One of the stereotypes of Minnesotans that I find to be very true is that people make friends for life. What I mean by that is that for many of us, our best friends as adults, are often people we’ve know since high school or even grade school. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the things I love about my life in Minnesota. I have history with most of the people I interact with that is loaded with great memories. But (there is always a but, isn’t there?) I have recently started to realize that this mindset makes it difficult to expand your social circles.
Take kids sporting events for instance. My son recently started playing football. He is on a team that is filled with kids who have been playing together for a few years and he is the new guy. Now kids can make friends and fit in easily, but as a parent, trying to break into the mom-clique is no easy task. Even the dad’s tend to stick to themselves and talk to the “guys” they know well. Now I am a relatively friendly person, if a little shy at first. I have no trouble meeting “Non-vanilla” people at social events. They want to meet new people, talk, and find new common interests so it is easy to walk up to a group of people talking about something and just join in the conversation.
This is not the case on the playground! I find myself trying to join into the conversation and one of two things happen. I get a relatively blank stare with a “polite” smile or I get lost in my own thoughts because what they are talking about is so boring I just can’t follow (ie; discussing their 11 year old sons’ bathroom habits or setting up junior high “play dates”).
I make friends much easier in situations where I can smile a lot, flirt a little, and ask strangely personal questions to really get to know someone. I am pretty sure that this kind of behavior on the playground will not only turn me into an outcast but also make life difficult for my children. So for now, I will do my best to pick appropriate topics and step out of my comfort zone just a little by being bold and introducing myself to those mom’s despite the fact that they look at me like I am not one of them because our kids did not go to the same pre-school. Maybe I will meet someone I have something in common with that way. Wish me luck!