Wanna Be Friends? Check Yes/No

When was the last time you had to make friends? I mean, really, truly, make the effort to appear fun/attractive/interesting enough to some group of strangers in the hopes that maybe one of them would someday enjoy playing Apples To Apples in the basement of your house while drinking copious amounts of red wine.

It’s such a stress as an adult! When you’re little, there isn’t so much to think about and friends are made and lost in the span of a dodgeball game. Did Melissa share your love of My Little Pony? BFF’s forever. Did Brandi invite you to choreograph a dance to Madonna’s Like A Prayer on the playground at recess? Bosom buddy. Did Janet hog the best tiara in your dress-up bin and make fun of Peaches and Cream Barbie a little too much? Cut the B out of your life.

I’m not saying it’s not dramatic, the epic shifts and changes of those you choose to play with throughout your childhood and beyond. There are many tears (or in a boy’s world, punches in the face) to be dealt with when naive, guileless kids are petty or cruel or unfair. As a parent I’m already dreading the day when my little dude asks me why so-and-so-ginger-headed-neighbor-boy doesn’t want to play with him anymore. What can I say?
“Oh honey, he’s a total d-bag, just don’t worry about it.”
“Sweetie, don’t worry about that pimply, brace-face. His teenage years are gonna be hell.”
“I don’t know baby, maybe because you can’t kick a soccer ball worth shit and he wants to find someone who can actually play.”
(of course, we hope it’s not the third one)
I will have zero control over who’s gonna want to hang out with my kid through thick and thin. All I can do is try and raise him to be as easy-going, intelligent, fun-loving and lighthearted as possible…and pray that he’s not super annoying.

But here’s the thing, I’m a grown adult, not a boppy sixth grader ready to take on a whole batch of new middle-school recruits. How exactly am I supposed to meet people to make friends??

My husband, son and I just moved from Texas back to my midwestern home. It’s an interesting transition as we are currently squatting at my parents house while waiting to close on our future home. I’m even sleeping in my old, adolescent bedroom. It’s like a weird flashback where I’m actually allowed to have a boy in my room (in my bed!!)  and not have the “lights on, doors open” rule enforced by my dad. Except in this scenario, there is also a toddler upstairs who wakes up promptly at 7am every morning screaming Eat! Eat! Eat!

We moved back to be closer to family. To buy our first home. To hopefully lay down some permanent roots and build a community of our own to run around with, raise our kids with, amass embarrassing drunken stories with. But first, we have to find those people.

The first thought that comes to mind is attempting to reconnect with old friends who still live in the area. We might still have something in common, right? I’ve stalked enough on Facebook to see that some of them have young children and/or still seem to enjoy watching losing sports teams and drinking Miller Light. But then, even if we get past that awkward hurdle of “Oh, hey, you. Uh, wanna maybe hang out sometime and see if you still think I’m normal (and vice versa)?” there is this huge fear that we’ll get in a room together and have nothing to share with one another besides old stories about that time we drove around stealing lawn ornaments.

I started a new job this week, and can’t help thinking every day I pass through the halls that somewhere inside this building is a new bff just waiting to welcome this not a nerd…but almost girl into his/her life. It’s not a crazy thought, I’ve been lucky enough to have it happen before. Now I just have to seek them out…

Let’s see, where to begin? Ah yes. I had sent out some introductory emails to associates with whom I will be working with down the road. While reading through their responses, I came upon one that seemed exceptionally friendly. Dare I say, fun? I held my breath as I went to check her out on the company org chart, which halleluja!, includes photos.

Jackpot! She’s relatively young. I don’t detect any crazy eyes and her smile is authentic, yet quirked enough to convey that she knows standing in a mustard-colored hallway, haloed in florescent lighting, isn’t going to be her best look. This could be her. She could be fun, enjoy writing or running, think Halloween is the best day of the year, too. Who knows?

I haven’t sacked-up yet and gone to visit. My hair kind of looks like ass today and I dread the fact that I’ll get lost on the way to her office. Not sure what I’m so afraid of. I’ll either find myself laughing heartily while bouncing ungracefully on an oversize athletic ball in her cube, rejoicing that this is just the beginning of a lifelong friendship, or I won’t. Maybe I’ll go tomorrow…

Is 18 months too young to enroll my kid in some sort of competitive sport? I keep imagining how perfect it will be to meet other cool, like-minded adults when we’re all huddled around the sidelines of a soccer field on Saturday morning. Each lamenting over the early hour while hugging our coffee, and then covertly making fun of that one kid who keeps picking boogers instead of chasing the ball. Haha, gross. Wanna grab lunch somewhere they serve margarita’s before noon?

My husbands parents have a very tight-knit group of friends that they’ve maintained since high-school sports days. All those seasons of football, basketball and baseball where the same 5 couples took over their reserved portion of the bleacher seats and prepared to cheer their kids to victory. Then they knew exactly whose turn it was to bring stadium snacks, and now they take turns boating together while thoroughly enjoying retirement in sunny Florida. I’m not one to fast-track time, but that sounds pretty amazing.

I guess, in the meantime, we’ll just have to be fearless in our search to find future boating buddies. We’re good enough. We’re smart enough. And gosh darnit, people will like us! So, if sometime in the near future I show up in your office all smiles and supposed-to-be-funny quips, hoping to appear casual yet clever yet entertaining…throw me a bone, eh? I promise I’m not a serial killer.


An Ode To The Gym: You Are Gross

I once fell off the treadmill while running at the gym. Yep. That girl was me. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about that appalling possibility any and every time you’ve stepped near one of those evil devices! It still runs through my head every time I bite the bullet and hop back on. Just one of the many things that makes my gym experience oh-so-special.

I’m no die-hard when it comes to working out. I’ve never been an athlete—general hand-eye coordination somewhat escapes me—but I love being outside, and realized that learning to run a few miles in the great outdoors was a hellavuh lot easier than learning to swing a golf club. So over the years I’ve tried my hand at a variety of exercise methods: kick boxing, spin class, hot-as-balls Bikram Yoga. But none beats the endorphin release I get from a good ol’ 5 mile jog on a sunny day…preferably around a lake, surrounded by trees, at the height of fall. And when that isn’t available?

Da Da Dummmm (menacing music sounds), THE GYM.

Describing the gym, any gym on the planet, is like that SNL skit where “Stefan” talks all about the new clubs opening in New York. The name is always something like “Two-Tone Swirl Factory” and it has glitter bombs and naked acrobats and midgets carrying boom boxes. That’s pretty close to most of the fitness factories I’ve attended. So many random things can be seen and wondered about when visiting the gym. Here’s just a few of my own observations…

It was only a few years ago that I stopped wearing old boxer shorts to the gym. This was spurred on by a combination of things.
1. My older sister’s guilt-inducing distaste of my workout apparel.
2. Moving to TX and its unendurable 110 degree heat, which required better, moisture wicking (my mom says “wikkan”, like witch voodoo, technology) athletic wear.
I always figured, who  cares?  I’m gonna get gross, sweaty and breathlessly unattractive over the next 45 minutes-1 hour, why should I care what kind of outfit I have on? And this is coming from someone who really loves fashion! A slave to pretty clothes and the experimental art of crafting the perfect look. But, for one reason or another, workout gear has always been off the radar. Hook me up with some greyed-out leggings, an oversized t-shirt from my dad’s old bowling league and I’m ready to run.

TV shows always seem to depict gyms as a place to meet potential mates. Somehow urging the innocent viewer to believe that, in addition to their goal of burning 500 calories on some sort of mechanical torture machine, they should make sure to look hot while while working up a sweat. But, you guys?!! It’s hard enough convincing one’s self that hitting the gym during their lunch break will be SO much more satisfying than a visit to Wing Stop. Add in the pressure of potential flirting across the gleaming collection of dumbbells and things start hitting terror level orange. I don’t want to spend any additional time making sure my ponytail looks properly mussed-yet-perky, and I certainly don’t need the stress of worrying if my socks don’t match. (Those suckers are all small, and white and the biggest pain in my ass when folding laundry. You’re getting matched up with the closest cotton ball I can find, you hear?!). So if…let’s just say when, you see me stretching in a pair of american flag boxer shorts that I got as a camp counselor back in 2000, please understand—it’s not that I don’t appreciate those pretty, ass-raising lululemon shorts, or that lovely, built-in sports bra tank top that perfectly hides your underboob sweat. I’m just too lazy.

On the flip side, I recently encountered an unexpected outfit choice while attending the gym at my local Jewish Community Center. This guy, who I first spotted on the elliptical machine, was wearing a white collared shirt, dress pants…and suspenders! At first I thought, perhaps he’s just squeezing in a leisurely 10 minutes before changing for his racquetball game. But no! He went from the elliptical to the stairmaster to the weights before fitting in a good stretch. This was a full-fledged workout, done in pretty upper class attire. Hat’s off to you sir. I admire your ability to keep that ol’ ticker in A+ shape while dressed to impress.

The last thing I want when working out is to attract any sort of attention. I want to blend seamlessly into the scene, so that my huffing, dripping personage is no more noticeable than the next heaving, galloping human. I’m not saying you can’t look around while you’re there…I love judging, I mean, observing the locals while maintaining an elevated heart rate, but it must be done covertly.

For awhile, I was working out at my office gym over lunch. This makes the don’t-look-don’t-talk-don’t-ask policy a little harder as co-workers are awkwardly hovering everywhere. But there was this one girl, let’s call her Tiffany, who apparently had no qualms about brash treadmill behavior that drew the attention of anyone within a 20 ft. radius. She would literally crank up the speed on her Precor 5000 and do ACROBATICS for a good 30 minutes! I’m talking full-fledged splits, hops, skips, jumps and leaps as she spun side to side in some sort of frenzied, Richard Simmons rockin’ to the oldies routine. Pity to the poor soul who ended up on the machine beside her. You could actually feel the floor vibrating, and no matter how much you just tried to ignore it and focus on running until the end of your Justin Beiber song, her flailing body in your peripheral was seizure inducing. 

Another key element to fading into the background? Don’t fall off the treadmill. That’s right, don’t get on a machine in the first row, where the entire gym can see you. Don’t crank the speed up to 8.0 in an attempt to run off the chili cheese burrito you just scarfed. And whatever you do, don’t get so caught up in a sports play on tv that you forget to run straight and end up hitting the plastic side rail with one of your feet, forcing your other leg to crumple uncomfortably before you hit the deck. And please, please, don’t try to quickly get back up. That thing is still moving, and no matter how much you paw at the rolling track, you’ll just end up looking like a cat thrown in a bathtub, squealing and trying to get out. Rest your limbs and allow yourself to slump to the floor in the pathetic heap of sweat embarrassment that you now are.

Look Away, Just Look Away:
In case you didn’t know, there is a lot of nakedness in locker rooms. It’s pretty unavoidable, and most of the time, unnoticeable if you’re just focused on getting in and out of there as quickly as possible. But unfortunately, there are always a collection of loitering exhibitionists that want to make everyone uncomfortable. I have found that these women fall into two categories.
1. Chicks with breast implants. Always looking to share with the world their new lift, size, shape and relative lack of self-esteem.
2. Old women who take an inordinately long time locating, and then putting on their granny panties.

But really, the worst of what I have seen in the locker room has happened on accident, and can truly scar a girl for life. And thus, I feel the need to share these things with you so that we can indulge in a group round of cringing and I won’t feel so alone.

I’ve caught women blow-drying their nether regions
I’ve heard the most horrific labor and delivery stories on the planet
I’ve accidentally dropped my panties in front of my boss
I’ve realized that the girl who sits next to me in my cube doesn’t wear panties with her skirts
I’ve noticed that a large number of sweaty women don’t shower before heading back to work
I’ve seen the most gnarled, bare, ogre feet enter in and out of bathroom stalls uncovered
I’ve had sweaty, smelly towels hit the side of my neck on their way to the hamper
I’ve discovered stray piles of dandruff sitting idly by the hair tools
I’ve heard my spin teacher putting a pad in her underwear a foot away from me

These things shouldn’t happen in real life. But I guess the gym is like an alternate universe, where a variety of death defying, guilt inducing, brain bleaching moments are sprung at you with only a second’s notice. You have to be prepared, because you never know what might be coming at ya on your next visit.

I suppose it could be considered a little entertainment to keep you going during that 45 minute workout. The reality is that I’m saving up to buy a treadmill that I can put in my basement…so that I can huff, puff, undress and dismount (however ungracefully) in private.