Intimacy with Strangers

I’m 40 years old and still incredibly uncomfortable with making goofy movements in public. There are a couple of exceptions: If I’m bored enough, I’ll do a half-assed break dancing move in Whole Foods; and I’ll also flap my arms like a bird, hop like a bunny, or gallop like a horse at Arlo’s “Creatures Class.”

Every Wednesday at 10am, eight moms and I, along with our children and the instructor, “Ms. Susan,” congregate in a small room to pretend like we’re animals. It’s early, everyone has coffee breath, our shoes are off, and I’m the only man. It’s like yoga, but with more talking and less farting. The class could just as easily be called, “Intimacy with Strangers: Doing ridiculous things in front of people you’ve never met.”

We also sing songs, clank sticks together, and glue stuff, but the focus is on “creatures.” Sometimes we also personify weather. This morning, for instance, we pretended to be rain. Okay, clearly the class lacks a certain amount of focus, but kids are hard to entertain and Ms. Susan has to mix it up to keep them interested. No one should be forced to spend a whole hour drinking make-believe water out of a make-believe bucket with a make-believe elephant trunk they’ve fashioned from their own arm. I know I would almost certainly suffer a shoulder injury in a matter of a few minutes.

Today, we all held hands in a circle and stomped our feet in pretend rain puddles. On one side of me was Arlo, and on the other side was a woman I’d never met in my life. Without making eye contact or acknowledging each other in any other way, we held hands. We held hands and stomped. We stomped like it was the most natural thing in the world. “THESE FAKE PUDDLES SURE ARE GETTING OUR PANTS WET!”  Of course, in our heads, we were unwittingly analyzing the texture, temperature, and grip of each other’s hand, while worrying about our own being clammy or otherwise unsavory. It’s just too much. You know what, I’m going on the record here: Unless they’re family, I don’t think adults should hold hands after the age of 25. Instead, we should all carry around some kind of stick to use as a makeshift hand.

After we were mercifully instructed to break our puddle circle, it was time to dance. I enjoy dancing like a lunatic in my living room with my wife and kids, but find it a little hard to” let go” when surrounded by barefooted suburban mothers who’ve been instructed by Ms. Susan to “scoot like a scooting creature.” It’s also hard to get lost in the groove of a song about rain boots. We all danced, and pretended to be into it, but occasionally glanced at each other as if checking in to make sure we were each displaying the correct amount of enthusiasm. Showing too little makes you seem un-fun and uptight, but showing too much causes people to fear that they’re in the presence of someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It’s the hysteria before the crash; the manic laughter before the crying.

While I’d have to poll the mommies in the class to be sure, I’m pretty confident that I nailed it. I commited to all the routines, but did so with a wry smile to let the ladies know that despite feeling a little silly,  it was worth it to have fun with Arlo.

Ashley, on the other hand, was a total maniac and completely embarrassed herself. Ashley, stop drinking so early in the morning. You’re a mess.

I'm a contributing writer to Parents Magazine, GQ, Psychology Today and some others. My book, "This is Ridiculous. This is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists" is available here Look for two more books in 2015: "Must. Push. Buttons (Bloomsbury Kids), and an as-of-yet untitled memoir I’ve appeared on Comedy Central’s “Live at Gotham” and “Nick Mom’s Night Out." I live in New Jersey with my wife and two sons and enjoy making them laugh more than anyone else.

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