Since I left the salaried workforce and regular office hours, I've been frequenting the pick-up spots -- where Moms pick up their children. And can I tell you what a meat market it is out there! Women check each other out, pick each other up and turn each other down with more obvious superficiality than any smokey bar.
And it was at one of these hot pick-up spots that I got snubbed the other day, by a gal I know. It's nothing really. Just a big, glaring failure to see someone standing right there in the same room with you.
Maybe it's just a cultural difference and not a snub. But it just didn't seem so. I mean how hard is it really to say hi, or meet someone's eyes with a look of recognition and a smile.
Anyway, it hurt and I left feeling more than a little irritated. After all, I've been spending my savings working on the premise that it is my son who must be taught the importance of making eye contact, how to approach someone with an appropriate greeting, how to compliment and make compromises and other conversation skills.
But there are times, many times, when I feel our culture deserves a diagnosis. If it comes down to people intentionally refusing to make eye contact and recognize each other, well then our communities are sick.
And Is it really so surprising. Ever lengthening seasons of political campaigns and daily doses of pundit opinion have fueled a high fever of intolerance. Rhetoric of hate directed or inferred against not only political but also racial, ethnic or socio-economic groups just blurs into hate in general. Do you think we could keep this contained to politics? Afterall, requests have been made for the public to take action and for example snub all things French (freedom fries), or adopt doubts beyond reason (birthers) or any number of ridiculous acts. The fever has spread to a general rise of intolerance and of course bullying.
In such a climate of intolerance, it is hard to imagine that my quirky high-functioning son really stands a chance of finding a place in his community. After all, he functions so well, it is difficult to realize what is going on with him behaviorally. There's not enough there to signal compassion and understanding to kick in -- most are quick to dismiss him as weird.
And so I think of my eccentric ancestors. Many were quirky, often wonderfully so. Quite a few intelligent minds: artists, musicians, chefs, engineers. And a rich heritage of traits: stoic Scots, fiery Irish, reserved Brit, passionate French, etc. And they all found a welcome place in their communities.
I'm just not convinced the same would be true today. When friendliness is held in such reserve, would they find a welcome place? Or would they stand there like so many unable to mingle because they're only interested in picking up a certain someone with certain qualities and nobody else.
Silver Lining: While I've learned to just ignore those who are too cool to smile at any but an exclusive few, there are those wonderful folks who always say "hi" and I always make sure to say hi just as warmly right back. We've not always become great friends, but we've definitely become friendly. I'll just claim them as my community. And then there are my true friends. I feel most fortunate to have found an absolutely wonderful family with a friend for each of us to adore. We had a double sleep over last weekend. Their son and daughter stayed over night with our son and daughter. The kids read books, had a movie night, played games and then went snow boarding the next day. They had to be torn away and once done, collapsed beneath a warm heavy blanket of happy exhaustion. Quality friends and big smiles far outweigh superficial snubs.