Monday, 27 October 2008
Not knowing who your friends are
I tell you, the reason I'm online today is mumsnet. An online community for mothers, I fell on it a few years ago when I was working from home and became a complete addict. There were all these other mothers on it, and they were great - they were sarcastic and imperfect, and they helped me learn how to bring my children up without killing them.
They told me loads of useful stuff. How to bake a birthday cake, how to make playdough from scratch, and what seeds to sow in my hedge. I found out how to clean my house with the insanity that is flylady; that Poisson Rouge could entertain the Lattes for hours; that I could sell old books on Green Metropolis; that I could get away with wearing pencil skirts and killer heels even at 38; and how to paint the spindles on my staircase (with my hand in a disposable glove and an old sock with paint on it, in case you need that information sometime). I found out that women you just don't know can be very, very caring and very, very funny. When I was frantic they calmed me down, and when I was miserable they cheered me up.
But lately I've found I just don't want to be there. I've realised that the website that changed all kinds of things about the way I am can't change the 15-year-old in me that worries that nobody likes her. (In real life, she's quite happy, thanks, and has no problems in this area anymore). I have spent the best part of four years chatting away to a load of women I had come to think of as my friends - despite the creeping realisation that if I fell off the planet tomorrow none of them would notice I had gone.
Lately the realisation has got less creeping. It has started STAMPING. Like Godzilla.
It's nothing personal. It's the nature of internet communities. People come, and people go, especially during the early years of having children. I don't need to know how many times a week to bath my newborn anymore. I don't have questions to ask about toilet training. And as new mothers join, and names I don't recognise start to fill up the conversations, I'm in danger of turning into some crazy has-been cabaret act, jumping around and shedding sequins in my desperate attempts to retain popularity. It's not seemly for a woman of my age, even if I can still wear the costumes.
I love mumsnet, and I always will. And if I ever want to know the answer to the kind of question that makes Mr Coffee roll his eyes and wander off, I will always know where to go. Or if Mr Coffee is out of town on business, and I find myself watching Lord of the Rings on TV with a glass or two of wine and want to talk about Sean Bean's, er, acting skills - well, you know where to find me.
But the playgroups are all over for me for this lifetime, and it's getting harder and harder to keep in touch with my real friends. It's time to ring them when I want a chat. It's time to move on.