It started as an experiment.
And everybody experiments, right?
It was just a little thing, you know, so I can hang with the cool kids. But now I fear it’s gotten out of hand.
It was last year. You see, I’d started a new job, a new assignment, along with about 80 to 100 other people. We were in a huge conference room, seated randomly at round tables. Some people knew each other from other projects, but most, like me, were amongst strangers.
We were a room full of attorneys in professional attire. The women outnumbered the men, slightly, as I noted when I conducted the unofficial scan of the room. This isn’t necessarily a function of progress. These assignments are, shall we say — upward mobility challenged? The ages in the room spanned from about 25 to maybe 65 years old. There was a respectable sprinkling of people of color, mostly women of color, but it was a predominately white crowd. None of this is particularly important, except I want you to experience the look and feel of the room, so maybe you can understand how I got all caught up.
I uttered the normal hellos, introductions, and Have you done this work before? –yadda yadda yadda– but then, as I often do –and I think it’s the writer in me — I shut up, watched, and listened.
Before and after our training sessions, and during every break, many of my new colleagues talked about about babies, toddlers, school aged kids, teens applying to colleges, school schedules, dance classes, sporting events, husbands, meal planning, diets, vacations, grown kids, daughters’ weddings, sons who just got engaged, etc. You know, personal stuff, family talk.
But most of this talk was by the women. Even the childfree women asked the other women about their kids.
My male brethren? Not so much.They were largely quiet, or spoke of the commute and past work experience.
Considering the age range of the group — these dudes were in prime dad years. All years are prime dad years for men, but I digress . . . .
And, I couldn’t help but notice the golden glint of a fair share of wedding rings on these men. Alas, in my single state the hunt for wedding rings (or lack thereof) is a commonplace activity for me, but I digress, again . . . . My point is, it stands to reason and probability and you know, math, that many of these men must have had wives and kids — that they just weren’t talking about.
And me? Having had all the kids I could have jumped right into the mom talk. But I wondered, what would it be like to be one of the guys? I’d still love the fruit of my loins, I’d still be ridiculously proud of them, but I knew — or perhaps I wanted to prove — that I was capable of making small talk that’s not about them.
Just like the guys.
Now, let the record reflect that I’m content with my gender, and I’m not one of those women who hate other women or moms, and I’m not trying to be a guy, I just wanted to be like them. Just for a minute. And to be honest, be like myself, the archived self I was before I had all the babies, two at a time, before the nasty divorce, crippling depression, and crushing debt, before the struggle to maintain normalcy for the kids while the mom was decidedly not all right. I wanted to conjure up the time where, in similar professional situations, I managed to talk the talk without all the baby talk.
Admittedly, having been through all the stuff I’ve been through — peruse old posts if you are not familiar– I just wanted to get away from it. You know, for a minute. Because discussing the kids always leads to questions about the ex. Always. It also leads to comments about my shape (and weight), and to my tutorial on fertility and heredity.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about family at work. Nothing at all. But I couldn’t help but notice the gender divide and I thought . . . I’m gonna jump to the other side.
For a minute.
So, I opted out. I told myself that I would never deny the existence of my offspring, but I would make a conscious effort not to voluntarily talk about them, unless or until I felt like it.
For a minute.
But that was well OVER A YEAR AGO!
During this time I have worked side by side with both men and women, gotten to know them, like (some of) them, bonded with many of them, laughed and bitched with most of them. But I haven’t mentioned to them that I have almost half a dozen children, those young adult humans that I grew in my body, birthed and raised. And no ex-husband either. Nothing. Just me (ironically).
Like a fucking psychopath.
And now I’m in too deep.
What have I done? What kind of mother doesn’t talk about her children? — for over a year?
Just Me With . . . no children — to speak of, anyway. Are you kidding me?
There were a couple of times when I kinda broke my rules, which I’ll talk about later, because now — it’s a problem.
And I guess at some point I should report on the results of my experiment — how it felt.
To be continued . . .
Full closure: My kids are, in fact, AWESOME. The younger ones are still in college, happy and healthy, my oldest kid graduated from college, got a full-time job in his field, an apartment, and a roommate. They are crushing it. And by extension, so am I.
And, if I can be completely superficial for a moment, they are freaking gorgeous, objectively, like people stop and stare. I don’t post pictures of them. Just take my word for it.