Having grown up with five brothers, I had a rocky road into figuring out how female relationships worked. The communication was the toughest part. I found growing up that men pretty much said what was on their minds, while women used all sorts of complicated double meanings, kooky eye contact that changed the meaning entirely, and switcheroos -- in which you thought you were going to discuss one thing, only to end up talking about another.
The ironic thing is that my chosen profession includes talking with people (often times women) who are in some kind of crisis or high stress situation. This has been the case for so many years that my husband refers to the show Intervention
as "your people." Somehow, it has all worked so far. But...
These two sides of my life recently collided at, of all places, baseball practice.
My son has played with roughly the same group of kids for three seasons -- which means, I have interacted with the same group of moms. The first year, I took myself out -- mostly because I would use the endless innings in which kids were learning to pitch (and sides batted around) to catch up on paperwork or watch my daredevil younger son on the adjoining playground. The central group of moms took this as a snub -- and in the coming years, a reason to not remember my name. The second season, I helped during warm-ups and some practices -- and was, frankly to my surprise -- the only woman who did this in the whole town. Freak Mark number two. Season three I gave it the ole college try and sat with the ladies -- only to be largely ignored and not included in their reindeer games.
So, when I arrived at one of the first practices this year -- 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday -- I decided to sit alone and skip the whole thing. Soon enough, a new mom came and sat next to me. She introduced herself and asked which one was my son. When I returned the pleasantry, she reported, "I've got two kids on the team -- only they've got two different fathers and my ex has his other kid on the team too. So I'm here watchin three half-brothers. They get along, but the one got ADHD, the other one -- we don't know what his story is. Just rude. But what do you expect? He was born 3 months early and weighed two and a half pounds."Oy, I'm not working
, I thought. "Jeez." I commented -- which apparently was more than enough encouragement to go on.
She explained that she had grown up in this town and knew everybody who had. She observed the other moms and declared that several where "no bargain." "Like my neighbor," she went on. "I've known her since kindergarten and she knows I went down a tough road, but I've been sober since the Superbowl, so fuck her. Yeah, I blacked-out and don't remember a damn thing about the Patriots -- so I said -- forget it, and got engaged to a sober guy. But anyway,"
(Author's note: this woman is talking to the side of my head. In my failed attempt to discourage her, I am not giving her any eye contact. Conveniently for her, she does not seem to need any.)
"The thing is, my neighbor still acts like I'm some kinda head-case -- when everybody knows that the guy she married is gay. Been gay since the third grade! So they're divorced now -- so ha-ha, I guess your shit does smell, Cheryl."
Being ignored by the mean moms was starting to look pretty dreamy. But it wasn't until the started describing the fight she was in that resulted in her losing her front 4 teeth -- and the oral surgery required to replace them that I excused myself to the bathroom and never came back to sit with her. I wondered if this made me a mean mom too? Or am I just acknowledging that it is a long way until baseball season is over and self-preservation is golden?
All I know is the empty patch of grass on the hill behind the dugout is mine -- and I'm bringing paperwork with me next time.