Suburban Turmoil: In the Company of Women

Jul 22, 2008 at 7:27 pm

I’m not what you’d call a girl’s girl. Plunk me down in a group of women and it’s not long before the squeals, shrill gabbing and veiled bitchery leave me jonesing for my migraine medication and a nice, dark room. 

As a single girl, this was OK — glorified, even. I was the hapless chick romantic comedies are made of, the one who’d rather hang out with the guys at the pub than share Cosmos with a bunch of Sex and the City look-alikes at some sleek bistro. There’s a reason, though, that all those movies end with the low-maintenance heroine’s capitulation and marriage to the man of her dreams. The fact is, once a woman weds, her guy friends (the hetero ones, anyway) sort of fall by the wayside. And when that heroine becomes a mother, her aversion to other women is a downright handicap. I learned the hard way that if I wanted my kids to have playmates, I’d have to lose the ’tude, put on a sundress and sandals, and mix it up with the mommy set.

That’s exactly what I’ve done over the last four years, with varying results. I’ve made some great girlfriends, but I’ve also inadvertently rubbed a lot of cashmere-blend sweater sets the wrong way. You can understand, then, why I was a bit nervous when I signed my daughter, Punky, up for summer art camp. For five straight days, I’d be locked in a room with a bunch of 4-year-old kids and their mamas. Even thinking about it gave me a stomachache, but I’d heard something about sacrifice when it came to being a parent and figured in my case, Mommy and Me art camp certainly qualified.

“Are you ready for camp?” I asked my daughter that Monday morning, hoping she’d say no and we’d instead spend the day making pigs in blankets and doing interpretive dances to the “Zorba the Greek” soundtrack, like we usually do. No such luck.

“Art camp? Yeah!” she replied. “But I want to wear the shoes Grandma Mackie gave me. Because they will be perfick!” 

“Um, OK,” I said. Those shoes were two sizes too big, but if they made my little punkin happy, then what the hell ever. Off we went to art camp, clown shoes and all. 

Once we arrived, Punky ran ahead of me, stumbling along in her shoes like a 90-year-old arthritic woman fleeing a house fire. Her awkward gait, in poetic contrast to her pigtails and eager grin, was enough to bring tears to the other mommies’ eyes as they turned to watch my poor child bravely ignore her physical limitations in the pursuit of Art. But while the tables filled up around us, Punky and I remained alone. As we busied ourselves painting paper bags, I’d look up every few minutes, trying to make eye contact with another mother. No deal. These dames were tough to crack.

The next day, I subtly changed my game, bribing Punky to wear sandals instead of her new “silly shoes,” as she now called them, and choosing a no-fail outfit — capris, topped by a loose-fitting sleeveless shirt. Putting my hair in a low ponytail, I assessed myself in the mirror. “I am mommy,” I muttered. “Hear me bore.

Punky and I still sat alone, but a couple of moms actually spoke to me that day. One asked me to hand her the glue, while another wondered if I knew where the restrooms were. Score! My good feelings evaporated, though, as I watched a mom make the rounds and invite everyone to her son’s 5th birthday party. Everyone but us. Driving home that afternoon, I glowered from behind the wheel. I was wearing capris! My God! What more did they want?!

Miserably, I slogged my way through the rest of the week, molding clay, gluing on pom-poms and coloring like a pre-programmed mombot. On Friday, class ended early so the kids could play outside. Reluctantly, I stood with the other mommies in a huddle while our kids tumbled about.

“Lloyd is turning 5 soon,” Party Mom said, smiling at me. “He’s having a little shindig and we’d love for you and Punky to come.” 

“R-really?” I breathed. “Wow! Thanks!” 

“Let me give you my e-mail address,” another mommy said, fumbling for a pen and paper in her purse. “We really should get Punky and Grayson together to play one day.”

“OK!” I beamed. “Sure thing!” 

As Punky and I walked to the car, I gazed proudly at the e-mail addresses in my hand. I was in. Just like that. I stashed the papers in a pocket of my bag and drove home, reveling in my victory. A few days later, I cleaned out the bag and threw the e-mails in the trash. Don’t give me that look. I told you I’m not a girl’s girl. And I’m damn sure not wearing capris again.