When I left the hallowed halls of my small-town Minnesota high school behind, I thought that the days of lunchroom factions were over. As Mean Girls so perfectly illustrates, many high school cafeterias are home to subtle turf wars and blatant divisions. We all remember the infamous linoleum tables that housed the Jocks, the Preps, the Brains, and so on (in my case, the Drama Geeks).
San Francisco’s Dolores Park resembles a giant, grassy, marijuana-scented high school lunchroom. With areas such as Gay Beach, Toddler Town, Queen’s Corner, and Hippie Hill (or Hipster Hill, depending on who you ask and their allegiance to tie-dye), different groups claim different areas of the park. Ok, I made up Toddler Town, but I think it’ll stick.
Unlike high school, however, a visitor from one area is welcomed in another. Speedos are not a requirement in Gay Beach, and you don’t have to eat a pot cookie to hang out in Hippie Hill. Actually, the only official requirement is that creepy adults can’t hang out in the playground unless they have a child with them (thank goodness).
The areas are less about segregation and more about affiliation, a place to feel at home even if you fail to resemble those around you. Sure, you can tell where small children give way to small dogs and sandals replace dress shoes, but even a baby from Noe Valley and a pug from Nob Hill have been known to play together.
And me? I like it all, especially the man who makes balloon animals and giant bubbles. Perhaps I belong in Toddler Town.