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Hopping around and trying out different pools for swimming lessons — whichever one you’ve managed to fight your way into at Parks and Recreation registration time — gives an excellent overview of our city demographics.

There are the pools which are a true cross-section of our city. The ones with at least four different languages going on in the change room, where the mummy in designer jeans with the stroller worth thousands sits next to the single mom in worn out yoga pants who has a cup from Timmy’s in her hands. They both have iPhones. It’s Toronto; it’s 2013.

swimmingPhoto: Pam loves pie

Then there are the other pools; the ones which tend to be dominated by the local community. On Saturday mornings at one pool we went to, a group of mothers took the opportunity to braid their daughters’ hair after swimming each week. They’d braid one child at a time, a child who’d sit patiently, quietly, surrounded by adults who chatted, laughed, and listened to each other in their own language. As soon as the child was set free, hair done, she’d run to the mirror, examine her do, get the important opinion of her friends and start laughing in that high-pitched way only 12-year-olds can.

Except for the evil eye some moms would give anyone outside their group who (they felt) took a little too long to change after swimming, it was a nice vibe.

Where we are now could be considered the opposite of that pool. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a nice vibe. It’s also pretty much English-only the change room, it’s pretty much white women only in the change room and I swear this is the thinnest group of mothers I’ve ever seen aside outside a Desperate Housewives episode. Conversation focuses on day care rather than day care subsidy, basements, exercise programs and their scepticism about city-run rec programs versus private ones.

I’ve talked to some of the moms and they’re nice, just like anywhere else. They’re good to their kids, just like everywhere else.

queer parentsPhoto: Tara Siuk

Then last night, while I was towel-drying one kid’s hair and convincing the other one to put on her underwear, I sensed change. A stunning butch-femme couple had walked into the change room with their child. Let me expand on this.

As I’ve said before, I work from home and this has a large impact on my wardrobe. Last night I was at swimming lessons in oversized jogging pants and a loose t-shirt. When I’d arrived earlier, I realized I had forgotten to put on a bra that morning. I had brushed my hair — it just didn’t look like I had (it’s humid in those change rooms). I had a cold, which had a given me a raw, red nose and an annoying cough I couldn’t kick. Anyone who’s pushed a baby out knows how extra awesome it is to cough constantly. I wasn’t feeling my best.

The couple came in their dark work clothes which still looked fresh, despite the fact that they were in a steamy change room with a small child at 7:00 p.m., and they looked happy and relaxed.

So I nodded to each woman. That’s my “acknowledge there’s another dyke” in the room nod. The jury is still out on how effective this is. I got a nod back from each. A while later I said to the girls, “I wonder what Mommy Catharine will have made for dinner tonight?” I waited for a lull to say that. I’m passive, and yet not at all subtle.

I wanted to talk to them. But I didn’t. Instead, the conversation in the room turned to basements (again), the dykes joined in, and I stayed out.

queer parents Photo: Udi h Bauman

I have one friend who I know would have figured out how to talk to the couple, even though she might not know anything about basements, and end up exchanging email addresses with them. I know she would because we became friends because she randomly started talking to us in the park one day, and we exchanged email addresses.

Meanwhile, the gorgeous butch-femme couple were very patiently getting their cooperative child ready for his lesson. At that point, I was a braless mess with frizzy hair and two hungry kids who were refusing to dress themselves. And I was distracted. I didn’t talk to the couple. And I left, with a pang – like I’m not the cool kid.

It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a little deal. Like you just want a momentary connection while among a roomful of straight mummies. And I hadn’t gotten one. I’ve been more socially adept in this situation before, and I’ve been less socially adept. But it still bugs me.

So, queer parents: what do you do when you see other queer parents out there? I’m curious!

Meri Perra lives with her partner, two daughters, tiny cat and massive cargo bike in Toronto’s downtown east end. Feel free to talk to her.

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