A couple months back, I was walking down the street with a friend of mine who’s been trying unsuccessfully for years to have a kid. It always sucks a little bit to talk to her because our conversation always has something to do with kids and seriously, what do you say to someone who’s dealing with infertility issues? “Oh hey, I see you’re not pregnant yet. Still trying? Let me just bitch a little bit about my little darling so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.”
On this occasion, it was especially awkward because my friend was taking me to a partners’ massage at the Thai Massage studio which meant that in T-5 Minutes, we were going to be seeing each other naked, which I am still a bit shy about. So anyway, just as we were about to walk into the massage parlor, I realize another Mom from the Kindergarten is standing right by the door locking her bike. What’s the proper protocol for this greeting? Acknowledge the mom with a nod and a smile? Say hello and continue walking? Attempt small talk (which I despise) despite our rush? We never saw each other outside of the kindergarten but since it’s a tiny parents’ run Kita, we see each other there every month at parents’ night.
I decided to say hello and keep walking, noting that if she seemed offended, I could explain later how uncomfortable I was and how we were running late. So I said hi. And she did nothing. Not a nod. Not a smile. Not a word. She just looked right through me. And since we were like two feet away from each other and I am totally unique, it’s not like she didn’t recognize me.
“That was weird,” my friend said. “Who was that?”
“A mom from the kindergarten.”
“Oh man,” she said. “That’s why if I do ever get knocked up, I’m not raising the kid in this neighborhood. These moms are bitches.”
For like half a second, I defended the mom. It’s a habit I’m trying to create — to not talk shit about people or get offended by what I consider impoliteness. After all, this woman was probably feeling just as awkward as I was, right? I let it drop but made a note to try to play nice with this mom at the next parents’ night. Because one of the things I’m learning beyond the it’s not just me philosophy is that these moms who are bitches are probably going to be in my life for a while. If Diva wants to play their kids, I gotta be nice to them. If Diva doesn’t want to hang with their kids but we still have to keep seeing each other at playgrounds and soccer games, I gotta be nice to them. Cologne is small like that. My neighborhood even smaller.
And I have spent most of the last year in a selfish haze of bad fucking moods that I am sure has made a few people wonder what bug crawled up my ass so I have to start trying to make good with the mummies here again. The sun is shining and I have to hit the playgrounds with Diva again. Imagine my difficulty, then, when I overheard one of the new moms at the kindergarten talking about our kindergarten at the playground and the phrase “Latte Macciato Mamas” was used. Clearly this woman did not know that I was one of the Moms in question — we hadn’t yet attended a parents’ night together because I have been avoiding those like the plague this year — and the statement made me take a step back. It’s bad enough that people who know me don’t like me but at least I get that. I’m not always fun to be around. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. But a pauschal hatred based on the Kindergarten I chose to send my kid to? A judgment about me because of the neighborhood I live in or the clothes that I wear?
I have a sense of humor. I can make fun of myself. Self-hatred is not a uniquely German trait. But how do you address this without sounding like a complete asshole? Hu-hu, heard you call me a yummy yuppy and just wanted to let you know, I’m just as broke as you! Whatever. It’s not important what this new mom thinks. We’re out of the insanity of the kindergarten next year and into the strangeness that is the German school system, complete with its own PTA problems so I don’t really need to prove I’m too lactose intolerant to be a latte drinker or that the Armani sunglasses I hide behind were an appeasement gift given years ago by a woman who felt guilty for flirting with my husband.
But the experience does have me thinking a bit about these relationships we’re building with the people we encounter every day. What are we doing to each other by cutting each other down? What purpose does this mummy hate serve? What are we teaching our kids when we’re throwing around casual judgments and talking smack when they’re in earshot? I understand the harm this does and though I haven’t been at all perfect, I am going to try to be better. Kill ’em with kindness. Starting now.