My niggling anxiety going into this was simply that the Asian Mommies would a) think I was weird for being a stay-at-home dad, and b) think I was creepy for wanting to hang out with Asian women. Anxiety a is based on the attitudes about gender roles that I have observed among some of my Asian in-laws that are my age or older, and also among stock characters from Amy Tan books and martial arts movies. Anxiety b is based upon the popular notion that white guys exoticize and fetishize Asian women; and also upon my own creepy motives towards Asian women in the past. But I'm over that, of course.
Upon meeting the three Asian Mommies who showed up for this event, I quickly categorized them based upon the offensive stereotypes they most closely resembled. There was the leader, a ruthlessly efficient and expensively accessorized Dragon Lady, the nerdy FOB (if you aren't Asian, you probably don't know what this means; and if you are, you're probably composing an outraged comment in all caps), and finally the mousey mom who is secretly a great master of tiger style kung fu and could exsanguinate a man with a diaper wipe (she just had that look about her.)
Having conveniently pigeonholed my new bestest friends, I felt quite at ease. It helped that we met at the zoo, which I consider my turf since it's just minutes from our house and I have been there five gazillion times. But the mommies were not as comfortable as I was. They were a bit distant toward me at first, and the social ritual that followed could best be described in terms of an appropriately zoopomorphic analogy:
As the docent explained the eating and play habits of the orangutans, the mommies and I exchanged furtive sidelong glances while warily circling each other like bonobos with expensive strollers. Even though my stroller was vastly superior to any of the others, I squatted next to my babies in a gesture of submission, like one of those little gopher-looking things that they have that whole TV show about. Meer-cats or whatever. Then the Dragon Lady, the great silverback of our herd, made an approving comment about my offspring, and after that we all got along like a jovial flock of sea lions cavorting among the icebergs.
And so the rest of the excursion went. Butterbean and Cobra were perfect little angels even though they stayed out long past nap time. They seemed fairly interested in the animals, and they even interacted with other kids and grown-ups. The Asian Mommies and I (I guess I am an Asian Mommy now?) exchanged a warm farewell and spoke hopefully of the good times we would have together in the future. By the time the twins were getting their nap on, there were a number of emails awaiting that alerted me to future Asian Mommy events. The next one is a trip to the outlet mall, and--I'm sorry--there's just no way. But I did RSVP for a lunch date next week, further establishing my group membership by voting on which Asian restaurant I preferred as a meeting spot. But to avoid being chastened like the low-ranking orangutan who challenges the pecking order by eating the popcorn of his den mother, I added that anyplace would be fine with me.