I was enjoying a chai latte and a book at The Coffee Park today while Cleo had a ball wearing a cowboy hat and alternately pushing a stroller and riding a bouncy horse, and I found myself watching people. I've always loved being the flaneur, surreptitiously eyeballing folks as they come and go, pretending i'm mentally narrating a sort of Wild Kingdom for humans.
And I admit that i'm baffled a lot of the time, mostly by women. Men are relatively easy to understand-- they mainly exist to hunt, fight, and procreate. Or, in common terms: work, play sports or video games, and procreate. But women can be so hard to understand, even by another woman. Here are some things I don't understand:
1. Why women seek, collect, and covet brand name bags. Vera Bradley, Dooney & Burke, Coach... I just don't get it. It's a bag. The same bag everyone else has. It was made by a machine. Who are you trying to impress? Men don't care or notice. Only other women who also believe in the magical properties of these bags notice them. I once saw a girl in Target with an enormous leather bag splattered in the Coach logo, with which she was wearing cut off sweatpants; a baggy, stained t-shirt; dirty hair in a scrunchy; dirty feet in flip-flops; no makeup, no jewelry. The juxtaposition of "I care about my fancy bag" and "I don't care what I look like" was striking. I was not impressed.
2. Why women will order an indulgent meal or dessert, eat half of it, and then talk about how horrible and/or fat they are. If you are honestly concerned about your health or weight, don't order it. If you want to indulge and are aware of the consequences, enjoy the hell out of it. I expect it's a case of guilt and insecurity, that the mental stream of consciousness is something along the lines of, "Oh, that was good, but now i'm full, and they're all judging me, and i'm fat, and I feel bad about myself..." It's like Yoda says-- Do or do not; there is no try. Either eat it and love it or abstain and feel virtuous.
3. Why women make polite lies. Small talk with women is either a mine field or a puppet show. A trading of compliments, fake self-deprecation, and subtle insults. "I love your shoes!" "Thanks, I love your purse!" "Oh, this old thing? I need a new one." "Yeah, I just got my brand new purse-- it cost $300. Isn't it adorable?" Etc. Blech.
I sometimes enjoy messing up the game. Seriously, next time a woman gives you a vapid or insincere compliment, just cheerily say "Thanks!", and watch her stand there and blink like a parakeet, waiting for you to either put yourself down or return a compliment. It totally flusters them. Then slurp your drink loudly as you enjoy the long, uncomfortable pause.
4. Why women want to compare their children. There's a certain sort of woman who has outgrown comparing engagement rings and husbandly career, who doesn't feel the day is complete unless she's determined that her child is superior to yours, or, at the very least, that she has some amazing insight to share. "Oh, Alexis started walking at 3 months, and now she can count to 20 in Esperanto at 11 months. When did your daughter start walking? Oh, really? That late? Hmm. Well. I love your shoes!"
I run into these women at the park, and it's like being a stay-at-home-mom leaves a big emptiness in their life for the back-biting, high-heeling, my-office-is-bigger-than-you-office-ing they used to get working in advertising or banking. When I run into one, I am thankful that my child is so active that I can spend no more than 2 minutes sitting in one place.
Am I judgmental? Yes, definitely, but about different things than bags, social status, or a child's accomplishments. I prefer to judge people on honesty, humor, intelligence, and loyalty. I have never considered myself "normal", and most of the moms I hang with now used to be the drama kids, the computer geeks, the math nerds, the goths... you know, my peeps. We're still on the outside, and when I find myself in the wrong "crowd", it's like a flashback to high school-- I don't look the same, I don't act the same, I don't have the right status symbols, I feel them judging me for all the wrong reasons, and I just want to jump in my car and blast some Weezer while I peel out of the driveway.
And that's why i'm thankful for my friends. I'm thankful to know strong, smart, self-confident women who don't play games or tell pretty lies; women who like to laugh and eat and read and who aren't afraid to ask questions or share opinions.
If I have to be on the outside looking in, i'm glad it's with y'all, and i'm glad we're usually eating something chocolatey.