I used to have an okay group of mom friends. I wasn’t besties with any of them, but they were nice; their kids were nice; everyone got along well. When the pandemic hit and everyone hunkered down, those moms stuck their heads in the sand. They invited me to go tubing on the river. They invited me to pool parties. When I finally snarked out on a group thread that we weren’t going anywhere without a mask and distanced, and we were following CDC guidelines by staying home, thanks, they stopped messaging me.
I’ve always known I lived in a conservative area. I’ve always known that, for example, the moms I hung out with sort of kind of supported Trump and really, really loved to go to megachurch. My son’s best friend’s mother had a sticker on her car that said “Starbucks and Guns”; we once had to shut his friend up about the NRA when she visited, my husband and I staring at each other like, what do we do in this situation? Many homeschool offerings, like co-ops, are religiously based.
But because we simply stayed away from the Jesus-Is-My-Copilot academies and our kids played together well, without discussing the NRA, we assumed everything was fine. We were so, so wrong.
People Showed Their True Colors By Refusing To Mask
When the pandemic hit, our homeschooling community became this strange stew of independence and religious and political conservatism conspiring to make everyone completely opposed to masking. Posts began to pop up: posts asking which municipalities had mask ordinances, so groups could avoid meeting at playgrounds there.
People who refused to mask revealed themselves as anti-science, as sheep willing to follow the GOP party line. They were unwilling to deal with a little bit of discomfort in order to save other people. They weren’t civic-minded. They were self-centered. Many believed lies they saw on the internet: that masks recirculated oxygen and caused brain damage; that masks were ineffective. They were more willing to believe Trump or Dr. Google than actual science.
During a post about the state’s homeschool convention, someone asked, “Are they requiring masks for entry?” Another person replied something like, “No! It’s great! Only about one in twenty people wearing masks!”
This convention was held in the most COVID-19 ridden area of our state and attended by hundreds of people.
I Tried To Ask For Friends
Because my old mom group was partying without a mask or, if they did wear a mask, without any distancing whatsoever (and because at this point in the pandemic I didn’t trust them about anything COVID-19 related), I posted on our local homeschool groups asking, once I’d achieved vaccine immunity, if anyone would be open to an outdoor, masked playdate. I made it clear that my husband and I were immune.
All hell broke loose.
In a 40+ comment thread that admins deleted for abusive comments, I was raked over the coals. How dare I have the audacity to ask that other people wear a mask? Why would I ask that people wear a mask — mask ordinances had been lifted. Children shouldn’t wear masks; they needed fresh air and forcing them to mask outdoors was tantamount to abuse. On and on. Forty comments later, no one had offered a playdate.
I eventually found two moms, neither of whom I’d ever met or heard of, willing to meet my sons and I outdoors with masks on. I’ve met one so far, and she was really nice. Two moms out of an entire homeschooling community.
I comment on lots of threads offering masked outdoor playdates to moms who ask for friends for their kids. No one ever takes me up on them.
I Got Burned Again When I Offered Help
Another mom posted that she was new to the area and looking for friends, especially older mom friends. She was a younger mom, and we had just about everything in common: lots of hippie baby stuff, lots of philosophical stuff. She seemed nice, so I sent her a message. I said hey, I understood what it was like to be a mom without a ton of friends, and I’d love to get together for a masked outdoor playdate. I warned her we didn’t agree on a few things, but said I didn’t care.
Oh, she said, she’d love to get together. But they didn’t mask.
What the fuck.
How hard is it? One year in, how difficult is it to shove a piece of fabric over your faceholes so you don’t transmit or contract what can be a deadly disease? Even if you don’t personally think it does a damn thing, how hard is it to do to make other people more comfortable?
The homeschooling community in our area is simply made up of COVID-19 denying nutjobs. They regularly plan trips: to farms, to museums. They have football and cheerleading squads. They do co-ops. There isn’t room for someone who’s spent a goddamn year trying to mask, distance, and stay home as much as possible. I feel like a kid doing all the work on a group project.
Our masked outdoor playdate this week was cool. But it was forced and strange in a way that no playdate I’ve been on ever has been. It was clear: we are here because we believe in COVID-19. I hope you’re sane otherwise. And she was, and I was very grateful. But we were desperate for our kids to play, desperate that they become friends in a pressured way I wasn’t used to.
Because there were so few of us, and so few chances for our kids to see other kids, we needed it to work.