of mine had a 40th-birthday party, and five minutes after I arrived,
a drunken boyfriend of someone I don't know approached me and inquired
if I was single. "Why?" I asked. He shrugged. Wasn't there
anything else to talk about? He said, "Sure," and thought
for a second. Then he asked if I wanted a drink. When I said I didn't
drink he was fascinated. I guess those were the choices: why I'm
single and why I don't drink.
person I spoke to was someone I hadn't seen in a few years. He
asked if I was still single. Yes, I said. Still. Can you believe
it? He seemed upset. So much more upset than I've ever been, and
I've been pretty upset. The look on his face conveyed absolute
grief. Like he was in mourning for me. Which made sense. Because
in his eyes, I would have been better off dead than still single.
At the same party, I met a couple who had just had their second
baby. "I'm not the type of person who tells stories about
their adorable children," she said. Which was my cue to say:
So she did. When you don't have children
and someone you've never met tells a story about something their
child did, it's like listening to a in-depth story of the bus
driver learning to swim.And having a visual doesn't help. It's
still a stranger. This woman showed me a picture of her baby on
her iPhone, and as she was doing this asked: "You want to
see what she looks like?" Now I'm on the spot. And if I say
no, suddenly I'm the rude one.
The problem is, most stories about children
are never as funny as parents think, and unless you too have a
child, it becomes a one-sided conversation. There's no way I can
join in unless I try to remember what I was like when I was that
age. But whenever I add, "I used to do the same thing,"
they look horrified. Because suddenly there's the possibility
their child will end up like me.
I have a friend who has a four-year-old
and I've never once heard him tell a story about his son. When
I asked him why, he said: "He hasn't done anything that adorable
yet." If you're going to tell a story about your child, brevity
I don't need background on the baby-sitter,
the digestive system, and the social history of the other children
involved. If I'm barely interested in the details of your child,
who I don't know and will never meet, what makes you think I'd
care about all the extras?
When the story was over, the woman asked
if I was interested in having children. Other than yes, there
was no good answer to that question. But I said I wasn't sure.
"Well," she said sympathetically, "you must be
so busy with work." No, I said, not really. Why is that there
has to be a career that is preventing me from having a child?
As though that must fill the tremendous void I have in my life,
being childless and single? Maybe I just don't want kids. Isn't
The other day I was having coffee, and on
the floor of the cafe there was a photo. I picked it up and it
was of a baby. I stuck it in my wallet and am carrying it around,
so from now on I will be presenting this child to strangers with
stories of her first cough and spit. Her name changes from day
to day and she loves Mexican food. My life has been instantly
filled with meaning since I've had my fake child.