As you may know, my family moved a few months ago. We’ve now been here long enough for the brand newness to wear off, leaving me at the lonely intersection of Interesting-New-Person and I-Am-Not-Really-Friends-With-You. This is an awkward place to be. The trick to being new in town is making real friends before the newness wears off, leading straight to the happy intersection of Interesting-New-Person and Fun-New-Friend. Hindsight, right?
I missed my chance to make friends while still interesting just by virtue of being new because I’m not good at making new friends. At all. My sense of humor is completely uncalibrated so I never know if it’s going to overshoot or under, but it seems to always miss the mark. Generally, I compensate for this by not making any jokes at all until I think I have a gauge on my audience. The problem with keeping my humor in check is that without it I’ve got nothing. What do people talk about if they’re not joking around? It’s all weather and this year’s tomato crop. If I can’t be funny, I don’t have a single interesting thing to say. When I don’t have anything interesting to say there’s no telling what might come out of my mouth.
Here are a couple of recent examples which illustrate why I don’t have new local friends:
Braced for some killer talk about weather, tomatoes, and how precious our children are, I headed to my daughter’s preschool open house. Within minutes Tim and I found ourselves talking to Sally’s soon-to-be teacher. What happens next is like a slow motion nightmare- that dream where you’re driving a car, but you’re in the backseat so you can’t reach the wheel or the pedals, and you know a cliff is coming but it’s all out of your control. Well, the car was me and I was careening headlong off the cliff of WTF. I could not control the words coming from my mouth. Tim backed away, not wanting to go down in flames beside me. That traitor. I watched him walk out of my nightmare as I continued to talk:
Oh, you have a pre-teen daughter? Does she hate you yet? I’m terrified of the day Sally becomes a teenager and decides she hates me. And I think our cycles will sync up. That happens, right? All that PMS at once? Scary. Hopefully I’ll go through ‘the change’ before Sally gets her period….
On and on I went about my four-year-old’s future menstrual cycle and my own eventual menopause. Why? While my horrible words tumbled out my mind raced: How to back pedal out of this quagmire? I’m talking to a preschool teacher. WTF? Stop it! Stop it! Someone save me! Unable to come up with a graceful exit, eventually I pretended that someone needed me and I ran away.
Since then I’ve tried very hard not to talk about female reproductive changes with people I’ve just met. Surely I can make my way out in public if I just avoid that one thing, right?
In another effort to make friends I signed up for a class called Extreme Fit at my gym. I’m one of nine women tortured on a weekly basis by a sadistic 20-something with no parts that jiggle. Certainly this is a climate in which I can make a friend or two. During one particularly grueling workout I found myself collapsed on the floor next to another woman. I said something about my family going hungry since I would be unable to use my arms to prepare dinner. She said, “I have to work tonight so I need my arms. I have to lift babies!” She explained that she’s a nurse in a maternity ward. My inappropriate response? “Yikes! I hope all the babies are underweight!” She looked at me like I had just walked through the hospital’s nursery using my baby seal club on all the newborns over six pounds.
Oh, for fuck’s sake. We can’t joke about underweight babies with strangers? No one told me! Is there a manual for this shit?
The sad truth is that I’m a huge jackass. People who know me well fall into three categories: 1) they know and accept I’m a jackass and therefore are not friends with me at all; 2) they know and accept that I’m a jackass but like me despite that; or 3) they’re related to me. How do I get new people into one of these three camps? If I keep my obnoxious humor under wraps, I have nothing interesting to say so I find myself talking about puberty. Ack! If I risk allowing my sense of humor to range freely, I offend neonatal nurses everywhere. I’d give anything to skip this part and go straight to the intersection of You-Know-Me-Well-Enough-To-Know-I’m-Joking and No-More-Small-Talk. But I can’t. I have to plow straight through this and hope that there are a couple of adults still standing on the other side. Then I’ll know that I’ve found my people.