Bad parent pick-up lines
In my entire life, only one person ever tried to pick me up.
I was just out of college, and was visiting a dark and stinky bar in the new town I had just moved to. A man with a beard that grew down to his belt buckle told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Then he licked the back of my hand. And that was it. I never went back to that bar, and the hairy hand-licker went down in the history books as the one and only stranger who thought I was worth tasting. Which is all right by me. Really.
After I got married, I thought I was out of the dating game. And I was, until Lucy got old enough to start noticing other kids. Now, every time I see a parent with a child, I size that person up as a potential partner in slime, as well as dirt, snot and other joys of parenthood.
A couple weeks ago, Adam, Lucy and I were walking down what is essentially the main street of our neighborhood. A mom stood at the corner, holding a little blond-haired boy who looked about Lucy’s age. I smiled at her — winningly, I hoped.
Then we crossed the street. A minute later, the mom and son followed us. My heart started running like a hamster in a wheel.
“I wonder if she likes me?” I thought.
I made sure my fly was zipped. There’s no social context where an open barn door is a good thing. But it’s pretty much a deal-breaker for a parent-pickup. Especially when you’re standing on a street corner.
This is why sweatpants, which say, “I plan to grow old alone” on a single person are actually a fine choice for someone who is married with children. Sweatpants say, “People wipe peanut butter on me and I already look so bad, it doesn’t hurt. When you’re hanging out at the park with me, you’re going to look like a fashion plate.”
My next step in picking up this parent was to compliment her on her child.
“Isn’t he talkative?” I said, after something that sounds like “hammer puller under bug,” came out of his mouth.
“How old is he?”
The little boy, I learned, was five days older than Lucy. This made what happened next even more critical, I realized, because Lucy and the blonde boy will be in the same class at school. I could be running into this woman until the year 2018, at bake sales and back to school nights. We might even chaperone the high school prom together.
As I planned out the next 16 years of my social life, the mystery mom called out to her son, who was running circles around us on the sidewalk. I thought she said his name was Tyler.
So, that’s what I called him when he came back.
“It’s Kyler,” she said.
This is when I realized that I’d done the equivalent of licking the back of her hand. When someone has gone to all the trouble of coming up with a unique name, it’s a huge goof to call the kid by something familiar, like Tyler.
I suppose it’s not the worst blunder you can make in the parent-pickup game. I didn’t say, “Wow, Kyler is incredibly small for his age.” Or, “That’s a big bruise.” Or, “We have a dog named Kyler.”
These are bad parent pick-up lines.
Same goes for, “Wow. She doesn’t look like either of you,” and “My Susie naps for four hours a day on a very predictable schedule.”
I wish I had paid more attention to the rules of picking people up when I was dating. Adam gave Kyler’s mom our phone number. She never called. But it’s probably just as well. It saves me the drama of breaking up with her when I find out she cleans the bathroom grout with a toothbrush.
Picking someone up on a street corner is no way to make real friends. Even if they have a nice set of toddlers.