Thursday, January 3, 2008


I love kittens and flowers, the feel of sunlight flat against my back, mozzarella cheese. But I don’t really like people. Of course I love love love the people I love: my family and friends and Matt Dillon circa 1980 and Little Darlings. But otherwise you’re guilty until proven innocent. I do not especially like this about myself but not enough to really work on changing it.
The other day Bryan and I took Zoey downtown to this little plaza area where parents drink coffee and children run screaming like banshees. It’s a bit like a singles bar except that nobody is looking for sex; they’re all parents and thus too tired. Instead mothers exchange small talk over the heads of their kids who are busy poking their fingers into each others’ mouths and noses, the toddler equivalent of dogs sniffing each others’ butts, perhaps to assert dominance. Zoey had met a towheaded boy named Hunter and together they played in the mud with a toy schoolbus he had, so there I was stuck with his equally blond mother. She was petite and perky. Too happy. Too pretty. She wanted to know if I was part of the Marin Mothers’ Group (answer: no) because if not I should join ASAP, they have a great playgroup that meets most every day, a book club, a monthly swingers party. Okay, she didn’t really say that last part but the thought of it made me laugh, she was too perfect. I stuffed my left hand in my pocket to hide the fact that I don’t wear a wedding ring, no engagement ring even. Bryan didn’t give me one on the random Wednesday morning he proposed back in 2005 and we didn’t exchange wedding rings 2 days later on the equally random Friday when we got married at City Hall. Usually I feel kind of hip about this, alternative and cool, but the dazzle of her pea-sized diamond made me stuff my hand in my pocket like a pauper. I thought she was a fluffy silly housewife, one who could meet at playgroup every day. I smiled. I kept it friendly. I kept my hand in my pocket. This Mother was Other.
I don’t think my reaction was just me, the fact that I don’t really like people until proven otherwise. We mothers seem to judge each other liberally. The way we dress, what we feed our children, their nap schedules, our marriages, whether or not we work outside of the home. I know I do it and I know you do, too. Believe me, I’ve judged you for it. When did we switch from the refrain “I don’t know how she does it” to the scorn, “Can you believe how she does it?” Why are we so judgmental of each other?
There we were, two mothers of toddlers born within weeks of each other, strangers forced to converse with coffee cups in hand. Zoey was still playing in the mud but Hunter had moved down to the plaza with his metal yellow school bus, vroom vroom near a woman and her dog. So how do you join? I was asking with fake sincerity when suddenly the dog lunged at Hunter, not even growling but snarling and snapping, it happened so fast. A ball of noise and screams and fur and the perky blond mother snatched up her child, squeezed him to her chest and then out again to check for blood, for bites. I don't know how, but there were none. Hunter was fine. Scared and crying and red, but fine. The owner of the dog ran over, apologizing and sheepish. I'm sorry, she said, but he really doesn't like children. Still holding her crying child, the perky blond mother softly said it's okay. He's okay. But you're lucky. If anything had happened to my son I would have sued your ass and killed your dog. Not even growling but snarling and snapping, it happened so fast. And she snatched up her child and left. And I wanted to run after that other mother, I was so proud of her. So in awe of how wrong I was about her. She was a strong woman, a great mother, a kick ass Mofo, the kind I only wish I could be. The owner of the dog grabbed his collar and slunk away quietly while the rest of us glowered at her. A pack of mothers.
As soon as I got home I went online and signed up for the Mother's Group. I am still waiting to hear if I have been accepted.

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