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My Stranger 'Friend'

We're familiar faces. So why aren't we friends?

Hey, you over there. Yes, you. You know who you are. 

You and I have run into each other for the last five—hear me, five—years, and I know my face is familiar to you. Yours is familiar to me. C'mon, how about we just stop for a second and say "hello"? Find out if our kids will go to the same school? I know we're both busy, but maybe we could help each other out? Be friends, perhaps?

We see each other everywhere.

We're both part of the early morning crew at the gym, and even though we're all wiping the sleep from our eyes at 5:15 a.m., you know that after a few days, weeks, months, you notice the people in this peculiar club. Maybe we're not sharing equipment, but we all know each other after awhile. Or do we?

A few seasons back, you and I could have slapped hands as my daughter's soccer practice ended and your son's began. I was chasing after my two other little ones, trying not to drop sippy cups, pacifiers and bags of Cheerios while I loaded everyone into our van. You always had one cute bag and your chair set up on the sidelines. Maybe you never noticed me. We're both little-guy soccer moms, though, part of another similar club. Does this make us friends?

We've been at local restaurants on the same nights, and sure, it's crazy when you're dining with little people and are trying to have a conversation with your husband. Believe me, I know.  But there's always a second or two of peace to check out your surroundings for familiar faces and friends while you're flagging down the server for another milk refill. Let's slow down for a second. Maybe our husbands could be buddies. And our kids are the same age! This could be fun.

Sometimes we run on the same street. You're going one way, chatting with your friend and I'm alone, running in the opposite direction. Other times, I'm the one with a pal and you're solo. It's starting to sound like I'm a stalker, but really, it's just beyond me that we've crossed paths so often and don't know each other. If friends were made out of convenience, this would be easy. Easy.

We frequent the same library. Maybe once or twice we were in the same story time, in fact. I seem to remember we were both doing the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in the same room, on the same rainy, snowy day. We're in the same town, for goodness' sake. We go to the same post office, same CVS, same pediatrician and dentist.

Open gym days at our recreation center? We've been there at the same times; you're hanging with your pals, and I'm with mine. We're all trying to watch our kids and catch up with our girlfriends. Our paths cross once again. Will our paths merge once our kids hit elementary school? Middle school? 

So I did it today. I hadn't seen you for a while, then I ran into you at the grocery store and in my daylight-savings-time-fatigue and self-checkout-induced-frustration, I forgot we really weren't friends, but I said hello to you anyway. Call me crazy. I just forgot, said hello—in a way-too-excited voice, like I was reunited with a long-lost friend—and you said it back. 

Is that all it takes? One hello? Now will it be easier to chat over commonalities the next time we run into each other?

I'm not a stalker. I'm not obsessed. I'm just grateful for the good people in my life and I'm happy to add other kind people to my list of friends. And for as busy and chaotic as my life has been for the last seven years, I'm always looking forward to sharing the experience with parents just like me.

And hey, I'm not stupid. Maybe we could work out a carpool once the kids get older.

Jennifer Lubell May 02, 2011 at 01:29 PM
I felt like this article was telling the story of my own life. I run into the same women all the time, in my neighborhood, in my gym, on the Metro. Everyone's friendly, but no one ever asks me if I want to have coffee. I've noticed that if I make such a gesture, people look at me like I'm a "stalker." A few years ago, I started up a "commuter" acquaintance with this one mom who took her daughter into daycare in the city every day. After several months of friendly conversation, I made the next "move" by asking her if she wanted to have a play date with my son and me sometime. She gave me this uncomfortable look, make a vague comment about how "far apart" our children were in age, and seemed a bit startled when I handed her my card. We never spoke again. As a mom in the D.C. Metro area just trying to expand her social circle, I agree with this writer that it can be a very lonely, frustrating journey.
Gina Hagler May 07, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Absolutely too true!

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