I never thought I would be cruising chicks as a 34-year-old heterosexual mom of two. But here I am, five months of living in a new community, and I am trying to make friends the only way I can: picking up women at the playground. I am trying to make friends in a new community, and the only thing that keeps me laughing and enjoying the process is noticing how similar it is to dating.
When I first pondered the idea of moving from our city home to new digs in a near suburb, I engaged friends and family in discussions about how to meet people. As we all know, it’s vastly different as an adult than it was even as a college student, where you saw the same people every day, lived mere feet from dozens of girls to befriend, and attended classes with others who may hold the same interests. And as we ventured out into the working world—some with close college friends in tow, some without—we found friends at work, sharing enough daily experiences that friendships could blossom in unlikely places.
So how does one go about making friends when you are not working outside the home, when your job is actually tending to the needs of two non-school age kids? Turns out, you pick up friends wherever you can.
The first cruise was at an indoor playground, set up at a local park district building. My two-year-old was running from one jumbo plastic climbing toy to another, while I sat on the sidelines with my infant girl, who was happily munching on my car keys. I saw Stacey come in with a boy about my son’s age and carrying an infant car seat. Then, I looked at her shoes. I have discovered since this incident that I thought you could derive a great deal of information about a person based on her shoes. Stacey’s shoes were dead ringers for mine (big, clunky, Danish, I call mine my Mickey Mouse shoes), only hers were burgundy instead of black. Hmmm, I thought, we could be a perfect match.
I don’t recall who started talking first (I swear I actually uttered the line “come here often?”), but I was putting on my son’s shoes to go home and Stacey and I started chatting. Her son was indeed my son’s age, within a month, and our infant daughters were also only a month apart. We exchanged numbers within minutes (so fast and easy I am) and said that we must try to get together for a play date.
My next pickup was only days later, at the most popular neighborhood park. Our sons were beginning to play (actually more like trying not to battle over sand castles) and Jennifer came towards me with an open smile and some general question about the kids. She had actually also just moved into town, only a few weeks prior, so we smiled over our similar predicaments. But I was ready to write her off; her dainty turquoise sneakers were way too feminine for me. I gave her my phone number anyway, I had nothing to lose.
It’s been roughly two months since I first met these women, and I am surprised to discover that the one who I judged harshly may turn out to be a good friend. Jennifer and I live closer together, have easy conversations, and can easily make or break plans without much consternation. (She’s the boy you meet in a bar, you assume it won’t lead to anything real since it’s based on one witty conversation, but then you move in together six months later because you’re having such a great time). Stacey, on the other hand, who I was certain would be my New Best Friend because her shoes called out to me, is a little tougher. We have had only three play dates in these two months, several rounds of phone tag, and plans that have not materialized, leaving me confused and doubting that we are going to get this friendship back on track. (She seems to be the guy who looks great on paper, has all the necessary matching qualities, but for some reason it’s just not clicking.)
Summer, who I met yesterday, is the one who moves too quickly. She and I were introduced at a local play lot by neighbor Linette, who I don’t know that well yet. Linette and Summer have their kids in the same preschool class, so they seem to know each other fairly well. I wasn’t really cruising these ladies as friends, since their kids are older and play dates may not be ideal. So imagine my surprise when two hours later, as I was halfway through putting the kids down for afternoon naps, I answered the doorbell to find Summer standing there with a dozen roses and a large cut-fruit platter. I gushed gratitude and she scurried away, off for naptime too. I told Jennifer that afternoon of Summer’s warm welcome (Jennifer needed to hear stories of nice neighbors, she had only been screamed at for leaving a beeping smoke alarm outside). She laughed and planted the paranoid thought that Summer might be a Stalker. No, no, that couldn’t be. Or could it?
Believe it or not that afternoon I ran into Summer on the way back from the park, as I was hightailing it to get my starving, teething infant home for food. We stopped for a quick greeting, and she insisted she have me over for dinner sometime soon, yelling over her shoulder that she would find my phone number somehow. Oh no, maybe she is a stalker.