By Melanie Rickard Dale ’00
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have let my therapist set me up with a friend. Just because two people are struggling with the same problem doesn’t mean they’ll become besties. But hey, I was desperate and willing to try.
When you’re a mom, finding other mom friends can kind of feel like dating, from the awkward small-talk phase to the part where it isn’t working out and you have to break up. Not everyone’s going to like you. Throw a few yogurt-covered kiddos into the mix and things can get messy.
She and I each had one child and were struggling through the rollercoaster emotions of miscarriage and secondary infertility. So one sunny Georgia day, she invited my son and me to her place, a beautiful farmhouse with a wraparound porch.
On my way to the playdate, I began to have second thoughts about meeting a perfect stranger when the only thing I knew about her was that she was in therapy. But then so was I, and I was reasonably safe, albeit a weensy bit emotionally unstable.
My son and I drove from our careful square of suburbia out to her acres of long grass blowing in the breeze, and I wondered why I didn’t get out there more often. I’m such an indoor girl, and I forget about things like sunshine and grass, preferring my dark basement and air conditioning. I was proud of myself as we tromped through her field to the swing set, and I gamely let nature get all over me. My son had worked his way up the rungs of the slide and perched at the top, ready to swish down, when we noticed a swarm of bumblebees getting swarmier by the second. My new friend grabbed an aerosol can of something lethal and began hosing down the area, and I was equal parts impressed that she had a bee plan other than “Run Away!” and appalled that she was showering my little guy with some kind of napalm. I remained calm. We were not going to let bees and poison take us down. We were doing important things like enjoying nature and developing friendships and healing our hearts.
But the deadly bees and Georgia heat finally drove us inside, where our kids settled down with some blocks, and we got back to sighing and being depressed together over the collective brokenness of our wombs and dreams. This was better. Sadness is always more palatable in air conditioning. And then I felt something itch on my back. I tried to ignore it, but the itch became a pinch and I began to worry that something alien was back there. I’d seen a TV show where these demons laid their eggs in the back of people’s heads and hatched little skull babies. This could be that.
I began to weigh my options. I could casually mention that we need to get going, thank her for her demon parasites, and leave with my dignity intact, but by the time I recited the acceptable amount of gratitude and got the Legos cleaned up and my son in his five-point harness, the demon spawn could already be erupting out of my back and tearing apart my spine. Or I could throw caution to the toxic, napalmed wind and take this back-burrowing fiend down now. Of course, that option was a little less socially acceptable than the more private minivan scenario.
I knew what I had to do. I whipped my shirt over my head and begged her to identify and remove the interloper. This is perfectly acceptable behavior for a playdate, right? I mean, what did she expect, hanging out with a friend she met at therapy?
Thankfully, she got over her shock, located one teeny, tiny tick, and deftly pinched the little bugger off with her nails. Farm Girl had game, and I hung my suburban head in shame.
I put my shirt back on, thanked her for a lovely afternoon, and drove off. She never called. I never called. Maybe something about the unexpected nudity doomed our friendship, or maybe it’s that you can’t base a relationship solely on shared brokenness.
---Melanie Dale is the author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends (HarperCollins Zondervan, 2015). Her blog can be found at unexpected.org.