I am a Friend Predator
Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, I’ve started to channel a lot of my social life into tiny interactions with strangers. Maybe to an unhealthy degree.
Yesterday, as I was pulling out of the driveway to go to Costco, I saw a woman around my age pushing a double stroller with an infant and a toddler. This was very exciting to me because we live in a neighborhood full of vintage homes, which means we live in a neighborhood full of vintage people. I don’t know of another young family on our block, and it is pretty rare to see someone under 40 out and about. And because we’re still new to the area, anyone pushing a stroller down my block is a candidate to be my future best friend.
I know I sound desperate, and maybe I am. I have many good friends scattered across the globe. From San Francisco, Boston, Sacramento, Seattle, and Norway, I have collected kindred spirits from every season of life so far. I even have a tiny handful of friends nearby, but they work full-time and don’t have kids. While I do what I can to maintain all of these friendships, what I really long for right now is a tribe.
A tribe of people in our town who help each other and support each other through parenthood and life. Although sometimes I wonder if my tribe just isn’t here, I haven’t given up. So when I see a young mom out with her kiddos, I say hi.
Even if that means pulling over my car and rolling down the window like a bonafide creeper.
This is how our dialogue went:
Me, rolling down window: Hey there! Who are your little ones?
Her: Uh. This one is mine, and that one I’m just babysitting for.
Me: Oh cool! They are so cute.
Me: I have a little one too.
And that was the end of it.
Now, if I had blogged about this encounter right after it happened, it would have read like this:
You won’t believe this, guys. I was totally nice and friendly to this mom my age and she shunned me. What a rotten person. I wonder if she judged me because my windshield is cracked. Ugh, I have to get that fixed. What is wrong me with? Am I socially inept? Should I just never leave the house? Is it my gigantic nose? WHY DID SHE REJECT ME? You know what, come to think of it, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was kind and neighborly, and SHE is the one with the problem. Not me, HER. What kind of rude person would shun a hilarious and gorgeous person like me? I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that anyways, SO THERE.
Yep, I would have unleashed about 900 words of that kind of subtle, wry insight into the world.
The Internet can thank me for taking a day to think.
A few hours later, I started to think about the fact that maybe Rude Mom was having a really tough day. Or maybe she is really shy, or maybe she is the socially awkward one. Or maybe in this day and age, it is really weird and frightening for someone to pull over and roll down their window to chat with you. I started to give her a little grace.
By this morning, I realized I had missed the point entirely.
I go into interactions with strangers hoping to get something in return. Most recently, I start conversations with young moms in hopes of hitting it off because I am lonely for female friends. I am basically the girl equivalent to these guys:
My friendliness comes from a pretty selfish place. Otherwise, why would I have spiraled into a crazy person when some stranger doesn’t reciprocate my kindness? If you have a less-than-pleasant interaction with someone you’ll never see again, who cares. But if you have a less-than-pleasant interaction with your potential new best friend, it’s a big blow.
I will never stop being friendly to strangers, and that includes young moms and old ladies and homeless guys in the park. But I’m going to recheck my motives. Friendships will happen if they are supposed to, and saying “hi” to someone isn’t a litmus test for being besties. It is just a “hi.”
I am going to try and stop being a Friend Predator.
As I am writing this post, a hipster-ish looking young couple walked past my house, clutching paper coffee cups and a jogging stroller. Like the bad guy in a horror movie, I followed them with my eyes for a long time as they walked down the block. They seemed like nice people.
But I didn’t dash out in my yoga pants and bubble gum pink Minnie Mouse sweatshirt to say, “HI, DO YOU LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, YOUR KID IS CUTE, I HAVE A KID TOO, WE SHOULD BE BESTIES!”
If it is meant to be, I’ll see them again.