TEN CENTIMETERS!”
Okay, so when you think of it this way, it’s not that surprising.
What I never expected though is the kind of Junior High “will you be my friend” mentality that grips a lot of terrified new moms. Case in point: my trip to the drug store (yes for some reason the drug store has become a kind of Shakespearean playground for my blog).
I was innocently walking around the store with baby Noa sporting my latest insanely expensive purchase–a comfy but butt-ugly baby carrier that actually ADDS rolls of back fat. I passed a thrirty-something mom pushing her 4-month-old baby around in a top-of-the-line stroller. We exchanged obligatory smiles as I continue on my way to the junk food aisle (sure, it’s the carrier that’s causing my back to look flabby).
After picking up and subsequently putting down about four different boxes of cookies, I switch tactics and head for the healthier dairy section. Again our mommy worlds collide. She smiles shyly at baby Noa. “He’s so cute,” she says in a tone that suggests she’s only saying this so I’ll comment on her stroller candy.
“So is she,” I respond taking her cue. There’s an awkward yet familiar pause…Ah yes, it’s like that uneasy feeling I used to get at nightclubs when some guy I had no interest in would buy me a drink. I’d politely stand there and answer his chit-chatty questions as I tried to down the beer as quickly as possible before making like Cinderella at the ball and fleeing. Unfortunately now, there’s not even a drink in my hand (though it is possible that the Musac version of “Groove is in the Heart” is playing over the loudspeaker) and there is most certainly no dry ice to fog up that look of desperation. Instead it’s there for me to see in the fullness of the flourescent lighting.
“So, do you know anything about the Early Years Centre around here?” she says nervously.
God, can’t she come up with a more original line than that? I mean really, she might as well ask me if I’m from “around here.” Fortunately, though, the question also provides me with the out I’m looking for. “Sorry, I don’t, I’m afraid I live in the southern district and the centre for this area is different.”
The hope that had lit her eyes quickly burns out. Like a slot machine searching for the right combination of cherries and dollar signs to claim even the smallest of wins, I can see her mind sorting through the different ways she might be able to connect with me. But I’m not into the instant gratification of slot machines. Instead, I prefer the gradual comraderie that develops over a couple of hours sitting at a blackjack table.
And while she seems nice enough, truth is, I barely have time to brush my teeth in the morning, let alone befriend this new mom–this complete stranger–in the drug store. Her internal wheels are still spinning when I decide to cut and run.
“Well, I’d better go–it looks like rain,” I say cheerfully. “Nice to meet you.” God, please don’t ask for my number. Is it inappropriate to give another mom a fake number? I had no problem doing it in my clubbing days.
“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later–” she says nervously. “Uh…I mean maybe I’ll see you around.”
“I’m sure you will,” I reassure her. I want to tell her it’s me, not her and that there are plenty of perfectly nice, somewhat lonely new moms out there who would cherish her friendship. My dancecard, though, is already jammed packed–with my Tuesday mamma’s group, work and marriage–and I’m just not looking for a new relationship.
Besides, I can be a pretty crap friend at the best of times: I’m almost always a day or two off when remembering birthdays, am perpetually late meeting my buddies for movies or dinner and still have all my completed, unsent Christmas cards from last year sitting in the top drawer of my desk (I’m thinking I might be able to wait it out and send them this year).
All of this is meaningless, however, because I’m sure in her mind, I’ve left her standing alone at the bar with the tab.