So disappointing! I think to myself as I push back from my laptop and roll my neck from side to side. After so many years of putting my heart and soul into my class mom emails, I can’t help being a little judgy when it comes to other people’s offerings.
“I mean, come on!” I say out loud. “Would it kill you to put a little razzle-dazzle in your emails? A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants?”
I take a deep breath and click reply. For my eyes only, I promise myself.
To: Franny Watson
From: Jen Dixon
Re: Mat Mom Get-together
Date: September 13
Way to whip us all into a frenzy! I for one can’t wait to hit the Donut Hole! In anticipation of next week’s klatch, here are some thoughts …
Let’s start with the name. Do we really have to be called Mat Moms? Why not call us what we are? Doormats. Or maybe we could call ourselves the Matt LeBlondes and all wear wigs to the games. I mean, if we’re going to do this, let’s have some fun with it!As the mothers of tween boys, please consider how much money we could all make by starting our own towel and tube sock company.Do we all wish our boys chose another sport or is that just me?Let’s think about how we can put the “rest” back into wrestling, shall we?
I’m only here to help.
I smile. It’s kind of fun to take the snark out of storage and give it a spin. I should write fake responses that no one sees more often. I’d get in a lot less trouble.
I take a sip of my one and only cup of coffee for the day. Thanks to a recent diagnosis of acid reflux, I’ve had to reduce my favorite vice to a single shot in the morning. At the ripe old age of fifty-five the hits just keep on coming.
Just the other night I had shared with my husband, Ron, that I was feeling a little isolated and out of touch because I wasn’t involved in anything at the new school my son Max started last year. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed his sixth-grade year—what I like to call my year of liberation from the grind of OPOs (Other Parents’ Opinions)—and filled my time teaching more spin classes, doing an online sushi-making course, and generally enjoying the freedom of no obligations beyond my family and friends.
I only started feeling out of touch when Max kept referring to kids I didn’t know and wouldn’t be able to describe to police if it ever came to that.
“Can I go to Spike’s house?” he asked last week.
“Mom, I’ve told you. That’s what we call Sam Spiner.”
I actually have heard Sam Spiner’s name a few times, but as I mentioned before, I couldn’t tell you what he looks like.
“Where does he live?” What I’m really asking is how far am I going to have to drive.
“I don’t know.” Max shrugged. And really, why would he? When I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere, so I always knew where people lived. I don’t think Max would even know how to get to his own school because he just sits in the back of the car and looks at his phone. Teaching him to drive should be interesting.
After a short back and forth about my comfort level with Max’s visiting the house of a kid whose parents I don’t know, I convinced him it would be easier if Spike came to our place. Apparently, he’s lucky enough to have a mother who doesn’t care what her son does. At least that was Max’s takeaway from the whole thing. He was not happy because Spike has the newest Xbox, and they were going to play Fortnite. All we have is the original Wii, but I made it up to them by ordering pizza.
So, when I shared my feelings of being a bit out of the loop, Ron, being a man, decided then and there to “fix my problem” by making all kinds of suggestions about how I might be able to fill my time. These included going back into the PTA cesspool (I’d rather listen to “Baby Shark” on repeat for the rest of my life), volunteering in the cafeteria (raise your hand if you can see me as the lunch lady), or hosting a moms’ coffee klatch once a week (I’m still laughing at that one).
I told Ron I just wanted empathy, not a grocery list of suggestions, and the conversation ended with a hostile good night to each other.
So this morning’s email is the fruit of my attempt at getting involved. As a mat mom. For the school’s wrestling team. I couldn’t be more shocked if I were posing nude in Playboy.
Our son has never displayed any interest in joining a sports team no matter how many times Ron waved a ball or a stick in front of him. So you can imagine our surprise when he announced at dinner after his first day of seventh grade that he’d decided to wrestle.
I’ll admit, at first I laughed because when anyone mentions wrestling, I immediately think of Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the two heroes of WWE wrestling from my youth. I was confident Max would outgrow this little whim and continue on his path to greatness as a computer genius, or mid-level accountant.
Of course, Ron was thrilled.
“That’s great, buddy!” he said, and I swear to God he had tears in his eyes.
“Why wrestling?” I couldn’t stop myself from making a Someone just farted face as I asked it.
“Coach D said the team could use a guy like me,” Max said with a big smile, then shoved an overflowing forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.
I frowned at his bad manners.
“I need to make weight,” he informed me with his mouth full.
“What does that even mean?” I asked him. I looked to Ron for support, but he had his mouth full of chicken cacciatore. What a pair.
“I was flattered,” Max said earnestly after he wiped his face with a paper napkin. “No coach has ever asked me to join a team before.”
“So you’ve been waiting for an invitation to join a team?” Ron asked.
“No, but he said they need me.”
I was about to point out that no one at this table gave a royal rip what Coach D needed, but Ron cut me off.
“Do you know anything about wrestling?”
“We did it in PE last year.”
“And you liked it?” Ron encouraged.
“I didn’t not like it,” Max replied with a shrug.
“Buddy, I think it’s great. It’s a tough sport but a good one. Just be prepared to work hard.”
“Are any of your friends on the team?” I asked him.
“Nope. They all play soccer in the fall.” He stood up. “I have homework.”
“Take your plate to the sink, please.”
Judging from his groan, you’d think I had just asked him to scrub all the toilets in the house. He grabbed his plate with exaggerated ennui and dropped it in the sink with a bang.
“Max!” Ron rebuked him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled and walked out of the kitchen.
“What’s your problem with wrestling?” Ron asked me when he was gone.
“I don’t have a problem with wrestling. I just don’t get the appeal.” I picked up our plates and took them to the counter. “I mean, does he even have the build for it?” Max is in the awkward growth spurt phase of life, and right now the best way to describe him is gangly.
“He’s probably hoping it will help him build some muscle.” Ron pulled out his phone and started typing.
“Who are you texting?”
“I’m not. I’m making notes about what he’ll need.”
I looked over his shoulder and read the list: shoes, headgear, singlets, and a grappling dummy, whatever that is. I had already lost interest and Ron could tell.
“You know, wrestling takes incredible discipline. If Max gets into it, we could see some better behavior around here.”
“Really?” I asked hopefully. As evidenced by his dinner conduct, Max had recently been exhibiting all the delightful attributes of a pubescent boy.
Ron shrugged. “We can only hope.”
Now, as I try to warm to the idea of being a mat mom, I turn back to Franny’s email, click on the attachment, and look at the helpful hints. It’s literally shouting at me thanks to Franny’s use of ALL CAPS.
1. NEVER COME TO PRACTICE SICK!
2. IMMEDIATELY NOTIFY THE COACH OF ANY SKIN RASHES OR INFECTIONS.
3. WRESTLERS MUST SHOWER AFTER EVERY PRACTICE, MATCH, AND TOURNAMENT. USE OF ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP IS PREFERRED.
4. WASH ALL WRESTLING CLOTHING (SHIRTS, SHORTS, SINGLETS) AFTER EVERY PRACTICE, MATCH, AND TOURNAMENT—SPORT LAUNDRY SOAP IS PREFERRED.
5. WASH OR DISINFECT HEADGEAR, SHOES, KNEEPADS, ETC., FREQUENTLY AND DON’T SHARE EQUIPMENT OR WATER BOTTLES WITH OTHERS.
As I’m absorbing the sheer amount of laundry I’m going to be doing, I scroll down further and am treated to a photo of the mat moms’ team shirt they want me to buy—a red T-shirt with Pioneer Middle School Mat Moms emblazoned across the front. However, they’ve chosen to really accentuate the first letter of each word of the school’s name so what you really see is
Pioneer Middle SchoolMat Moms
If this is on purpose, I may have finally found my people. If it isn’t, then I have my work cut out for me. There is also a picture of the back of the T-shirt on which is printed in bold letters GET OFF YOUR BACK! I’m given the choice to personalize it with my son’s name.
“Well, I won’t be wearing that,” I assure my computer screen. I decide to add a P.S. to my fake reply to Franny.
P.S. “Get Off Your Back” has a whole other meaning in our house.
I look at the clock and swear. I’m expected at Fusion Fitness to teach my Wednesday spin class in fifteen minutes. I slam my laptop shut, down the last of my coffee, and run to get my things.
* * *
As I pull into the gym’s parking lot, I see one of my regulars hurrying from his car. Jeff has been with me since I first started teaching two years ago. I nicknamed him Tour de France because he used to come to class in really colorful and logoed cycling clothes. But he toned it down after a few months and now just looks like any other rider. We’ve become quite friendly mainly because my friend Peetsa Tucci is dating his brother, Greg. We set them up on a blind date, and they have been going strong for over a year.
I jump out of my SUV and sprint to catch up to him.
“Hey, Tour de France, don’t worry, you aren’t late!”
“Well, I guess not if you’re behind me! Here, let me get that.” He holds the door for me.
“Thanks. Can I ask you a question?”
“Did you ever wrestle?”
He frowns. “You mean like in high school?”
“Or whenever.” I shrug.
We stop outside the double doors to the spin room. “I didn’t, but Greg did. He loved it. I think he was all-county his senior year.”
“What did he like about it?” I reflexively wrinkle my nose.
“Uh, well, at first he didn’t, but it was the closest thing he could do to martial arts in school. But later he loved it for what it was. He says it taught him a lot about self-discipline.”
“Ya, I keep hearing that,” I mumble.
“Thinking of taking it up?” he asks with a laugh, as he opens the door to the spin room and gestures for me to go in. I’m not surprised to see most people saddled up and ready to roll in the mostly full class. The early classes are like that. People want to get in and get out.
“Good morning, eight o’clock!” I pause so that Bob, one of my loyal riders, can tell me it’s actually 8:03 or whatever, but I don’t hear him and conclude he must be out today. I make a mental note to check in on him later. He rarely misses a class.
I switch on the first song—“Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special—and crank up the volume as I put my shoes on.
“Nice comfortable jog to start—everybody up.”
As I get on the bike, I scan the room and smile at the realization that I know everyone in here. I’m so happy I started teaching. Sometimes it’s the only fun I have in a day, unless of course I’m spending that day with my granddaughter, Maude. But that doesn’t happen as much as it used to because she just started pre-K five mornings a week.
Copyright © 2022 by Laurie Gelman