Saturday, November 03, 2007

Available for Viewing: One Semi-Hippy

Remember that ritzy suburb that I took the boys to so they could run in the sprinklers on that really hot day in August? That day that Luke wore a crazy outfit and the little boy thought he was weird? Maybe the blog post isn't seared into your memory, but the day is seared into mine. It was a day that I was looking for friendship and connection, but I just wound up hot, defensive, and feeling like a loony lady who drives a half converted biodiesel car, nurses a toddler, and lets my five year old dress up in colorful outfits that get him mocked. Oh, and I don't think I mentioned how that day ended: we stopped by to pick up the farm share veggies of an online friend, but my heat-addled brain couldn't remember her name, and the farmer grudgingly gave me a few vegetables, thinking I was trying to scam him. I certainly looked the part. I even had heat rash all over my face.

Okay, so I have joined a book group in that same ritzy suburb. Crazy, right? I have a couple of old friends from graduate school that live here, and one of them lives in said suburb. She has two kids now, both boys, one of whom is named Henry. We got together a few weeks ago, and while it was so fun to reconnect with her, our kids didn't really hit it off. But when she invited me to join her book group, I jumped at the chance. The other grad school friend is a member, as well as several other mommy friends of the ritzy suburb grad school friend. This way, I can see the friend without having to worry about our kids' chemistry. And I might make some new friends, no?

So the first meeting was a few nights ago. We were to discuss Huck Finn. But since most people hadn't finished it, we mostly just ate a lot of snacks and talked. This was great, as far as I was concerned. While my mind does crave stimulation beyond what it receives during Sesame Street, I'm just as open to friendship and adult conversation. Most of our conversation revolved around our kids. All of us had at least one, except for the one grad school friend who was due with her first in just a few days.

I could tell right away that I was, perhaps, different from most of the moms here. First of all, since the one was about to give birth (and another was about to have her second) there were birth stories all around. All of these involved an epidural and an obstetrician. I didn't offer up my own stories, which don't involve either. But I had to chime in when someone mentioned "those crazy co-sleeping families." If I was going to regularly socialize with these women, we would need to get a few things straight.

"Well, my family is a co-sleeping family," I said.

"So do you all sleep together?" and "How did you start this?" and "When will you stop?" and "I was only joking!" rained down upon me.

I ended up telling the whole double sized bunk bed story, which is perhaps even stranger than the story of the average co-sleeping family--but funnier, too, and a bit more reliant on serendipity than The Big Hippy Manual of Hippy Parenting.

But that is what I automatically became, I think, for most of these women. I was the hippy mom on display. They weren't at all mean, but they had a lot of questions.

"So wait," said one, with new perspective on our chitchat that evening. "Did you have your kids, like, naturally? I mean," she said to clarify, since this term natural had been used in reference to vaginal birth all evening, "Without any drugs?"

I nodded yes, then offered that Henry had been born at home.

Later, it was revealed that I still nurse Henry at two and a half years old.

I left feeling strange. Like I would be the subject of many conversations between many of them for the next few weeks. Like I had been on display, an exotic creature for them to examine. But I also felt pretty good. I hung out with the "conventional" moms in the "conventional" suburb in central Ohio and it was okay. It was actually pretty fun. And there was some really good cake and wine.

Next month we are reading The Jane Austen Book Club.


Nancy said...

I get that zoo display feeling a lot. Biking to work is the latest reason, but anything will do, really. I don't even talk about nursing the kindergarden child. Sometimes it is fun getting to be the poster child for nutballs.

But I think you're right to put it all out there. If they're going to be real friends, you can't spend your time sneaking around the facts of your life.

I hope Jane Austen Book Club is fun!

Nancy said...

Oh, and I forgot to add - my favorite answer to "When will you stop?" is usually something smarty-pants. Like "Oh, we usually stop when Henry wakes me up at 6 am."

Jenny said...

I love this post, you brave, quietly confident, woman. I love your openness too--why not enjoy the food even when you're on display? As you know, I am so all about the food . . .

Beck said...

This was a beautiful post - it's so HARD to feel like the odd mom out, to feel like the only (whatever) in your group. You sound EXACTLY like someone I would want to be friends with, really.

Linda said...

Well, so, they'll learn from you. Some people just babble when they're nervous, too. Enjoy your group. It's important for moms to stay connected with other female adults. They don't have to be your best friends in order to be interesting and stimulating, right?

Anonymous said...

How are you liking the Jane Austen Book Club? I recently read fact, you were the one that gave it to me. Do you want me to send it back to you? Also, I'll bet you will make some good friends there. Some of my best friends are really different from me---I think that is what I like about them.
PS You are the most awesome semi-hippy I may really enlighten some of these ladies. How can they NOT like you?????? :) Mom

Julia said...

Hi Ser. I was behind reading your blog because I've been traveling so much, but it's great to catch up. I'm not sure when I'm going to wean Esme, but sometimes I think about seeing you nursing your toddler and think: Ser does it, and she's smart, and cool, so.... The social stigma of nursing a toddler is a strange thing that I don't quite understand but still feel pressured by. For now, I'm giving myself permission to avoid thinking about the issue altogether until a later date.

Bethany Torode said...

Ser, they probably all feel like the odd one out for whatever reason, too. ("Everyone else has more than one kid and I'm just about to have my first;" "My kids are not as squirrely as everyone else's'" etc etc.)

Oh man, I was loving your description of Jenny. She has taught me much! It's that Scandinavian love of clarity.