Friday, January 7, 2011

Playing the Field

Bare chested and dripping wet, he stood by the pool. "Come here often?" he asked quite un-smoothly.

She was crouching with her back to him. Her skin glistened beneath the sunlight passing through the natatorium's opaque ceiling. So happily focused on patting her little girl dry with a towel, she did not hear him advance. Once realizing the presence of someone behind her, she turned around quickly and asked "Oh I'm sorry, did you say something?"

He hesitated. "Uh. Nothing. Just, ah, see you next week," he said nervously while hurrying away holding his own daughter's hand. And ... SCENE.

No, that was not an opening from Danielle Steele's most recent paperback featuring a shirtless Fabio lookalike on the cover. It was a re-enactment of me with Greta at the pool trying to pick up a married mom last month. (The audience laughs.)

Seriously, a couple weeks ago, I tried to ask out one of the moms at Greta's swim classes. But I couldn't muster up the guts. (Nervous laughter now.) What can I say, I'm rusty. I haven't blatantly hit on a girl since I tried unsuccessfully to french THE WIFE in the Seapoint parking lot back on St. Patty's Day, 2005. (The audience fidgets. "Is he drunk?" someone whispers.)

What? Oh no, it's not what you think. I'm not Tiger Woodsing pre-Thanksgiving/Escalade/golf club-through-the-window. Not at all. THE WIFE put me up to it. I swear. (The audience begins to buzz with gossip. "Do they have pink flamingos on their front lawn?" "Oh my god, that's why they drink Menage A Trois!" The crowd begins to riot.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Please, folks, settle down. And... SCENE.

Okay, so the real story is Greta has a friend that she met at a playground in town named Ashley. I met Ashley's grandmother, who watches Ashley on Mondays when I do my Mr. Mom thing. Anyway, whenever Greta went to the playground, she always asked if we'd see Ashley and oftentimes, she happened to be there. Fast forward months later to G's swim classes at the Y and sure enough, Ashley's parents have enrolled her in the same class. THE WIFE and I rotated every week who took Greta to class. I happened to go to the last class of the session. Before I left, THE WIFE told me how she really liked Ashley's mom and wanted to see about hanging out sometime since we haven't really made any friends since we moved to Easton so I should ask her about getting together some time. (That's the truth, I swear.)

When the moment came at the end of class to ask for Ashley's mom's number, I just couldn't go through with it because it felt so, well, weird. I was suddenly transported to junior high again, with my jeans pegged, trying to muster up the courage to ask a girl if she wanted to go out with me for the first time. Except this time, I was 35 and 80 pounds heavier, asking another married couple with a daughter to go out on a play date with me, my wife, and our kids. Enter, the married with kids, living in a new place dating game.

Shell and I are fortunate to have different, great circles of friends. Of course, the tightness of each circle varies but we've both got our own besties from home, from the schools we've attended, from our jobs past and present, etc. - basically wherever we've left a print somewhere. In most all of those instances, we were not yet parents. Those bonds and friendships naturally began as we became drawn to those with similar interests. Granted, some of our friends experienced similar paths as us at their own pace, but none paralleling the exact dynamic we currently have in terms of having kids period, the same number of kids, or the same ages of kids.

But now, having relocated to a totally new community, we've started our most recent chapter of our life together, which obviously includes the kiddos. The four of us are, in the truest sense, the new kids on the block. So by extension, the courting process of meeting new friends has officially begun. And I can't help but notice how much the experience resembles - well - dating. Hear me out.

When one dates (and I distinguish from simply being out on the prowl barhopping for you virile, adventurous singeltons), one generally seeks a mate with similar interests, similar values, similar roots, similar goals, etc., right? The match one seeks when single all transcends to the match a couple seeks when married with kids. You want someone who seems like you. You also don't want someone who pursues you too hard and by the same token, the other side won't be into you if you're too interested. It's almost a game that borders on arrogance because one obviously has certain "standards" for lack of a better term, but at the same time how the hell do you ever meet anyone if you think your shit don't stink?

Am I really this serious or selective about just making new friends? Of course not. To me, it's never too late to embrace a connection I've made with someone new. That's how everything started with my oldest friends in the first place. We've just had the benefit of meeting earlier in our lives and sharing the crazy experiences that help to mold our bond together.

The reality is that dating - fortunately - is separate and distinct from the genesis of a friendship. In the search for your life partner, spouse, whatever you want to call him/her, everyone carries around the scars and/or baggage of failed relationships past. Maybe that ex cheated on you, broke up with you in a text message on your birthday, or you could never get past that Seinfeld-ian tragic flaw that all your friends laughed about after you broke up. There's a million reasons why old relationships never worked out. So you left the ex behind, the ex left you behind, or you both went separate ways.

Luckily, when the opportunity arises to begin a new friendship, you don't have to ever give up your old pals. You're just looking to add to your posse. And if your entourage remains as is, so be it because it's probably a pretty damn good one.

So I guess that's where we Ts find ourselves currently. (Thinking.) Hmmm, maybe there's a social networking web site lurking here. I think I'll friend request Mark Zuckerberg and see what he thinks.

Well, until we figure out the for married peeps with kids, THE WIFE heads back to the Y tomorrow for a new round of classes. Perhaps she'll have more balls than me and ask out Ashley's dad...