“So how do you like it here?” she said pouring me more coffee.
I’d been here less than six months when I was invited for coffee by a mom I didn’t know. She was tall, blonde, and liked to talk about martinis and golf. Other than that, her invitation was as unfamiliar as she was.
Her house was pretty and decorated. There was homemade banana bread arranged on a white platter and coffee served in delicate mugs that burned my palms.
It felt like an audition. I’d heard she was part of a book club that might be accepting new members. I loved to read. I really needed this gig.
I chose my outfit carefully that morning. I was in JCrewville now – my black work clothes were useless here. I threw on a khaki skirt, red t-shirt and flip flops. It wasn’t Lily Pulitzer but then, neither was I.
Scootching forward on her toile couch, I tried to sound bright. How should I answer this?
“Well, to be honest,” I said swallowing the sticky bread, “I’ve sort of had a hard time adjusting. I, um —“
“I know it’s hard here” burst in the other guest. She was another blonde who had been here several years. Her husband was a native – born and raised here. She seemed eager to want to show me the ropes.
“Let me give you one piece of advice” the Native’s Wife said. “Too many people make the mistake of attaching themselves to a clique too quickly and then regretting it. Take your time. Get to know them. Then choose your clique.”
She was dead serious. I sank back into the couch.
“Hmmmm…” was all I could manage, remembering to blink.
I still think about that coffee date. It was one of those lacerating moments when I realized life here would not be what I expected. Something was definitely amuck. I was beginning to get the picture: go to high school, graduate, go to college, graduate, move to a big city, start a career, build a career, get married, get promoted, have a baby, get promoted, quit your job, leave the city, move to a small town, poof! You’re back in high school.
Choose your clique wisely? Hmmmm…
I’ll say this: when you’re a stay-at-home mom, friendships are everything. There’s a lot of mental monotony with ushering kids around and fixing meals. Housework is draining on the good days and degrading on the bad ones. So we SAHMmies really need friends to keep us going. Unfortunately with so many intelligent mommies running around with too much un-channeled mental energy, the making of friends can get shockingly competitive and grossly strategic.
Since moving here, I’ve been counseled on who to suck up to and who to avoid. I’ve been warned not to associate myself with a particular person because it could alienate me from others. I’ve been told which volunteer activities will make me the most “visible” — oh, and I’ve been scolded not to complain or people will think I hate it here (gasp).
I can’t say I’ve been entirely innocent either. Living in such a small town, I’m aware of the perceived social categories. To claim it hasn’t influenced me would be a lie.
Yet as a mother of two daughters, I am shocked at how often I need to sternly remind myself of this. I am the mom. We are the mothers. They learn it from us. We have to be strong and authentic, so they stand a chance.
After seven long years, I only have a few friends here. They are funny, interesting and kind. I’ve chosen them selectively because I enjoy them for who they are, not because of their perceived social standing.
Truly, I wish I had more — but I refuse to drink any Kool-aid, and I keep thinking we’ll be leaving here one day to move to a place where things are different. But is there really such a place? I refuse to give up hope.
I also have these great friends cherry-picked from other places in my life. They are scattered across the country but they are near to me in so many ways. Without them, I’d be certifiable…and an orphan.
I’ve also spent a lot of time alone — more than I ever did before. It’s not always by choice, but at least I know I can do it now and not get all wacky. I couldn’t have said that seven years ago. Plus, spending a fair amount of time by myself has forced me to think a little more for myself. And that’s not such a bad thing, either.
Choose a clique wisely? Hmmm….
I’ll wisely choose not to.
5 thoughts on “Choosing a Clique Wisely”
This was a really interesting post to read. It reminded me very much so of high school (which I didn’t particularly enjoy), except a lot more blatant about the norms. I have always been in favor of quality rather than quantity when it comes friendship. And I certainly don’t want anybody else telling me who I should and should not be friends with. Good for you for doing your own thing.
I didn’t much care for high school either — maybe that’s what keeps me from just rolling with things now. We are the moms! Thanks for stopping by!
What a great, thought provoking post! I completely agree — friends come in a variety of flavours don’t they? I love your description of cherry picked friends scattered through the country! Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way! I enjoyed reading yours.
I just moved away from a town like that. I never quite fit in with any of the cliques it offered, though I was in a book club. I just can’t stand the idea of “frenemies” which most of the time, is what a clique is.
Glad to hear you got it in the book club (I did not) and out of the town (maybe some day)!
I know it been 3 years since some of the reply’s, but I come and live in a small town. I just thought it would be good to share your link on facebook. Facebook is very similar to a small town clique. We have to choose our friends and group/pages wisely. It’s very easy to see who are part of the herd that MIGHT accept you if you are willing to play dumb and just ” Like” everything they say.
I had the same backwards-seeming path you did: grew up in a big city, had my career, moved to a small town to raise my kids. I thought it was like high school when the kids were little; now that they’re in high school, it’s REALLY like high school. But my own kids have inspired me: they have carved out a great niche for themselves, with kids from all kinds of backgrounds, and they appreciate people just as they are. “Why does it matter what other people think?” my son recently asked me, with all sincerity. And you know, he’s right.