Women have always kind of scared me. Not like mice scare me, really, but in a more "I am completely inadequate and therefore unworthy of your friendship" way. I've been like this since I was a child, and whatever the reason, it must be addressed; I recently read that by their forties, women either meet or have already become friends with the friends they will have the rest of their lives. My friend window is rapidly closing.
In my defense, even if we have the confidence, it's not always easy for women my age to make friends. Oh, sure, I've been invited to all the different home parties, but since being in a room with a group of women I don't know makes me want to breathe into a paper bag, I'm not inclined to do it. Throw in the fact that that the parties are often about cooking and I'm running the other way.
Where else do women meet each other? Many of us work from home, and so our social circles are often defined by our children's activities. This is not always a bad thing, of course; I've met some awesome women while sitting through my daughter's karate class, or standing on the sidelines watching my son play football. But once the activity ends, often, so does the friendship.
And then, when I do meet someone I like, I get so nervous that I inevitably say something stupid. Not unlike dating, come to think of it.
My daughter made a new friend this year. That meant I might be able to make a new friend. And I really like this woman. She's smart, and funny, and someone I could see being friends with. The first time I dropped my daughter off at her house, I stood in the doorway, shyly toeing the rug, avoiding eye contact, doing everything but twirling my hair.
"The girls can play outside, if that's okay," said the new mom. "They can go exploring in the little woods around our house."
"Oh, that's awesome!" I reply. To her child I said, "We like to go exploring in our woods, too! Do you hear the coyotes out there at night? One time we found a fawn -"
The possibly-new-mom-friend chimed in with "Aww -- how cute!"
I looked at her sweet face, smiling and warm, and STILL DECIDED TO FINISH MY STORY. "-- skeleton, completely intact, skull and all!"
Momentary silence. Then I turned to the woman who would probably never be my friend now and said, "Well, I'd better be going." I kicked myself the whole way home. What would possess me to say such a thing? Once again I had to remind myself that the fact that I grew up with four brothers in the country where finding dead animals was a weekly event was the exception, not the rule.
Women make me nervous. When I'm nervous, I babble. When I babble, I usually say something I regret. It truly is a wonder I ever got married.
What's worse is that even if another mom and I find friendship through the friendship of our children, if the kids' relationship doesn't last, ours sometimes doesn't, either. If my child and my friend's child have an argument, I panic. "What?! You guys can't be fighting! I like her mom! I want to keep her!" And if it simply can't work out between the friends, it's often a tearful goodbye.
"I know; I'm sorry too. We had a good time -- I'll miss you so much. You were the best. We really tried, didn't we? We had a good run. It's not your fault; no, no, I mean it. I just can't make her feel something that's not there... "
It's not easy. I know the best thing would be to immerse myself in the fear -- to go to a home party, or join a book club, or get involved in an activity that other women like to do. And I'll try, I really will. Heck, I've still got three months before my friend window is completely closed. I'm just going to get dressed and get out there and -- uh-oh.