Sunday, June 13, 2010

Comfortable in my Manhood, Except at a Shower

Now that I'm cheating on my dads' group with a neighborhood playgroup that's comprised almost entirely of moms (excepting one other dad that I haven't yet met because he hasn't showed up to anything), it's becoming apparent that gender is not quite as inconsequential as I might have thought. Being the self-confident and progressive male that I am, and having often been the only dad on the playground these past nearly-three years, I thought joining a moms' group would be no big deal. And mostly it is, but now and again it does make for some awkward moments.

I finally got a reply from the first moms' group I tried to join, one that actually has the word "Moms" in its name. Six weeks or so after I requested membership at the suggestion of a couple of the group's members, one of the administrators of the group replied at last and said, "no, thanks, sorry, but we decided a long time ago that we would be moms-only so that none of our members would be made uncomfortable by the presence of men, but best of luck to you and if you'd like tips on starting your own group, I'm happy to help." By then I'd already joined the small, local playgroup, so I felt only mildly annoyed by this reply and its long time in coming.

The local group is small, with a core of regular attendees whose company and children I quite like. I've had fun chatting with them while forcing Thumper to share and be nice and not hit and not throw playground gravel. For the most part, they are friendly and inclusive. We've been invited to three birthday parties already. But there are two moms that seem particularly reserved around me, despite Thumper's apparently-not-irresistible charms. Maybe they're just slow to warm to new people. Maybe it's not personal. Maybe it's not gender-related. But somehow I get the feeling that it is. I don't know. They seem more formal, more guarded, than they are with the other moms. That is, "with the moms;" not "with the other moms."

Also, I find there are conversational turns that leave me behind. At a birthday party yesterday, a pregnant mom who has been very accepting of me was sitting next to me eating birthday cake. She suddenly said, "Oh!" and put a hand to her side, then awkwardly said, "Sorry," when I smiled at her.

"The baby likes cake, huh?" I said. "Yes," she replied, then turned away from me and started a conversation with the mom next to her on the other side about breach positions and gestating babies' punches and kicks and what foods seem to inspire the most activity. It was a conversation I felt like I could have participated in, having lived with a pregnant woman whose baby was transverse breach and who shared her affinity for coffee-flavored ice cream. But body language seemed to make it clear that this was lady talk, and the door was closed. Ah, well.

This morning, I got an email that this same mom sent to the group, asking for mailing addresses of all the members interested in attending the baby shower her mother is throwing for her. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am, in thinking that traditionally baby showers are strictly for the females. I was reminded of Aerie's wedding shower. Her family surprised her with it by getting us to come to her aunt's house for I think a cousin's birthday party or something like that. When we got there, and it turned out to be a shower, my future brother-in-law earned my eternal gratitude, rescuing me from having to sit through a parade of housewares, home d├ęcor, and lingerie by taking me out to drink beer and shoot pool, a manly inoculation against such girly pursuits. So receiving an invitation to attend a baby shower at which I presumably would make the other attendees feel as awkward as I would feel myself, I quickly, and I hope politely, declined.

So, yeah, being part of a moms' group is mostly good and sometimes weird. At least they show up to play dates regularly, though.

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