If you’re a mom who is OK with befriending moms of your kids’ friends, it is easy to expand your social circle. For me, though, once the novelty of talking about diapers and vomit wore off and I stopped making friends in the hallway of my kids’ preschool, I was left with two equally uncomfortable choices: life as a recluse or awkward introductions. My comfort zone has been on my sofa, perpetually pajama clad, satisfied to consider my dogs my actual best friends.
Despite my reclusiveness, I’ve also had my fair share of awkward attempts at friend-making. These usually happen on the rare occasions I’ve decided to venture out from the Mothership of Reclusion and Hermithood, as I call my house when the kids aren’t there. One such day, against many odds, I ended up meeting a friend, one I still have years later. The process was stressful, though. After all, finding friends as a home-based adult is no easy task.
For all you friend-starved moms out there, here is my story of inspiration and connection, the story about making friends with Angie:
There I was, at the dog park, in my slovenly chic cutoffs, pajama shirt I was passing off as a tunic, and short, wild hair that dared people to ask what gender pronoun I prefer. Ajax and Comet were frolicking, tongues flapping around in the wind, stopping occasionally to lift their legs and mark trees. At home they always peed like girls, so this was a rare display of canine masculinity.
I was in FitBit purgatory, doing loops around the 10-acre park, attempting to meet my step goal, when I saw a hippopotamus-eque dog ambling towards me. Ajax and Comet ran over and did some requisite ass-sniffing, and since I have no trouble meeting new dogs, I greeted this grey monstrosity in my friendliest dog voice. Then– damn, I lingered too long– the hippo-dog’s human, asked me what kind of dogs Ajax and Comet were. Standard dog-park banter that even on my most antisocial of days I can generally manage. They look like miniature Wolfhounds or some sort of wire-haired pointer, but with a really goofy, cartoon-like edge. I was tempted to give a clever response– Hawaiian Beach Dog or Sudanese Elephant Hound– but instead explained their mom was a poodle, their dad a Weimaraner.
I asked what her dog was– not a Hippo-Doodle, it turned out; she was a Bouvier, but without the pretentious haircut. Normally, dog-park interactions end there, but something about this woman said, “Maybe she could be my friend.” I kept the conversation going by launching into a monologue about Ajax, my first dog ever, whose attachment disorder caused him to freak out any time I left the room. He’d whine at the door to the bathroom, try to get into the shower with me, and freak out if I left the house for any period of time. The best cure for canine mental illness, I explained, is another dog. That’s how we ended up with Comet.
Somehow, despite the monologue, we exchanged names, a sure sign of interest in a friendship. Score! What started off as nerve-wracking small talk could turn into something real, I thought. This could be so much better than a friendship whose commonality was the PTA fundraiser or a pair of two-year olds (“Mine takes off his diaper and smears poop on the walls too!”).
I planned to Facebook-stalk her and then initiate some sort of online contact, like “Hey, remember me, we met at the dog park. I want to be your friend” or something equally suave, but by the time I got home and cleaned up the vomit from carsick Comet, I had forgotten her name. I thought about Missed Connections on Craigslist. I thought about going back to the dog park and just waiting. Then, I thought about how creepy and weird that would be.
As I grieved the loss of this potential friend and settled back into Phase I of my work-from-home routine (surfing flash deal sites), a message appeared on Twitter from Angie Ricketts. That was her name! But why the hell did she social-media stalk me? That was creepy as hell. Score! I’m pretty creepy too, I thought as I found her on Facebook and initiated a friends request before I even responded to her Twitter message.
Angie met me in my natural state– messy, slightly creepy, and more at ease with dogs than humans. It was a relief to meet Angie without having to endure banter like “My toddler is 99th percentile for height; why are your kids so short?” or slick attempts at unfriending me like, “You would get along with my neighbor Jennifer. She thinks sweatpants are OK to wear to the store too!”
Years later, we are still friends. And, that successful friending experience has opened me up to making other friends. An authentic friendship is worth whatever awkwardness it takes to get the relationship off the ground– or out of the dog park.