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by Michele Christopher
For the average adult, being on a playground is much like being in an elevator. Well, with the notable exception of retribution/finger-pointing for accidental flatulence…on a playground that’s actually considered ‘street cred.’ But for the rest of us non-gaseous types, there’s the same awkwardness inherent in any enforced proximity situation. In other words, lots of tentative smiles, avoidance of prolonged eye contact and, very rarely, meaningless small talk. Sociologists and cultural anthropologists are pretty much the only ones who enjoy this kind of interaction.
Playground adults come in five varieties:
1. Soccer Moms – Regardless of whether their kids actually play soccer, these overdressed, overcoiffed and overbearing Junior Leaguers are called Soccer Moms. They drive hideously expensive mini-vans or SUVs, don’t have a job and aggressively ensure their kids have ‘fun.’ Rigorously scheduled, vigilantly supervised ‘fun.’ These are the women who bash your ankles with their strollers when their children are infants. The ones that debate preschool choices with all the gravity of international policy makers. These women are not fooling around and you’d better not be either. A sub-species of the Soccer Mom is the Big Shoe Woman. They’re always inappropriately dressed and prone to posing picturesquely on whatever is handy…park benches, swing sets, monkey bars, etc. They’re more interested in whether anyone is looking at them than whether their children are having fun and/or kidnapped.
2. Solo Dads – These guys come in two species:
2. The Fun Dad – This guy loves the playground as much as his kids do. He’ll slide down the slides, unafraid of friction burns. He’ll crawl in the wood chips, oblivious to splinters and poked knees. He’ll play the Happy Meal game, ordering Lizard Burgers and Fried Flies at the top of his lungs, to the delight of everyone under four feet tall. He’ll do whatever it takes to ensure his kids have a good time, regardless of the glares from less accommodating parents.
3. Weary Couples – These poor souls usually have more than one toddler and their lives are a nightmarish haze of broken sleep, temper tantrums and the Teletubbies. They bring their kids to the playground so they can get some rest. You’ll see them slumped together on a nearby bench, eyes glazed over or outright asleep. Be generous and keep an eye on their kids for them, wake them when it’s time to go home.
4. Barely Post-Pubescent Girls in Skimpy Clothing – These tarts are at the playground for one of two reasons:
Either way, they’re usually wearing ultra short cut-offs and midriff baring tops. A teenaged girl is thrilled with the effect she’s beginning to have on older men and will take any opportunity to see how far she can go. That it might be completely inappropriate behavior to exhibit in front of small children means nothing to her hormone riddled brain. Neither does the fact that wives/girlfriends are witnessing the whole thing, murder in their eyes. Wholesale slapping is recommended for these types.
5. Aging Couples – Take the Soccer Mom and the Interrupted Businessman, add 15 years to them and one small child and you have the Aging Couple. They’re like large, graying shadows, dogging their child’s every move around the playground, as if they’re desperately afraid of soil or breakage. Do not approach Aging Couple’s child as you most definitely have Cooties.
Children, of course, have known each other for years. There’s never any awkwardness, introductions are perfunctory and seniority seems to be based solely on height.
Playground children come in four varieties:
2. The Gardener – Digging for acorns, bugs, hundred year old bottle caps or whatever. As long as it involves getting dirty, this child is game.
3. The Non-Conformist – Goes up the slide instead of down, spins instead of swings, definitely marches to the beat of their own drummer.
4. The Dissident – Steals the Gardener’s acorns, throws rocks at the Future World Leader and knocks the Non-Conformist off the slide. They’re usually the progeny of the Interrupted Businessman and/or the Big Shoe Woman, go figure.
Playgrounds are fun pretty much only for kids and sociologists. The rest of us had rather be trapped in a crowded elevator, flatulence notwithstanding. Then at least we’d know when we could get off.