I have to preface the entry by saying that I live in the snootiest county in the snootiest area probably in the world. There's this messageboard, for moms in my metro area? And it is filled with some of the meanest parents I have ever had the misfortune to run across online. People who won't hesitate to tell you that they think you are a bad parent, that you are fat and poor, that your kids are ugly. There are SO many mean moms on there. But luckily I have never encountered any of them in real life. All of the moms I have met in real life, at parks and library story hours, have been nothing but totally awesome and nice.
Until today. Today I am pretty sure I was mommy meangirled.
It happened like this: Lulu and I got up early. It was raining, so our usual jaunt to the park was out. So we decided to go to a playgroup meetup at a local community center. We've been a few times before, she loves it, I have a great time talking to nice people. Today I sat down in my usual spot, started chatting to the other parents. There was a dad to the left of me, a mom to the right with her twins. We listened to stories, we sang songs. Then we put the babies on the floor and let them loose on a bunch of small plush balls.
Just about this time, a new mom walks over, plops herself down with her kid, and confiscates the balls nearer to us. She turns to the mom with twins. "Would you like to play?" The mom with twins says yes, and so the new mom rolls a ball to her. Then she leans ALL THE HELL WAY over me and says to the dad, "Would you like to play with us?" The dad says yes. She says nothing to me. She rolls the ball over my legs to the dad. Lulu is sitting there clapping her hands, watching. The mom collects the balls, rolls them out again. But not to us.
WTF, right? I just kind of sat there, waiting for her to ask us if we would like to play, too, but she didn't. Soon it became apparent that she didn't plan to, and I really didn't know how to respond. I suppose I could have asked, "Hey, can we join in?" but neither of the other parents had had to ask, and something in me balked at having to be all, please, sir, I want some more to this woman who had so obviously snubbed us. Across the room were some moms I knew, nice moms, moms who had always included us in previous playgroup activities, and I wanted so badly to get up and walk away from the mean mom but my foot had fallen asleep, which prevented a quick getaway.
So I just sat there, feeling like a fool. Thinking of other times in my life I had felt this way. In sixth grade, when I learned everybody in the class except for me and a few others had been invited to Allison Dupre's birthday at a really cool waterpark near the beach. I had always been really cool to Allison, practicing spelling with her in the carpool line before a big test, lending her Sweet Valley books. We were in Scouts together. She had come to my birthday. When I confronted her, crying, asking her why I wasn't invited, she said, "I just didn't feel like inviting you, Cathy."
While I waited for the feeling to come back in my foot, I went over a mental checklist, trying to work out if there was anything about the way I looked, right then, that would make it appropriate--even wise--to exclude me from the playtime fun. I was wearing jeans and a black tee, ballet flats, an anthropologie sweater. My hair was brushed. My teeth were brushed. While I was not wearing makeup, I had at least showered and put on earrings. They were $4 earrings from Forever 21, covered in tacky rhinestones, but I did not think that qualified me as crazy woman from whom you must protect your children. Maybe she didn't like the cut of my jib? Maybe she thought the others would be more complacent minions?
And the worst part was, this woman's kid? Was older than Lulu, about a year old. And could tell that Lulu wanted to play. So every time she got the ball, she rolled it to my daughter. And then the mean mom would reach over, take it back, and roll it to one of her BALL PLAY APPROVED friends. It made me sad, to see her kid so open, so inclusive, because I know when that baby grows up, she is going to be a meangirl just like her mother. Because you learn what you see, right?
The hour came to a close, the other parents got up and drifted away, and finally, the mean mom turned to me and tried to make small talk since she had nobody else to talk to. I guess I was better than nobody at all. I usually try to cut people some slack in situations like this, but today I wasn't in the mood. I just kept thinking of how my kid's eyes followed the ball she (or I?) obviously wasn't good enough to play with. And plus she was being so suddenly nice and it freaked me out. The feeling had come back to my foot so I stood up and collected our things. The mean mom said, "Are you going to come back next week?" And I said, "Maybe."
Here is what I would have liked to say, though.
"Listen, lady, probably not--unless you're not here. Because seriously, you have just made me feel about three inches tall and I don't like the fact that you found it so easy to be rude and excluding to a little baby. Maybe you don't like my diaper bag or some shit, but that's no excuse for excluding my kid. She doesn't realize now but one day she will and she'll be hurt, and I actually think people who can be hurtful in this way are psychopaths that are a worse of a threat to society than someone like Dexter, who dismembers and kills people on the reg. You've now thrown me into a quiet panic about how I will handle this mean girl shit in my daughter's preteen years, how I will make her feel better when girls like your own kid are mean to her because they can be, since I don't seem to be doing such a good job with it myself right now. Nothing would make me happier than if you relocated to Timbuktu. I wish you hemorrhoids. Good day."
I got home and dug through the toy box and found a few balls of our own. I spent a little while rolling them to Lu, praising her when she bopped them back in my direction, talking about how good it felt to share when I rolled them back. I might not be able to protect my daughter from all the meangirls in the world, but I swear by the three faces of Jove, she will never be one herself. Not while I have breath in my body.