Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Social Graces

If you're anything like me, you have read the book Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads, and your copy has names of fellow parents written, sometimes underlined and with angry exclamation points, in the margins next to the descriptions of the various categories of people you will endure in your efforts to secure your child an adequate supply of friends and party invitations in a "top-rated" elementary school in suburban America. 

You probably bought the book just after throwing your first grader a birthday party at some local bouncy-toy place and including among the invitations her entire girl scout troop, thinking, "This is a nice gesture that will be appreciated by children and moms alike." You will be surprised when only two girl scout parents RSVP by the date indicated, and when you send an email to one of the eight parents who have not yet acknowledged the gesture, you will be stunned to, within an hour, receive eight phone calls RSVP-ing, and yes, mostly declining the invitation. 

After two more years of angst, self-esteem struggles, and vain attempts at social acceptance, you too might have an epiphany, and move your child to another school, where she will thrive and you will realize you just don't give a rip about the other parents as long as your child is thriving - but oddly, the other parents at this school are always pleasant and seem to make efforts to include you, even though it can be work for them sometimes because you've taken to sitting at the side of the playground with a book rather than risk further public rejection.

And then, you'll have a second epiphany, and you'll unfriend those few mothers from the first school that friended you on facebook, for reasons you could never really fathom but tended to assume had something to do with wanting you to see pictures of parties you weren't invited to.

When you do this, you will forget, of course, that your child still has some close friends at the school, whose mothers you do consider friends, and that they will continue to invite you to events ... which you'll attend. It will not occur to you that while waiting to be seated for a school play, you will spend a half an hour on line behind your daughter's former Girl Scout troop leader, who will manage to avoid eye contact with any member of your group until you step away to take your child to the rest room, and whose attention will suddenly be diverted immediately upon your return.

Did I say a half hour? My mistake. This person will actually sit behind you for the entire play and yet avoid eye contact for the entire evening ... nor will she hear when your 9-year-old says a chipper hello to her.

It will occur to you when you get home how much effort this took her, and you will be surprised that someone was willing to expend this much effort on your behalf, rather than simply mutter a frosty "hello" and then move on. My teachers growing up often complained that I was bright but somewhat lazy, and I can see now that I've clearly been taking the slacker's way out of these awkward social situations. 

If all of these things have happened to you, take heart. One day, you will take your child to a birthday party, where one of these same moms, standing not five feet away from you, will look away quickly, but not quickly enough that you don't see exactly what she's just done. And you will worry, for a while, because you are going to not one but two parties with this person in the next three weeks, because you have one good friend in common. You will worry about being seated at a formal dinner next to this person, who won't talk to you all evening. You will worry about being at an informal birthday party with this person, who will spend the evening darting to the other side of the room to avoid having to ... what? politely chit-chat for a minute or two? 

But then, when you go pick up your daughter from the birthday party,  the elevator doors will open to let you off, and this other mom will be standing will be standing right in front of them as they open, looking right at you, with no place to pretend to look away to and no time to react or do anything but smile and say, "Hello."

And you will smile back, not because she smiled, but because you really had no idea you were the one with the power. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. What a silly moo. Poor you for having to deal with such moos.

    It was only a couple of years ago that my mum let me know that for the 4 year duration of my best friendship when we lived in another town, my best friend's mother never once invited my mother across the threshold of her house. She made her wait at the door for me. Stuck up moo.


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