The past week has been rough for one reason and one reason only:
To be fair, I should have known better than to sign up all three of the Things for soccer at once. But what was I supposed to tell them? That only one kid got to do soccer each season? That seems like the American Single Mother version of the "only one of you gets to eat today," and so, no, I couldn't do that. And it seemed to me at the time that I would be able to set up a carpool or find some other parent, some other mom, to pick up the various Things and take them to practice. We live in a particularly liberal city, in a particularly community-minded and oriented neighborhood, and we espouse things like helping others and whatnot.
So when only one mother, out of 20, responded to my fun and quirky and humorous email looking for someone to take Thing Three to soccer twice a week, I was a little crestfallen. But I thought everyone else was just busy, I mean, I'm busy for god's sakes, so I thought it would work itself out.
Friend Two ended up taking Thing Three to soccer that week, and when I went to pick the youngest thing up, I felt a little odd. Only two of the other mothers (out of 20! 20!) talked to me, and one of them was someone I used to work with. The second was the mother who had emailed me, and she seemed a little weird about it. She volunteered to pick up Thing Three for one practice a week, and I was grateful for that, and told her so, but then she kept repeating that she could only do it once a week, not twice. Which was fine, really, but I could not understand why she kept repeating it as though I was going to take advantage of her.
That was Wednesday.
Thursday included me becoming the Soccer Mom Vicarate as I fandangled my way out of work 90 minutes early, picked up Thing Two, drove to some impossibly remote wooded nature park, only to discover upon arrival that I could not locate the soccer field. Since Thing One's practice started shortly, and because I was the Vicarate of Soccer Motherhood in question, I had to drive back into town, pick up Thing One and four of her friends, load them into my little station wagon along with Thing Two (and breaking numerous moving vehicle codes*), and take them to soccer practice. After which, I ran home, changed into jeans and a t-shirt, gave Thing Two a snack, and then headed back to the soccer field.
You know something? I'm only part way through this entry and I'm damned tired of typing "soccer." I could type that stupid word in my sleep.
But nothing compared, not really, to Thing Two's soccer scrimmage on Friday. The coach's wife offered to pick up the boy from after school care, which was a relief to me. The scrimmage started at 5:00, and because I am a minion of The Government Employ, it can be near impossible to scoot out early**. So I showed up, Things One and Three in tow, around 5:20. And then the other moms did that thing, the worst form of punishment any one of us could inflict on another:
They ignored me.
And when I say ignored, it's not like I'm saying they were bad at small talk or something. I mean they didn't make eye contact. I mean they didn't look at me, didn't even acknowledge my presence. It was hot, so I had changed from my work clothes into crop jeans and a t-shirt and cute sandals. I didn't look like them, but it wasn't that I looked that dissimilar to them. And even still, it was though I didn't exist.
It hurt more than I care to admit. And as they were talking, I could hear myself constructing the story later for friends, how I'd make fun of them, their L.L. Bean tan shorts and crepuscular-colored polos and Teva sandals. And how I'd tell them about those mothers, and how, when they relayed to each other something about a lingerie party in someone's home, which seemed to scandalize them, they kept saying "panty party" and "naked lady party" in a stage whisper.
And I hated how much I wanted certain things they have. One talked about a house that was on sale in her neighborhood. "Not bad for the size," she said of the price. "I think it's 650." As in $650,000. I don't even know how to relate to that. Not even a little. I'm scraping for gas money every week, managing my incredible cost-to-income ratio with credit when I have to, with charity when I can't even manage that.
Finally, maybe 25 minutes in, I cooed at a baby, said how cute he was. And things eased up a bit. Another mother, the one who picked up Thing Two, came over then, talked to me. We had decent small talk. And I noticed how all of these mothers, how they regard me, how they appraise me, because that's the precise word for it. Fatally Hip Single Mother says she thinks they're threatened by us: the single moms with advanced degrees, an endless array of funky shoes and glasses, and the way we collect hip turns of phrase like a macrophage collecting dead skin cells***.
Sometimes, when we're a little drunk, and she's so inclined, Fatally Hip Single Mother will add, "And they're just jealous because they know we're getting NEW SEX! As in sex without a stupid husband you've been married to longer than you've owned your Volvo!" And when we're drunk enough, "Volvo" sounds vaguely erotic. But that's another story. For a different blog. One ending in "xxx," methinks.
I don't want to hate these women, I don't. It feels like giving in to some stupid cultural body politic, some idea that we women should spend a good deal of our lives being snarky to one another. But I also don't have any idea how to reasonably bridge the gap. None. I'm just this young girl to them--I'm 33, but let us labor under the pretense that I look younger--shut it, Friend R--and I've got three kids and I'm single and I go around doing lame things like wearing my Teaching Fellow t-shirt, which I realized later I put on because I wanted them to know I was at least the educated version of a single mother, not the dumb-knocked-up-at-17-smokes-and-drinks-Diet-Dr.-Pepper-while-pregnant version. And so how can I even bridge the gap, relate to their lives, which I think of as small and petty partly because I can't fit in there?
*I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm super neurotic about things relating to moving vehicles ever since I worked in auto claims. The girls soccer practice is literally 1 1/2 miles from their after school program through sleepy little streets lined with trees and tulips. And all the other parents pile the kids in, put various children on the laps of other children, make them buckle the whole pile in. It nearly gives me hives thinking about it--really, you work one fatal car accident and suddenly you start thinking about how each object in each car could become one of those severe angels you see sometimes in ancient boiseries--but the Other Parents kept doing it without batting an eye. So, much to the chagrin of Nancy Reagan, I gave into the peer pressure, and loaded the kids up. Lord help us all.
**Government Employ is difficult to describe fully. I get great benefits and a fantastic retirement program, am a union member and get about 92 paid holidays a year. But getting off work 30 minutes early to catch the kid's soccer scrimmage? Not so easy.
***I hate you, Fort Awesome. Hate.