Winter has me yearning for a change of scenery and wanting to hibernate at the same time. I’ve never been the type to scale mountains. I don’t even like camping, but my entire life is conducted within a five-mile radius of my home. Most of the time, I’m grateful I’m not sitting in traffic or dealing with TSA hassles and long layovers, but sometimes, it’s a little confining.
One of the drawbacks of living, as an adult, in the town where you grew up, is seeing your ex-boyfriends, and their mothers, at places like the grocery store.
Most of my ex-boyfriends would give me a good reference. I left them in better shape than I found them.
Most of them …
Grocery store interactions are always very awkward. When you see the ex-boyfriend, or his mom, do you say hi? Do you pretend not to see them? Do you abandon your cart and run from the store? Or do you say hello, ask how they are, and then explain to them that, no, you aren’t actually pregnant, it’s just that the outfit you are wearing makes you appear pregnant?
If you are like me, you’ll choose the last option.
My husband doesn’t have the same dilemma as me when it comes to craving some social interaction and a look at some walls that are not in our home, or the schools where we work, or the grocery store. After a long workweek, he would rather not go anywhere for at least 48 hours. If he had his way, he would spend all of Friday night watching Netflix and go to bed by 10 p.m., then he would spend most of the weekend in the garage playing with spark plugs and cylinder shifts and stuff like that. Is there such a thing as a cylinder shift? I’m sure there is.
But I won’t always let him have his way. Sometimes I make him go out to eat, or even go to the mall with me and the kids. A couple of times I have organized trips to amusement parks, much to his consternation. Look, it’s not like I’d go to an amusement park if I didn’t have kids. I am not a kid at heart. I don’t want to ride roller coasters or hug a giant bunny rabbit.
It’s just that you can’t take your children to do the kinds of things I like to do. My kids only want to go to bookstores that carry toys. They do not want to visit a winery or a tea room. They do not want to eat Indian food. I can’t take them to listen to jazz music in a smoky nightclub. (Do smoky nightclubs still exist?)
So we try to do things that we all can enjoy, like pay $20 to go to an indoor playground where my kids can jump inside giant inflatables for an hour before they start asking me for dollars to play video games so they can win little trinkets made of plastic in China that will get lost in my purse before they ask about them weeks later.
Sometimes it’s nice to see people I know at the indoor playgrounds. I don’t often run into my ex-boyfriends or their moms there.
But when I force my husband to go out without the kids, we usually go to the more obscure establishments in town for a couple of reasons: One is that we don’t want to fight the crowds and masses that line up outside the casual dining places near the interstate. The other is that we are actually hoping we don’t see anyone we know.
We want to get out, but not to actually socialize.
It’s rare, but kind of nice when we don’t see any of our current or former students. We’re both teachers, and of course, we adore all of our students, but we like to see them on our own terms. They need a break from us on the weekends, and we understand. Plus, for various reasons, there might be one or two former students who would consider poisoning us. Probably not, but some people overreact about detentions and dirty looks intended to say, “For the love of God, would you please stop talking while I try to explain your assignment?”
I bet I am not the only female teacher who ever drove to another county to take her children swimming in order to avoid familiar teen lifeguards. Not only am I a terrible swimmer – OK, I am not any kind of a swimmer – but feeling overconfident in a bathing suit is not one of my problems.
When I made a living as a writer, and especially when I worked from home, I found that the job sometimes wasn’t social enough, and the more time I spent hiding behind my computer, the more depressed and reclusive I felt. I’d force myself to go out and do interviews that could have been conducted by phone or email. Sometimes it was painful, but it was like going to the gym. I was glad I had done it and glad when it was over.
Now I get almost enough social interaction during my five-day workweek, but somehow I feel that if I just grade papers, clean toilets and do laundry all weekend, I’m not using my “free” time wisely. And so I go out and try to find a change of scenery somewhere between my house and the Target store on the other side of town. And quite often I don’t do my hair or dress very well, and I hope not to see anyone I know.