Episode V: We're Going to Be Friends (Or Enemies... we'll see)

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

As a parent, one of the most omnipresent worries before school starts is the worry of whether your kid will have friends.  They worry that, too. Nothing in school is more important to your child than not being alone and having a group of people to hang out with that they can count on, especially just to complain about those other kids who are clearly awful and will grow up to be the worst of the worst: criminals, star athletes, and politicians. They need new friends to grow emotionally and to protect themselves against everything school has to throw at them.

As an adult though, you don't really wonder if you're going to get any new friends.  Most likely, you're all set in the friend department.  You've reduced your friend interactions to mostly Facebooking and living passively at a distance with most of your acquaintances.  We all live in Facebookia, where we can all pretend that nothing too horrible happens, trust everything anyone posts on face value (that's what the "face" in Facebook stands for), and assume that everyone is a decent parent and has a decent job and a decent home and how-did-I-get-here sort of life.  But outside of having to muster up some yip-yapping chit-chat with someone on a plane or in a Soviet-like line at the supermarket, I generally don't meet or interact with people I don't know.  

Having kids changes all of that.  You have to deal with tons of people in ways you could never have considered before.  First off, you're part of the parenting club.  You are all over-connected with every parent everywhere and anyone seeing your kids can automatically ask how old they are.  And you HAVE to answer.  You are morally obliged to share with strangers your child's age in a way you'd never do with anything else.  You don't go around an old folks home randomly asking oldies how old they are or how near death they feel.  You don't show up at a holiday party and just start asking when people were born.  So with this nefarious parenting cabal, your children have born you into something you never thought you'd have to be part of.  A trip to the park is a trip where you not only have to have a variety of items for your child to play with or eat, but you must be equipped with the emotional wherewithal to talk to total strangers as though you're a person capable of not being a complete asshole.  

Not the exact kinda parklife one lives as a parent.

But that's just - as Blur would sing about - Parklife.  Then your kid starts schooling.  And then it kicks off a whole new set of parents that you have to be friendly with and be friendly with for years.  You hope your kid picks the right kid with the right parents, but you know you can totally get shafted with parents you'd like to throw off the Space Needle along with their bratty kid.  And then if you're totally cool with the parents, you're the parents that they loathe.  

I know for a fact that there was a pair of parents who couldn't stand us at pre-school.  I don't think we'd ever been mean to them or lock them and their kid in a room with a facehugger or did anything warranting them hating us worse than disco-dancing Nazi cockroaches.  Yet the contempt they held for us was never really hidden.  And although I didn't want to hang around with them either, for some reason their open dislike stuck in my plentiful craw.  Especially as we had to see them all the time and I didn't know what led to them to treat us this way.  But just like a pubescent teenager preoccupied with people liking them despite not liking those people at all, it hurt (or at the very least irritated like a hangnail on the heart.)  

But as this crusty cold war goes on, your child goes to a different school than theirs.  And you're freed.  Until you meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.  Because if you're a weird kid like I was, you grow up to be a weird teenager.  Then you grow up to be a weird adult.  And a weird parent.  And even though for the most part "weird" is in (or at least everything that helped defined you as weird when young is totally accepted from comic books to Star Wars to Doctor Who), you still function as a person that's different from the rest.  

Especially here in Santa Monica, where even for a public school, the dads are keeping things tight.  Sure, there's a few of us chubs, but we're the minority to all the actors and other professionals who make a point of being totally in shape.  In the greater Los Angeles area, everyone is attractive.  From the police to the doctors to the folks who check the gas to the homeless, there is a sea of beauty here unlike anywhere else.  Whereas in the rest of America dads come in a standard slightly chunky size with doughy gallons-of-milk guts instead of six packs, here, they are all majestic adonises (or Adoni?).  So glorious in their presentation, you kinda hope that by you appearing to be a disfigured gargoyle in comparison will make YOU the rarity... the attractive one.  

(It does not.)

 A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

After wading through meeting billions of parents where you're all defined by your owner ("I'm Crispin's dad."  "I'm Lady's mom."  "I'm Lord Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang's father."), you do what we humans do best as a civilization: We make acquaintances.  And we do so with no expectations that they'll become friends.  However, even in the hodge-podge of random moms and dads and inbetweens, you will find a few on your same wavelength.  Who will laugh at the same thing.  Who will wear a t-shirt of a band you like, too.  Who will talk about Star Wars, but not like someone who just casually saw the movies, but someone who can rage out when you fear any word that starts with pre- will end with -quels.  All in all, you will find them.  And you will talk privately with gusto about the wretched other parents there are.  Griping about the entitled and slightly insane parents who yell at teachers not treating their kid like the messiah.  The uncaring, daredevil dickhole ones who drive Teslas too fast through the school parking lot.  The snotty ones who aren't as cool as all of you.  You, the cool parents.

It may seem you won't find your people.  It may seem that every other parent is an idiot or too involved in their kid or not enough involved in their kid or that they may wear t-shirts that seem at odds with any kind of taste or they may seem slightly sexist.  You may wander years without a parenting pal.  But then one day, you will arrange a playdate for your kid with another kid.  And you won't want to go to it.  You'd rather have a nap on a Sunday or do something that requires even less effort.  But because you love your son, you will go on that playdate.  And you will talk to those parents.  And you will realize they are awesome.  That they share your same thoughts on what a travesty MAN OF STEEL is.  How they also carry a first aid kit with them.  How they have awesome deeply enviable hair.

 This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

Then you return home.  Surprised to find some folks you actually like.  And then you wait by the magic email machine, hoping they'll email again.  You smile, pleased that you found some folks you won't mind talking to for the next ten years until your kids graduate and you become your own human again.  

(But then you worry all junior high style that YOU are their horrible parent that they don't want to deal with.  That you aren't cool enough for them.  That you talk too much and griped about a teacher they may actually like and that you're an obnoxious turd and it's amazing anyone likes you at all.  And right then, you realize that kids turn you into emotionally turbulent kids in all kinds of twisty horrible ways that makes Cronenberg's worst visions look like Play-Doh in comparison.)  

All you can do then is just put on the White Stripes "We're Going to Be Friends" and LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" and hope for the best.  (Well, that and that your kid doesn't become best friends with the son of a dickhead.  That would be the worst.)

My TCM-ing

Recently watched OVER THE EDGE, a late 70s film about discontent teens who rebel against their absentee parents and jerkhead authority figures.  If you've seen the sterling documentary about Kurt Cobain MONTAGE OF HECK, clips of this film are sprinkled through it, as it was Cobain's favorite film and one could see why.  It's actually the debut of a young Matt Dillon - wearing an always classy half-shirt.  The film actually works pretty well even today and helps me - as did that Cobain doc - to be hopefully be less of a dick parent hopefully.

That's all for now, folks.  Thanks for reading and hope you all have a week filled with so many extraordinary adventures that even J.K. Rowling looks on impressed.

So long,

Patrick T.

The T stands for Montage