I’m the mom who is lonely. It’s not because we don’t have some things in common. We do. We’ve both procreated: I have three kids, ages 9, 7, and 5. Those children are learning something somewhere, and going through ages and stages. They throw tantrums, do sweet things, and drive us bonkers on a regular basis. We both have piles of laundry and bathrooms to clean. We probably both like Starbucks; we probably both hate pollen and wish we spent less time on Facebook. It’s enough to see us through playdates.
But it’s not enough for genuine friendships.
All around me, I see moms developing genuine friendships. They laugh together, they see each other outside of playdates. They go on Mom’s Nights Out. They have inside jokes; they sit in neat clusters at big group playdates.
I’m the one who drifts from group to group. No one’s mean to me. Everyone’s super sweet. Seriously. I like all of them very much. I’ll help them out, watch their kids in a pinch.
But I don’t fit in with them.
I just don’t get “mom culture.” I’m not into it. It’s not my thing. It was never my thing; I was never interested in it. For that matter, I was never really into pop culture much, and when I had kids, that didn’t change. When the circle of people you hang with narrows from a rich cross-section of adults to a few stay-at-home moms, that’s a serious problem.
I have never worn Lularoe leggings — in fact, I don’t usually wear leggings at all. My obscure sci-fi t-shirt and jeans, or dressed up look with heels, already sets me apart. I don’t carry those cool purses or one-shouldered bags everyone seems to have. I look different.
And then I start talking. Everyone wants to talk about their kids. And that’s cool for a little while. I’ll happily talk about my kids. But I yearn for more than that. I am, after all, more than my kids. No one wants to talk about politics. I tried once. It shut down conversation for ten minutes as people squirmed, said they “weren’t into that kind of thing” and if they were, let’s just say, their views were not mine. I felt lonely and alienated — and I learned my lesson quick.
When they bring up music, I have nothing to contribute. I don’t listen to pop at all; I live in the South and I don’t listen to country or hard rock. Once, I tried to talk about Hamilton. Pretty safe: popular, right? “Too bad you can’t listen to that with the kids in the car,” one mom lamented. “Learning all the words made my kids obsessed with the American Revolution,” I replied. Then I realized “all the words” included “bastard, son of a whore,” “when you knock me down I get the fuck back up,” “yes I heard your mother say come again,” and “sittin’ there useless as two shits.” The moms goggled at me. Oops.
Then TV comes up. Everyone else watches “America’s Next Top Dallas Cowboy Ninja Warrior Cheerleader Dance Off.” I watch “The Magicians” on Syfy. Literally no other mom I’ve ever met watches “The Magicians.” My other favorite shows are all too obscure or weird to even bother mentioning, and since I don’t keep up with “America’s Got Talent” and “Queer Eye” and everything else, I’m shut out of all those conversations. It’s lonely.
I also don’t cook — my husband takes care of that side of things. So there goes the Instant Pot conversations. Instant Pots scare the shit out of me. Shut out again.
I refuse to bitch about my husband in public. There goes another topic of conversation.
But I also like to talk about other weird things, things that just don’t fit, stuff that only I’m interested in, along with all the real friends I have, who live on the internet (in my case, these include Oxford commas, “The Magicians,” longform essays, art, poetry, and whatever novel I’m working on). When something hilarious or ridiculous happens, the first thing I think is, “I have got to tell Trish about this.” Trish lives 700 miles away or on Facebook Messenger. When all of your friends live on the internet, life can feel kind of lonely. You pull out your phone a lot. That makes real life even more lonely.
Like Jason Isbell says in “Alabama Pines,” no one one gives a damn about the things I give a damn about. (It’s cool, you’ve never heard of him).
When you’re the lonely mom, you worry about a lot of things. You worry, mostly, that your kids will be the lonely kids, because their moms won’t want to invite you over for playdates. You worry that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Why can’t you make friends, when it seems so easy for everyone else? You get along with everyone fine. People are sweet. People are nice to you. But you don’t have a bestie. You don’t have people you really have a lot in common with.
You don’t have people to call to watch your kids.
You don’t have help when your house needs cleaned.
You don’t have someone to call and bitch to.
You don’t have anyone who really gets you.
That’s the loneliest part of all.