I saw a girl in a cafe the other day and I liked the look of her.
She had cool eye-liner and a nice top.
We got talking and had things in common.
She was nice and we clicked.
It took everything I had not to ask her for her number. It was too soon.
But when she left, I wished I had.
No, this is not the start of a very bad One-Day type novel.
This happened to me last week. I am a happily married woman. I am not a predator or a repressed lesbian looking for an affair. Though I realise I sound like both.
I am just at a stage in life (late 30s, new baby, new ‘hood) where I am making new friends again and it is harder than I remember.
It’s not like school. All lumped in together and, via a few painful years of writing notes, walking around the school field arms linked with that day’s BFF, train track braces and bad perms, your group is defined. I still have those mates, the stalwarts who have seen me flower from young Boris Becker to, well, middle aged Boris only with tinted brows and lashes.
It’s not like uni or my early twenties either. Those glorious hedonistic years where we lived in each other’s pockets very happily. Sharing dreams, houses, clothes, secrets, fags* (*Mum please read that as library books), money, no money. We had limited responsibility and unlimited energy. We started careers and moved cities, taking the party with us. That bunch are etched on my heart forever. Geography keeps us apart, Whatsapp keeps us together.
It’s different for some reason.
And it’s not like; we’re all Mums so we must be friends because we’ve all got birth in common. That’s like saying all celebrities are friends because they have being famous in common. You wouldn’t see Beyonce hanging out with Susan Boyle just because they can hold a tune. Or Beyonce and Rhi-Rhi for that matter, but that’s a whole other story.
There is no shortage of places to scout for potential mum-mates either;
Toddler Groups – A place to make a mess not in your own home and have tea served by a friendly old lady who asks you how you are. Try not to cry.
Soft Play – A chance to catch a fungal skin infection whilst drinking crap coffee and trying to sneak a look at Facebook whilst squeezing yourself down a dark tube that smells like sick.
Cafes – Places full of other mums with babes in prams getting a caffeine fix. Pram hood up = don’t talk to me, it’s asleep and this is my time, bitches.
A variety of music/ movement/ singing classes where you get very used to doing the Hokey-Cokey in a room full of strangers, before noon and without any alcohol. Sometimes you start to believe that the Hokey-Cokey is what it’s all about.
One 360 degree sweep around these places and you know whether any of these ladies are going to be your BFF. Don’t get me wrong, I have had many lovely chats with many lovely ladies but you just know. WE just know.
So when you do meet one that matches your mental (in both senses) criteria, how on earth are you supposed to make them realise what a perfect match you are without handcuffing them to you and saying;
“Look how similar we are, you’re wearing converse too. You used to work in London? So did I. When did you move back here? Do you miss it? No – me neither. Yeah, wine, I LOVE wine ha ha. I’m a lightweight now though, not like the old days ha ha ha. You called her Olivia? That is such a lovely name. It was on our list too, actually, but she looked like a Grace so we went with that. No way! My 2nd is 10 months too. Much easier second time round isn’t it? Way more relaxed. Yes I loved Breaking Bad, did you watch Homeland too? Ha ha ha. Aren’t we really laughing loads like old friends? Ha Ha. Yes I am a REAL laugh. Your husband has a beard and works in London. Dan? That’s too funny mine’s called Dom ha ha ha. We should so get them together. WE should get together.”
I am a peacock. Dancing around showing my wares, my bottom drawer, my dowry.
It’s like speed dating in stained clothes with no make-up and instant-coffee breath.
She is never going to love you. You are too needy. Children are needy enough. Need off, weirdo.
If one person on their own is hard, try penetrating a whole NCT group. Not like that, though I am sure a sex-starved Dad has thought about it.
NCT groups are like war veterans. They have been through a life-changing experience together. They could spot each other’s nipples in a police line up.
They stick together in public. Sure, you can enter the circle and chat for a bit, but move away to pick up a toy for your little one and the drawbridge is pulled up and you are there, waving from the moat.
I have even heard of people being properly spurned by someone they thought they were getting on well with. A friend-of-a-friend asked a woman for her number and she flatly refused to give it. Ouch. Atleast give a wrong digit and save the poor woman the humiliation. Mean Girl.
The magnificent Sharon Horgan nails the feeling in the close-to-the-bone and eye-watering episode of Catastrophe (Episode 2, Season 2) where she turns semi-stalker on a Mum she wants to be-friend. Watch the whole series if you can find the time. It totally wins.
Looking into this a bit, it is actually a thing.
Author Marla Paul has written a book called the Friendship Crisis which says that after you hit 30 self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge.
This makes total sense as, instead of forging friendships through new and shared experience like you do in your teens and twenties, it means the older we get the pickier we become about who we spend our time with and what we do with it.
And, according to a NYT article, Sociologists in the 1950s said that the following are crucial to making close friends:
• Repeated, unplanned interactions
• A setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
So, factoring in being more picky PLUS the time needed for your children, school runs, jobs, running a home, life-admin, sleeping, your partner, yourself, the mates you already-have-and-don’t-actually –get-to-see due to their partner, children, jobs … no wonder there isn’t the time left for repeated, unplanned interactions with a total stranger you like the look of.
But worry not, I have come up with a solution and I think we need to get digital, digital.
We’ve all got single mates on Tinder and Grind-r, finding folk they like the look of nearby for a bit of Netflix and Chill.
Well now it’s your chance to get in on the online action with my dazzling new app, MUTH-R.*
Fed up of seeing all those laughing faces across the crowded church hall?
Want to talk to a mum just like you about pilates and piles over a bottle of pinot?
Well now you can.
Just upload your profile to Muth-R and swipe right until you see The One.
Proximity. Check. Find someone near you.
Repeated unplanned interactions. Check. Message each other willy nilly.
A setting to let your guard down. Check. It’s the internet, the ultimate place to be free.
Now remember to date safe, ladies.
And by that I mean remember your hand sanitiser if you’re meeting at the soft play.
*You saw it here first, Google.