I had thought about it, perhaps even obsessively, for a couple of months. In one scenario, when I returned to the spot where what-I-had-thought-was-my-tribe convene for coffee each morning, I would be met with warmth and kindness, the passage of time having clarified how overblown our misunderstanding had become. In another, I was yelled at, shooed away, had it made clear that, no, actually, time had changed nothing. And the third: I could easily continue to avoid it all by taking my coffee business elsewhere – which is precisely what I did.
I stopped to grab some cash from my local ATM when one of the women who has chosen to remain friendly with me saw my car at the far end of the same parking lot where CoffeeGate had gone down. “Hey, want to do a quick coffee now?” she texted me. It was nearly an hour before the big guns would be there, so, with only a brief hesitation, I replied, “Sure!”
I had not stepped foot in there since having been expelled back in January. I kinda felt the way one does when they are 19 and their fake ID fools the bouncer. But I was there, and whatever would unfold, would just have to unfold. I am 53 damn years old. This is absurd.
It was not long before another woman we both know happened to come in for her morning cup of joe. A semi-regular “member” of the group, months would go by without her coming in for the daily ritual, yet she knew all about what had gone down. Even still, she pulled up a chair and we three picked up as though no time had passed. It filled my soul. I had missed the camaraderie and friendship. I appreciated the warmth – neither of these women were having any of the bullshit that went down and I love them for that.
With a much appreciated heads-up, I braced myself for what was to come. My two coffee-mates were, as they should be, greeted warmly. I, on the other hand, was totally, completely and without even a hint of acknowledgment, ignored. Okay. I hadn’t really considered that scenario, but I guess it beats being humiliated.
As two more of the women came in, I wondered if their approach to me would be the same. Had they, in the months since my banishment, curated and choreographed just what they would do in such a situation? Well, given the fact that each did the exact same thing, I have to wonder. And, yes, I am aware of how narcissistic that sounds. Yet…I contend: it is not out of the question.
So there we were. One group of women at one table, another at another. I can only speak for myself in saying that, more than uncomfortable or stressful or ridiculous, it felt absurd and surreal. Aren’t we all grown women? Aren’t we all free thinkers who can decide for ourselves what constitutes an irreparable set of circumstances? What is this really about?
As infuriating as it is sad, as ridiculous as it is painful, as unnerving as it is surreal, I will cop to this: it is dangerous and destructive. Here’s why.
We are living in challenging times. We are at an age that our parents need us more, there is no such thing as job security or the promise of good health. Everyone, to.a.person. needs more, not less support. Marriages are shaky. Relationships are as tenuous as they are desperately needed. The stock market is eroding our sense of security every.damn.day. Our children are facing a world so completely different from the one in which we grew up – more so, I would argue, than earlier generations. Schools are setting up metal detectors and armed guards at the front door. Students are required to wear lanyards not only to prove they are supposed to be there but, perhaps more to the point, to make themselves identifiable should someone run wild in the halls with an assault rifle. Mothers are drinking wine and smoking pot just.to.get.through.the.day. Grandparents are sick with worry about what the future will look like for their children and their children’s children. Everything, from stem to stern is hanging in the balance.
What, I ask, is to be gained in alienating others? How is it good for anyone to be unwilling to accept not only the mistakes someone else may have made, but their own missteps as well? And is digging your feet in out of pride – or, more likely, in the absence of knowing how to hit the re-wind button – beneficial to anyone? No one wins. No one feels good.
I haven’t been able to shake it for months now. I’ve run the gamut of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, disbelief, frustration and, yep, anger again. Relationships should bring feelings of support, kindness, love, acceptance, understanding and flexibility, right?
I’ve come to realize that my upset is no longer about what happened with these women.
It is about acknowledging that moving five (but feels like 10) town away was hard and entering a new community which, for a variety of reasons – none of which were personal –that did not necessarily offer open arms was even harder.
It is about starting from scratch. Finding new doctors and dentists and dry cleaners and manicurists and gyms and restaurants and friends. Making friends is easy when your kids are little…once they are teenagers: close to impossible.
It is about thinking you had found a tribe only to realize you hadn’t.
It is about the challenges that come along with four children – only half of whom you gave birth to.
It is about that sick feeling that every single parent has to one degree or another; you know: might our school be next?
It is about the ease with which self-confidence can, and will, morph into crippling insecurity.
It is about hoping and searching for a tribe.
Because at the end of the day, we all need a tribe.