Thursday, June 10, 2010

But what do you DO?

A few weeks ago, M and I were lounging on the front porch of my parents' house, enjoying a beautiful night of a holiday weekend. My mom's BFF and his brother who was in from out of town stumbled over after a long day of beer and sun. After the introductions and snide remarks about my dad (bff and dad are not cool with one another, you see. Bff likes boys and my dad simply cannot wrap his tiny little mind around that)....after the intros, bff's brother asks,

"So, you do you guys have any kids?"

Thinking he was being helpful, bff nearly jumped to answer for us, "No." And gave his brother a glare like that conversation is so over.

"Well, got any pets?"


"So....(truly perplexed) what do you do?"


M and I took a minute to compose ourselves and then rattled off the most recent lines in our resumes, and then hoped they would disappear as quickly as they appeared.

Perhaps he didn't mean it to sound as accusatory or judgmental as it sounded. Perhaps he's always that blunt. Perhaps they were muddled and sunstruck and missing a little bit of good old fashioned courtesy that night. Whatever the case, I just couldn't be bothered.

Couldn't be bothered to correct BFF who had the audacity to erase I. and J. from the map. Couldn't be bothered to school BFF's brother that there is more to life than what one does to get a paycheck.

But yet, they left, and I was bothered.

As was M. So we got in the car and drove. Drove to the beach. Drove to the boardwalk. Walked around. Walked around. And didn't say much, but I kept wondering in my head, well, what DO I DO? What was the answer I wanted to give?

Clearly saying that you grieve daily while trying to figure out some way, any way to safely bring one or two of those little embryos on ice into the world is not the story most of the world wants to hear. And what would give this drunken stranger the right to know that story anyway?

But any other answer is short of the truth.

Molly at The Unlucky Lottery is right. It does get better. At least the grieving. The infertility, the lost ability to carry a child within me, the barriers and roadblocks we are facing with going a gestational carrier route....that doesn't seem to be getting any better. The world goes on. We stay here. The stasis is cruel. But the pain of loss, the desire to not even be here, that actually does fade, at least to the point where you look stable enough that someone doesn't think twice to demand to know what you do and then sniff at your answers.

I can't imagine what I would have said to this man a year ago. A year ago when my guns were blazing and all bets were off. When I found just a little bit of pleasure seeing some people visibly recoil when I told them my babies were dead. If only to teach them a lesson for being, so, so, normal. So seemingly untouched.

Don't get me wrong. The need to get the facts right doesn't completely go away. But as Tracy so eloquently says,
I think we've learned to wear our peculiar mix of joy and despair a little more gracefully. People do less brow-furrowing when I engage them in mundane small talk...and hey, I can engage in mundane small talk! T almost electronically eviscerated an FB friend who wandered into my lane last week (she responded to my post about my early-rising dog with a complaint about her twins who won't sleep in) but we discussed and decided we shouldn't rain on her parade.
I'd like to think we think more about other people's parades these days, too.

So bff's brother learned that I'm in the nonprofit world and M. is a web producer. We live in different state than my parents and yes we think their new house is lovely. We've been together over a decade. We like to kayak and to be outside. Hmm, that's about it. Interview over.

How mundane. How seemingly normal. He thinks we are bores.

And that's just fine.


~Hollie said...

yep, its just not worth it. Some people are not worth the energy or effort. They aren't in the club and don't get it.

jill said...

Ugh the questions :( Just the thought of someone asking me if I have kids and why not fills me with dread. Lately I've been thinking about what I want my life without kids to be like and thinking of what I'd like to do with my time. I don't want to be defined (even by myself) as childless, the non-mom. Instead I want to someday be thought of as the runner, the yogi, the scientist, just something else. There's a lot I've put on hold or buried in these past 14 years.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Ugh. Now you've got me thinking about what *I* do. Really, there seems to be no "right" answer on how to spend your time on earth.

Ick. How people can so not see the pain, how we are supposed to bear it but not bare it.

And ick, also, for being in the position to make or not make a statement about I & J.

Hugs, m.

still life angie said...

I feel like apologizing on behalf of humanity for that jackass. I have wracked my brain and cannot come up with a situation when that question is ever okay. Still, I know this isn't about bashing him. The grief does get easier, I guess. I feel like instead of imparting some wisdom, though, it has left me feeling a bit like everyone in the world is a self-absorbed, clueless jackass. Last year, I was angry, screaming at people to get a clue, trying to explain myself, and now, I just feel like they will never get it or have a clue. It feels like moving from optimism to pessimism. xo

Anonymous said...

When there's a gaping hole in the place that your heart broke in half, small talk is indeed very difficult. Either you tell people your shocking reality and their jaws drop and they quietly shuffle away because they don't know what to say, or you have this completely shallow conversation about something like the weather, (to save them the horror) and then walk away wondering how you could have even talked about something like that. And there is no middle ground, is there. I know my grief is different to yours, but I totally, 100% relate to this post. There's loss, and there's horrific loss that should never have happened, compounded by the fact that you can never talk about it because total strangers need to be protected from it. So you have to live in two different worlds, the real world (the 23 hours and 58 minutes a day one where you live with your loss) and the shallow world, where you have to have those bizarre superficial conversations. Thinking of you xxx

Danielle said...

You know, I have been asking myself the same question lately- since I currently have all the time in the world with no little one at home to fill it, what the hell do I DO that makes any sense at all? Had anyone else asked me, though, I would have been tempted to punch them.

I agree completely- the grief gets easier. The stasis doesn't.

luna said...

as if those without kids or pets don't DO anything of significance. as if the resume makes the person. as if those we don't discuss never existed. sigh.

m said...

You know, after I write a post like this one, I always wonder if I have over-reacted, taken something out of context, distorted a completely normal human interaction and twisted it through my lens of loss, which is so, so possible.

While I am so sorry if I started any self-questioning along these lines (sorry!) I am so gratified to see that you too are bothered by this line of questioning. As you say, Angie, I can't think of a time or a place when it would be appropriate. And if I think back to the days of normalcy, M would cringe at this then as well. For the same reasons, how DARE you try to quantify my existence. Babies, no babies, I will not be judged by your standards.

Dear runner, yogi Jill, your words have really stuck with me. Screw other people - how do *I* want to define myself? What are the things I want to be known for? I need to come up with a simple list. One that, as you say Lori, will have no wrong answers.

I don't think pessimism is a bad thing, Ang, as long as there are some moments of laughter and gratitude in there. I am thankful to have a friend in you, and am already looking for dates when we can laugh together again. (soon!)

Mash, Dani and Luna - yes, yes, yes, yes. Sometimes knowing that others can relate to what you are saying is a soothing balm all in itself. Can one hate being in "the club" but love the fellow members?

Can we go start a new club, like one that plays horseshoes or croquet?

Two Shorten the Road said...

That's so obnoxious. WTF. What did HE do before becoming a parent? Why is that the be-all and end-all? Obviously he didn't make the most of that time. Without knowing your story, he's probably trying to make you feel badly for having the time to do whatever you want.

And OMG, like having pets is even remotely relevant.

Lut C. said...

When we were trying, I always dreaded the question "do you have kids".
To this day, I'm uncomfortable asking other people if they have kids, and usually don't. If they do, it will mostly come up in conversation.

This person takes the dreaded question to the next level.

I can understand the initial desire to lash out, but in the end not wanting to rain on everyone's parade is a more sustainable approach (though hard to do at times).

Sara said...

Ugh. People can be such idiots. I'm sorry that you have to put up with stuff like that. It sounds like you handled it really well, though. Unfortunately, raining on other people's parades seems to just make them think that you are totally unhinged, rather than making them question their own behavior, in my experience. Probably because people that create situations like that tend not to be particularly introspective.

Here from CdlC

Tanya said...

Here from creme...its amazing how much a question which I would have stupidly asked people when I was young and dumb can cause me so much pain now.

Great post. Cheers Tanya