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.

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Not A Nerd…But Almost

Remember that character in Sixteen Candles with the back brace? The one played by Joan Cusack who had braces and wore a red sweatshirt with some 50’s doowop girl on the front? And when Joan bent over for a drink at the water fountain (all awkward and hunched because the metal hinges on her brace only allowed for robotic movement) she used the skirt on her sweatshirt to wipe her mouth?

That could have been me. That probably should have been me. Somehow I managed to escape epic nerddom by a just a hair.

A brief (or not so brief, depending on your attention span) blast to the past will outline a few of my more prominent dweebilicious traits. Weigh in as you will. Remind me of others I have forgotten, this should be fun.

The Eyepatch

It wasn’t a black pirate one, but almost as bad. I have what is called a “lazy eye”, and NOT I must clarify, the kind that runs rampant in its eye socket like a cat chasing red laser dots on the wall. This kind of lazy eye is truly of the slacker sort, and allows its counterpart to do all the work while it sits aside, smoking pot, looking pretty and batting its eyelashes at the passersby.

My patch was flesh colored, which now that I think about it, might have been worse than channeling good ol’ Captain Hook. It pretty much matched my skin color and was plastered over my left eye and worn in hideous combination with oversize 80’s wire-rimmed glasses. I bet from afar it looked like I didn’t even have a left eyeball, just some super creepy stretched skin cavity where a normal 9 year olds eyeball should have been. And I walked around like this, day and night (that’s right, I had to even sleep in this ocular bandaid), possibly oblivious to the horrified looks of small children. Or just blind to them because they were always on my left side.

I endured an entire summer of this superficial deformity. I can only imagine the kind of traumatic, self loathing inspired poetry this inspired at the time. (That’s right, 9 year old poetry. Also nerdy). And now my left eye is only slightly worse than my right with proper lense correction. My family was kind enough to avoid any photographs during this short phase of my life so that it’s memory lurks only in the disgruntled recesses of my brain. It’s so much easier to laugh about when the off-balance, one-eyed raccoon tan line fades.

Scoliosis

I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 5th grade. This was after several embarrassing moments in the gym locker room where some stocky, fuzzygendered nurse would ask me to lean over the dressing bench while he/she ran a prehistoric plastic tool down my spine. For everyone else it was a quick, painless swipe. But for me…there was always this dramatic arm movement when he/she swished around the curves of my rogue vertebrae. Then there would be sighing, and retrying, as if on the 3rd attempt each spindly, spinal piece would suddenly jump to attention and back in line.

What followed was quarterly trips to the Orthopedic Surgeon so that they could slap lead magnets over my ovaries and x-ray my thoracic curvature for changes. My spine was a lazy piece o’ poo. Slumping in not just one spot, but two! Making a sinking, slimy ‘S’ pattern on my back that, later in life, prompted my mother—irritated already by the 90’s trend of backless tops—to point out that I “didn’t really have a pretty back”. (Sorry mom, hate to throw you under the bus here, but that comment has been the source of much laughter between your two eldest daughters throughout the years).

I had nightmares that I’d end up like Joan Cusack. A clunky, rigid human being who creaked her way through life, carrying an oil can just like the Tinman in case of rain. It’s possible these were the only months of my existance that I paid any attention to posture. I sat straight up, poised and proper through every reading, writing and hebrew school studies class I had. The completely slumped, side-shifted, kicked-back-gangster position I’m adopting currently in my chair as I type will clue you in that I managed to scrape by without the brace. However, if you happen to catch a glimpse of my back you can easily see where it goes astray. Just glad I managed to dodge that iron bullet.

Swing Choir

Now, the first of my two pushes towards nerdvana were out of my hands. Just random lumps of coal in my genetic stocking. But this third piece? All of my own making. When I turned 13 and entered 7th grade, something inside of me called out for, The Jazz Square! Three Part Harmony! Acappella Christmas Carols! and Awkward Middle School Choreography!

I tried out and, oh joy, joined a group of gangly bumpkins ready to sway their way through a bunch of boring show tunes. And as if just being a part of this song squad wasn’t enough, I somehow managed to get stuck in the soprano section. Have you heard me sing karaoke? I can rock a mean Just Like Jesse James, but those high notes are A STRETCH. So how could I have possibly ended up singing One Tin Soldier at the top of my lungs, at the top of the music scale? It must have sounded like someone was chasing a potbelly pig the entire performance the way I was squealing out those notes.

Thankfully that year, my weekend choir performances at the local retirement home were offset by a constant stream of Bar and Bat Mitzva parties on Saturday nights. While this may sound like it belongs in the geek bucket, it was actually a place to eat, drink (soda), and dance the night away with boys. Albeit they were the adolescent, hairy sort, but better than nothing. And I found that I’d rather belt out every word to Baby Got Back than Circle Of Life, which led to dumping swing choir the following year. Though, there may, or may not, be a video on my facebook page that some crazy ex-swing choir mate tagged me in. We’re dancing with hightops on our hands. Enjoy.

I’d like to be clear that I in no way mean to offend the glorious land of nerddom. I could have flourished there just as happily as anywhere. I’m just intrigued by the slight forces that ushered me away from the world of dungeons and dragons, and into one of busch light in basements. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had kind of an affinity for the loveable geek? The answer to why many of my crushes over the years had a couple of dorktastic qualities themselves. I consider it an honor that I was able to straddle the fence between spouting Shakespearean sonnets on stage, and playing Beer By Albertsons with the cool, older kids.

And now, what’s nerdy is cool, and all the lines are blurred and preconceived notions should be left at the door. And I’ll work hard to make sure that, whatever my child enjoys doing as he grows up, that I strive to embarrass him as much as possible along the way. Maybe he’ll develop a love for the foghorn, or realize early on that studying cell particles is his thing, or take up yodeling. Or, you know that lone boy in the ballet recital who’s dressed as a crab while all the other girls are mermaids? That might be my kid.

I’ll never be sorry for the path I’ve traveled thus far. It’s all just a part of Choose Your Own Adventure, right? But dude, I’m pretty happy that I don’t have an eyepatch on right now.