Never Can Say Goodbye
As our truth-telling columnist winnows her friend list, she finds that breaking up is hard to do — especially when it involves nursery school.
One of the many awesome things about being in your 40s is you’ve presumably weeded the friendship garden. Gone is the gauntlet of college holdovers. That bridezilla who made you wear teal? The frenemy who made you feel bad about yourself? You can “like” their shit on Facebook from 3,000 miles away. The only friends that prove resistant to this sort of pumicing are the parents of my kids’ nursery school friends. Even though one of my kids is 15, these peeps are the I-Can’t-Quit-You-Baby of my social life.
Trust me; I’ve tried. As we become parents, we have license to create our own units, and we can always play the super-busy-scatter-brained Mom Card to blow off obligations. I mean, no one will fault you for just trying to be focused on the kids, right? I’ve even mastered that CEO move of using the passive voice to deliver bad news. “I’m crazy busy” sounds cocky. “Thanks to school commitments, our schedule is booked up until Thanksgiving” usually elicits a sympathetic “Us, too.”
But what if the people you have outgrown are people you met through the kids? That is a lot trickier.
The good news is that generally by the time you breed you have honed antenna for the wing moms who will do that it-takes-a-village bullshit with you. You can also sniff out a gossip or shy away from overly paranoid types who cut grapes into quarters or give their kids sponge baths with Purrell®. But even when it comes to the ones we actually like, it can be difficult to the find time to meet as the kids grow up or grow apart.
One of my nursery school classes was very tight, and the moms had many lunches and catch-up drinks even after the Kindergarten Diaspora. I genuinely adored them and never felt like anyone was competitive or creepy. Sometimes we’d be in a group; other times, we’d have more intimate wine fests à deux ou trois. But sadly, as the diaper days began receding, the emotional Elmer’s glue began rubbing off.
"My three kids are not whining toddlers anymore. They no longer go batshit, leaving me craving that shared eye-roll emoji with a fellow ear-drum-busted, exhausted mom."
The first to go were those who boned themselves into the suburbs. As a city rat, I simply had to let go of the country mice. “It’s only 20 minutes!” is a falsehood they swear by, shouted to the table of moms at their goodbye luncheon as much as to themselves. I tried to stay in touch but in the end, “meeting in the middle” was kind of out of the question. “No, Sweetie, I’m not taking the train to Yonkers when I can barely see my best friend down the street.”
The next to go were those friends afflicted with DCL (Dreaded Charity Luncheon) syndrome. The invites for these should read simply “lunch plus an eon” because these take a Stone Age to complete. I know there are so many important charitable causes, but it’s not like we are actually spending QT together. We are poking at rubber chicken atop frisée enduring interminable speeches about the Unfortunate.
The final cleaving has nothing to do with us. It has to do with our kids. My three kids are not whining toddlers anymore. They no longer go batshit, leaving me craving that shared eye-roll emoji with a fellow ear-drum-busted, exhausted mom. They are fully evolved, complicated, amazing human beings who are much better company, and they constantly crack me up, so I don’t want to ditch them to meet up in some bar. Don’t worry, I’m not Mean Girls Amy Poehler – the “Cool Mom” twinning in Juicy Couture sweats passing out a buffet of condoms. I’m the Parent, not the BFF. Proof: I went completely shit-house when someone was vaping some watermelon bullshit at my house.
As I get older, I feel less guilt about withdrawing into my family and group of sister-like closest friends. Not long ago I was starting to feel like a friend octopus with my limbs all pulled in different directions, and now I feel like the happy caterpillar cocooned at home. That said, when I do make the effort to get the old-nursery school gang back together, there is something so comforting about those familiar faces. Like army buddies with whom you were in the mommy trenches, they represent not only your kid’s young childhood but also a part of yourself as a young mother.
So even if I can’t hit that breakfast trunk show or hit that Wasps Who Love Animals Too Much Sip N’ Shop, there is always a sincere fondness for these women who were compasses through the chaos. Maybe we will rage again one day when the Karglings fly the coop – all of us in our 50s dancing downtown without drop-offs the next morning. Who knows? We always say life is short, but it’s long enough to have many more social cycles. One day I’ll be psyched to party like it’s 2029.
Jill Kargman is a New York-based writer, actress and television producer. Follow her on Instagram @jillkargman.