“Hi Lindsay,” a voice said behind me in line at the bank the other day.
I turned, smiling. And then my smile faltered. “Oh. Hi,” I said politely.
“How have you been?”
“Good,” I said. “Good. How about you?”
“All is well.”
“That’s good. Well, it’s great to see you.” I started to turn back around.
“Hey, we’d still really like to have Punky over.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Definitely.” A card was pressed into my hand. It had a picture of a beanie on it, and a telephone number. I cringed involuntarily. “Great,” I said, smiling. “I’ll um, call you, okay?”
“Yes,” the man said. “Do.”
I turned back around and clenched my teeth. Beanie Bill.
Beanie Bill is becoming a bit of a problem. He has a daughter who could be Punky’s identical twin, both physically and intellectually. But he also has a tie-dyed beanie, which he wears constantly, whether he’s at the gym or the swimming pool or headed home from work.
And I have to admit, it freaks me out.
I mean, I try to be open minded. But I have a hard time coming to terms with the mind of a man who would choose to wear a tie-dyed beanie, 24-7. Beanie Bill lives just a couple of neighborhoods over from ours, so we see him (and his beanie) all the time. And every single time we see him, he invites Punky to come over and play. He’s even e-mailed us a few times about it.
I haven’t responded, simply because I can’t think of a gracious way to say, “Over my dead body.” And it’s getting awkward.
“I’m sorry,” I told my husband after handing him the business card later that afternoon. “But I just can’t send my four-year-old to Beanie Bill’s house. I mean, he clearly has very bad judgment. I saw him trying to swim in that beanie once, until the lifeguard made him take it off.”
“Oh, I’m sure she’d be fine,” Hubs said. “And if you’re so concerned, why not invite Darcy to play here?”
“I’ve thought about that,” I said. “But I get the distinct impression that Darcy’s part of a package deal. If she’s friends with Punky, then we’re friends by default with ... Beanie Bill.”
Hubs was silent.
“Yep,” I said, crossing my arms.
And that’s where we are now. As a stepmom, I have the benefit of knowing that it gets easier as the kids get older. Soon, Punky will reach an age at which my contact with her friends’ parents is pretty much limited to awkward foyer conversations, either in my home or theirs. By the time she’s a teenager, most of her friends’ parents will simply call their kids on the cell phone when they arrive to pick them up and wait in the driveway until they come out. I’ll be lucky to get a wave.
But now? It’s different. Now, when my children are too small to be really without me for any length of time, it is an absolute requirement that I be friends with her playdate’s parents. And I sort of hate this necessity because of kids like Darcy, who is a perfect friend for Punky, but whose dad is Beanie Bill. It’s not that I don’t respect his right to march to the beat of his own beanie. I just don’t want to hang out with him. Or field his invitations to dinner. Or feel compelled to mark his birthday on my calendar with a tiny, hand-drawn beanie.
I’m sure there are those of you out there who will get huffy and claim you’d be Beanie Bill’s BFF if it meant finding the very best of all playmates for your little Monkey Butt.
Well, my hat’s off to you. But I think we’ve all experienced this situation in one way or another. Maybe you avoid the mom who dresses like a skank or the dad who touches you every time you talk to him, even though their kids are perfectly nice. What do you do?
Me? I stay the hell away.