Two friends

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I have never had many female friends. A handful at a time is about all I have ever been able to manage and I am not someone who carries friendships over from situation to situation or age to age. My high school and college friends don’t outnumber my fingers combined, and my workplace friendship have rarely bled over into my real life. The number of friend friends I have made as an adult is smaller than the number of friends I’ve carried from my school days when making friends was easier just given the sheer number of opportunities.

Oh, there are many women I am friendly with. I am easy peasy in casual situations. That wasn’t always so. I had to work hard to learn the small talk game and seem completely at ease among people I don’t know. My introvert self still quakes and cringes in new situations or when numbers rise. It is easily overwhelmed, but I have learned to force inner calm or to ignore the urge to cower. And it only took me not quite 50 years to do it.

I will always be more comfortable in the virtual realm. Thank the gods for social media outlets, really. The confidence I have acquired sallying forth into the boundless and ethereal place known as the Internet bulked up my introvert, who took her initial lessons in cultivating a bold exterior over the many years spent as a public school teacher.

But, for all that, I am still hopeless when it comes to making friends with members of my gender.

It’s not that I don’t try. My attempts are sincere. The results go either way but when they go south, it’s usually with spectacular effect.

Take yesterday.

The danger in trying to establish bonds with the mothers of the players on Dee’s soccer team is that our common focal point is a competitive sport. My upbringing  and my latent alpha girl tendencies prevent me from viewing sports as “fun” unless winning is involved. Partly it is a Catholic school girl thing and partly it’s my Dad’s fault.

As a young man, my father played farm league ball. He was a catcher and one of the first games he schooled DNOS and I in was catch and then Pickle In The Middle before progressing to batting grounds and pop flys to us with the occasional straight for your face to hone our skills. Because he worked 50 to 60 hours a week in a meat-packing plant, he didn’t have time for either of us to whine or dog it when he coached us, and he expected us to practice on our own as well. Practice made good players better. Inherent ability would only take us so far and practice would take us the rest of the way.

This is not how girls are coached, generally speaking. Not when I was growing up back in the 70’s nor when I was coaching in the 90’s nor now. Girls are babied and told that it’s all about “fun” and “trying” and “team spirit”.

Dad was more like Yoda. There is no try. And the “fun” of competition was about busting your hump at 110% for the win. Team spirit? That was a much a given as sportsmanship.

So though I acknowledge Dee’s efforts, I don’t sing sunshine up her bum when she dogs it or quits. I praise the outstanding rather than the givens and I point out those things that need work. Because she swears that soccer is the game for her and she wants to someday play on club teams – I treat her ambition with respect and provide realistic feedback or kicks in the backside – depending.

I am also not someone who thinks that rearranging my life around hers is just what parents do. I will not cart about a child who doesn’t try or work to improve. Her social life is not a big priority. In fact, the idea that children have social lives is too perplexing for me to even spend much thought on.

For all of the above, I am not the mom in the locker room spooning out sugar and I have garnered more than a few disapproving looks as a result.

And it probably isn’t going to win me any playdates at Starbucks either.

But Coach’s Wife took my inept attempts at “chatter” personally.

“You have such a way with pointing out the obvious,” Rob said.

And the trouble with the obvious is that it’s usually a proverbial elephant which no one cares to acknowledge. In yesterday’s case, our soccer association board really, really wants our kids to be competitive at a tourney level, but not much is provided by way of making this happen. The U10 Girls get a measly 1 hour of pitch time a week to practice, and the team is too large to give the girls much playing time during their once a week game. There are no camps or clinics scheduled at all during the season, and no camps during the summer.

To top it off, the board bemoans lack of parent volunteers but doesn’t make meetings accessible with their usual slotting of them in the evenings during the work/school week and doesn’t make much use at all of even the simplest of social media to engage parents and kids.

But to be  fair, it’s not just the board. A significant number of parents aren’t interested in extra practices or even the once a week practice.

In our neck of Alberta, the winter sport of choice involves ice – hockey or Ringette. Both are bloodthirsty competitions which parent and child alike take to like followers of Attila. The less aggressive gravitate towards soccer.

When we arrived at Servus Place in St. Albert for today’s game, the other coach greeted me with news that Coach’s Wife wouldn’t be attending because of yesterday’s conversation with me. She was miffed.

“But it’s okay,” I was told. “She only sits and texts anyway.”

Which she does. but that puts her into good company because I have witnessed many a parent thumbing it on the sidelines.

I was tempted to apologize for my faux pas to her husband today as he and I chatted about tomorrow’s competition in the locker room after today’s game. He’s an easy-going guy and in retrospect, his frozen smile yesterday as his wife and I conversed, makes much more sense. But I let it go. She could have fed me a heads up about her being on the board and I would have changed the subject. It was a bit underhanded to withhold that and then git snarky about it later.

On the bright side, some of the other mom’s are giving it a go to engage with me despite my awkwardness with it. Perhaps they feel a bit sorry for Dee? Whatever the case, I am working hard at curbing my blunter edges though – admittedly – this is a Herculean task.


The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

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I’ve been reading a mythology based fiction novel to the child again. She simply can’t get enough Greek mythology. She’s discovered that our library has the entire Percy Jackson collection on cd and even though I have read them to her, and she has read some of them herself, she’s decided to start at the beginning and hear them again.

The book I am reading to her places the Greek gods and goddesses in a special high school where they are supposed to learn about their gifts and to be “better” deities. It’s a series and this particular volume deals with Aphrodite trying to atone for her faux pas with Paris and Helen, which launched the Trojan War, by helping a young sculptor named Pygmalion find true love.

Of course, the story of Pygmalion and Galtea has nothing to do with the Trojan War (or the Egyptian Goddess, Isis), and I have to give the author an “A” for her knowledge of myths in general and the clever idea of plucking them all in a high school setting. The gods of Ancient Greece were nothing if not teen-like in their demeanor and outlook.

Aphrodite is a fitting Valentine’s Day topic. Her Roman son, Cupid, after all, is one of today’s symbols and his arrows are supposedly the root cause of what we call romantic love. She herself, however, is not such a simple creature. To the Greeks she represented more than just love and superficial beauty. She is in fact one of the oldest deities in human history and might be among the first gods human beings worshipped.

According tot he Greeks, Aphrodite’s birth was the direct result of Kronos’s gelding of their father. As his manhood sunk to the bottom of the sea, semen and blood mixed with the salty waves and Aphrodite rose from the stew riding a conch shell. Like the goddess Athena later on, Aphrodite has no mother. She was sired only and as a result is quite a forceful deity who wore the pants in all her relationships.

She has many aspects that run the gamut of female existence, but she also held dominion over male potency and war. Currently an exhibit of her history and the art it’s inspired is running at a museum in Boston. One of the sculptures has never been out of Italy before and depicts Hermaphrodite, her son with Hermes. From the back it appears to be a sleeping woman but walk around to the front and there is a penis protruding from between the sleeper’s legs.

Dee is a bit young for Aphrodite’s full history. Rick Riordan, who authors the Percy Jackson series, deftly works around the fact that his demi-god characters are all products of adultery. Last night, Dee and I discussed the fact that Percy’s father was married but had girlfriends. She didn’t seem to think this was too awful until I asked her what she would think of Dad having girlfriends on the side. She wrinkled her nose in her most disapproving manner,

“I wouldn’t like that.”

I wouldn’t care for it much myself.

“So that’s why Hera is also so angry at Zeus then,” she continued as more pieces fell into place.

“Exactly,” I said.

“But why does Hephaestus need to spy on Aphrodite all the time to catch her with Ares if he has girlfriends too?”

“He’s just being mean.”

More puzzled forehead frown lines and pursed lips followed but no more questions – yet.

Master Yoda - origami.

Origami Yoda via Wikipedia

Yoda was right. You do or you do not. It’s not a shady issue. Succeed and be rewarded. Fail and suffer the fall-out.

It reminds me a bit of that old saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, which stems perhaps from the idea that good deeds often depend on the favored to achieve success and it’s never a good idea to gamble too much on anything that’s so far outside your own sphere of influence.

DNOS is chuckling like Mrs. Santa tonight because N1 is heading back to Iowa this weekend. It’s been a costly gamble. And not just monetarily. But it’s time to admit defeat and send the troops home to regroup.

I’ve lost yet another day in damage control and I am mightily weary. I have a life and commitments of my own that need my attention and resources. Yet I find that I can’t work up any real emotion over it aside from a heavy sigh. I am not disappointed because I am beyond that where family is concerned. They are who they are. I am not surprised when events end up the same time and again.

But I am not inclined to be sorry either. True. It is do or do not, but you can’t “do” anything until you are willing to “try” something. In some cases, anything.

As I was walk/running at the track today, it occurred to me why I have never won the lottery. If I had that kind of obscene money, I would use it to help people avoid learning the lessons they were born to study and master. I couldn’t help but use my good fortune to give others the opportunity to realize success of their own. Being happy,and really without any serious needs or even wants, for the first time in my life these last few years, I just want everyone to know that same feeling.

Destiny, however, has seen fit to put me in a position that makes it impossible for me to do anything but spot people toward their goals thus forcing them to do the rest of the work themselves. And it’s for the best. You don’t learn anything when life just hands you things, or when people in your life hand you things without requiring anything from you by way of effort. A little help is okay but I think there is also some quaint old saying about the universe helping those more who are willing to also assist their progress with personal sacrifice and hard work. I might be paraphrasing a bit, but I am sure you understand.

Rob, and my mother, both think that I should pat myself on the back for at least doing something because there are those who do nothing and then sit back and nod sagely when precisely nothing else happens. CB, I think, has earned a pat or two himself even with his implosion taken into account. He has less than I do in terms of resources and yet he offered all he had and then some and gained little from it.

But still I think Yoda was on to something. There is no try when try is all you have to offer. If you aren’t willing or don’t believe that something meaningful can result, it’s better not to bother.