I made my first move to the suburbs – any suburb – in 1993, when I abandoned the Westside for a lovely large walkup apartment on in Studio City, in an older building that has since been torn down.
And after years as a single career woman, in a shockingly short time I became a wife, homeowner and a stepmother to a charming little boy and girl. I don’t know, maybe this happens to everyone as soon as they move over the hill. It’s magic, just like your first food processor.
And, here in suburbia, I very quickly learned a new word: playdate. But I guess the term has less to do with geography than with having kids.
Playdate? Well, this was even weirder than the Power Ranger birthday parties I suddenly found myself going to (that Pink Power Ranger always looked suspiciously slutty in her Spandex). When I was a kid in Detroit in the ‘60s, you went out, you played outside all day with your friends until your mother rang the dinner bell, then you came home. There was no “date” about it. Those were the days, as the producers of TV’s The Wonder Years once said, that a kid could go out and play without ending up on a milk carton.
For a while there, I began to believe that the word playdate meant: “I’m dropping off my kid and never coming back.” To be sure, most of the kids’ parents were delightful, responsible people who couldn’t wait to be reunited with their offspring. But once in awhile there was one I figured we’d have forever.
There were so many kids with the same first names that we took to adding a last initial, calling them Josh B, or Andy P. We’ll use the name Andy P. to describe the kid with the hysterical mom whom we could never seem to reach on her cell phone to find out when she might reappear. I call him Andy P. partly because I’ve forgotten his actual name, and partly so no one will ever know the real identity of a child who required a full 15 minutes to tie his shoes. It’s possible that Andy P. is still somewhere in our house, trying to tie them.
But even years of playdate experience did not prepare me for doggie playdates. And now that I’ve gotten used to , another surprise: There are playdate websites for dogs. I knew there were Facebook-like sites where you can post doggie photos and info, and all too many canines seem to be following me on Twitter, but this was something new. As a journalist, for research purposes I couldn’t resist signing Heidi up at www.dogplaydate.com. (We also took a look at www.playdatebuddy.com, but while it featured some SoCal neighborhoods, it did not seem to include Studio City).
As with any such site for people, they asked for passwords, photo and personal information. One blank asked for status, married or single. Out of habit, I put married before I realized they meant the dog. I quickly changed it, but now there’s an alert that says Heidi has “changed her status from married to single.” Oh, great, now the whole world thinks my dog is divorced. But there were several other dogs who had recently changed their status to “single,” meaning either there’s been a sudden breakdown in traditional dog marriages, or I’m not the only dog parent to make that mistake.
I waited to be deluged with information about Shepherds in our area who might want to play with Heidi. But so far nothing except a message from Aigner, a one-year-old female who appears to be a Boston terrier:
“I would love to be your date…but unfortunately I live at the other side of the world, Jakarta Indonesia…sigh.” Aigner already has a handful of friends, including Vinny, Mugsy and Maddie.
Heidi and I made it clear in her profile that she is looking for friendship, not love. She’s not shallow, and loves all dogs except the ones who happen to walk by our house. But I’ve got to say this little terrier from Jakarta just might make a better pen pal than playdate.