In the DJT days of avoiding political conversations while visiting our families back in the Midwest, Linjen Neogi reminds us that awkward happens everywhere.
Last night, we went to a dinner party after taking a walk on The High Line. Most of the people were married with children, but some were single with no kids. I was drawn to a couple. The wife, in particular, reminded me so much of Ellen DeGeneres’ ingenious humor and honesty. I wanted to sit next to her all night and be a part of her world. She was radiating. I should have made it a priority to exchange phone numbers but I didn’t, and now wish I had. While I sipped on a glass of Va de Vi sparkling wine, one woman who must have been in her early 30’s, said, “I can’t have kids.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “Oh no.”
“Noooooo. It’s not like that. I don’t WANT to have kids.” “I just can’t imagine having a little leech sticking to me all day, because that’s what they are. Leeches. Sucking the life out of you.” She spoke with an assumed air of importance as she said this, matter-of-factly. Everyone remained quiet. I think some people were stunned at her unsophisticated commentary. It took me a while to process it. Was the comment rude? There was an unmannered taste to it.
She seemed not to have noticed the thick silence that enveloped as she kept talking: “My sister has three kids, and came to visit me last weekend. She lives in Boston. All she could do was tell me how much she missed her children, it was her first time being away from them. She has twins and a four and a half year old, and she missed her husband and the ‘chaos,’” adding air quotes to chaos. She meant to be funny, but no one laughed. “After two days of that, I had to tell her to stop it. Snap out of it. My god! You are human!”
“What do you mean, she’s human?” I asked her. She responded lacking all kinds of reasoning, “She’s human. She shouldn’t forget she’s human, too.” She said this almost equivalent to a “Duhhhh.” “She just went on and on about her kids and at one point she cried. Can you believe that?” “Actually I can believe it,” I said with warmth, sympathizing with her sister. “And I’m sorry, I still don’t understand your comment about reminding her that she’s human. Is it not human to express that?” I asked genuinely confused. I really did want to understand. I had listened to her, listened with depth, to an unrefined rant, and I felt it was fair that I understood. She sparked curiosity in me. “Well it’s just not normal. Right,?” and I was going to answer, “No”, but I realized her question was rhetorical. It’s not normal to her. It was not normal to her that her sister missed her children, her husband, her life. And that she missed them so much she had to speak about it incessantly. “I think it’s perfectly normal.” I said. And after that, I no longer wanted to be a part of this conversation with someone, who I realized, perhaps a little later than others, was a bit insensitive.
I could romanticize this by calling her fearless, but her graceless monologue proved to be nothing more than pointless. Perhaps, one could argue, she knows what she did not want in her life, and that’s a valuable thing: to know. To know what you want, and don’t. It’s better than being confused or to pretend. But the leech analogy is something that I have heard before. So I found her to be inauthentic and that bored me. I continued sipping my wine, looked at my husband and he gave me a wink and a smile. “No more wine for her,” exclaimed the the Ellen DeGeneres-wish-I-got-her- digits-could-have-been-a-friend-lady. Everyone started talking again at this point, cheerfully about their children, their lives, and of course their careers. But most spoke about the tribulations of parenthood while drinking more wine, which then turned into some pretty hilarious stories. Especially when we started talking about Ryan Reynolds’ parenting tweets. Have you read them?
The conversation left me thinking. I believe everybody should be able to choose their life’s journey. Your choices are your own, and you should not need to seek external validation for your decisions. But she also unwittingly shed light to a memory of a girl I once knew. I caught a small pained glimpse, but it was unclouded. This girl once said, with extreme conviction, she did not want children. She idolized a life without them. It was after all, perhaps… a better life. That girl was me. And I write this abashed and with immense fear. Should I admit this to you, constant reader? Or should I delete this confession? Because there is nothing bigger than my love for my son. Nothing. And though I never belittled a woman’s choice to have children, and though this woman was indisputably ineloquent in her exchange, I understood her. This reminds me of how divisive the narratives of women’s lives can be. The pressures of choosing one lifestyle over another. Not all of us are meant to, want to be daughters and then mothers. And that’s fine. All I can tell the old me is, be open to being surprised.
Linjen Neogi is a passionate writer who blogs about Motherhood and anything that keeps her awake at night (doubtsanddesires.com, where this particular piece originated). She was born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Miami, and currently resides in Brooklyn with her two year old loving son, Ishaan and her biggest critic, her husband Tapas. She idolizes everything New York.