Bah Humbug Mother’s Day

Yup, that time of the year to avoid social media, retail, and brunch hotspots. Sticking to my version of GTL–yoga, groceries and laundry.

Yoga was a room full of the usual suspects, single folks.

Supermarket was luxuriously empty. The cash registrar rang me up.

“Do you want the receipt?”

“Yes, in the bag, please.”

“Here you go. Happy Mother’s Day, to you and yours.”

Sigh!

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A Perfect Neutral

Five years ago, I was tense all day. A good friend gave birth and everyone was stopping by the hospital to congratulate the new parents. The social pressure was mounting as much at the same rate of my internal stress–fuck babies! Fuck this shit! I don’t like babies! I want life before babies! Here’s another friend who’s leaving me! Why don’t I want babies?! Why can’t I figure it out already?!?!

By the time I talked down my inner angry voice, I had missed visitation hours, but I put on my best unbitter face, sweet-talked my way past security and swallowed the growing knot in my throat to open the door–there they were, the once weekend-warrior-stoners, holding in awe their very own creation. I peered into her red wrinkly face, scrunching, stretching, squinting, smiling. Her tiny hands and feet with perfect miniature nails, nailbeds and all. Life–the science class videos and metaphysics course readings all blurred–couldn’t recall who said what, but here, undeniably was a miniature being throbbing with it.

Of course the miracle of it didn’t stop the rolling tears on the subway ride home, streaming frustration and confusion about this thing called life I wasn’t part of.

Fast forward to today. Another dear friend gave birth after a very long and difficult conception with all the scientific assist money can buy. “High risk pregnancies,” we’re told, but brush off because there are 50-somethings doing IVF, but in her case, there were multiple complications, a reluctant C-section, and a full day of not being able to hold her newborn as she was tethered to an IV. I don’t visit every baby at the hospital, but I figured the mom could use a friendly face.

I knew this was one of the last newborns I’d see, given most of my friends are done with building a family. I had some anticipation–namely, I wanted to know how I would react to a newborn. Perhaps if they’re not screeching or running from one side of the house to the other, a baby would be attractive. I peered into the swaddled red face scrunching her nose trying to figure out this stranger. She popped her tiny little hand out of her cocoon and moved it like a starfish before making a loose fist against her ears. There they were, those perfect baby fingers, nailbeds and all. I matched my breathing to hers in hopes she’d relax a little.

But I was also trying to locate the connection with my inner voice.

Isn’t life amazing? 

Yeah.

Look, just look at this tiny baby. A perfect human being.

Yep.

….anything?? I mean, anything????

no, I’m trying…I’m trying, but…. sorry, negative. No biological squeal, no jealousy, no I’m-ready-for-mine–nothing, absolutely nothing.

Stella Art Thou–Winterstorm

Stella, a blitzkrieg of a snowstorm and winter’s swan song. A state of emergency declared in New York City with most above-ground transportation suspended, schools shut down and businesses encouraged to close save essential staff.

In the case of my workplace, the essential staff was the bachelor and me. Following  HR’s “work from home as necessary” guideline, neither of us could validate the necessity of staying home, us single Manhattanites with no kids.

I was productive on a quiet day. Three incoming calls total. Even had the chance to read some trend and research reports.

Around 5PM I figured I’d get home before it got dark.

“See you tomorrow,” I told my trench mate. He was watching ESPN on his computer.

“Yup! Get home safe.”

We had held down the fort of single people, a space free of pancakes, hot chocolate, snowball fights and puzzles. We stayed warm under the glint of fluorescent lights and stared out of aluminum framed office windows waiting for the storm to abate–so that we could scurry home to frozen dinners and chilled beer.

Pep talk (ped talk?)

You’d think you’d be immune to it by now, but sometimes, a childless gal gets knocked down.  It can be triggered by a double-whammy of news about people’s pregnancies, a thoughtless remark, the season changing, or the new light bulb in the bathroom showcasing your smile lines… and being single, you have no one to turn to but yourself for a pick-me-up.

 

  • You are not any less a woman because you’ve never been pregnant.
  • Being a mother does not define who you are. You are still special. You are contributing to the world.
  • Motherhood is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
  • Trust yourself. Don’t second-guess your decisions.
  • There are plenty of women before you who did not have children and they led fulfilling lives.

 

Too bad these words didn’t come to me at 3 AM this morning when I was wide awake, freaking the F out.

Unbaby Him

Caught up with Ronin, the legend of the bachelors. With his charming wit, power career in medicine and motorcycle as his choice of transport, he’s the most eligible and most emotionally unavailable man on this isle. Since we last spoke in any depth several years ago, he had notably mellowed out, but his resistance to settling down had not changed.

That said, he was no longer on five different dating apps filling up his free evenings with the newest batch of beauties he would bed once.

“I’m over the conquesting women thing,” he explained.

“What happened?!” I mean, it couldn’t be. This was Ronin, whose name google associated with “dating” after “MD.” The man who had perfected the one-two step of charm/sleep and its post-coital counterpart, respond/delete. (Once you slept with someone, you were forever obligated to respond to their communication, explained the man also famous for his zero email inbox.) I’ve always used Ronin as an example of why online dating (evil!) perpetuated damaging behavior for those with emotional issues by enabling them with an endless supply of new dates.

And now, he’s laying low for a few years. Taking cover from the storm. Counting down the days until he can once again, reclaim his indisputable status as Don Juan. Despite his pathologies, Ronin surprisingly has a few redeeming traits, and as it pertains to dating, he dates people his own age–and this, it turns out, is the eye of the hurricane. Women his age are sprinting to the finish line with their last two good eggs, and he wants no part of artificial “accidents.”

“I’m a 6’2″ Jewish doctor in Manhattan,” he noted dryly, taking a swig of whiskey. “Right now, I’m only sleeping with women who are menopausal or have IUDs.”

Oy vey.

So this is where the last of the straight men have disappeared to. There’s a reason I have trouble meeting straight single men my own age. Figuring out if I want kids or not is hard enough. Now I know sperm donors will emerge only after it’s official I can’t.

All Colds Are Not Equal

Despite being vigilant about my health, I catch a bug once in a while. Like this past week, a double whammy of pollen allergies and a cold, not to mention getting my period at the same time. It was short but vicious. I coughed and heaved all week unable to take time off work given a project deadline. I relied on my regular arsenal of Vitamin C, echinacea, lemons, ginger, honey and fluids and am finally on the mend as I write this (knock on wood).

Coincidentally, my friend Margot also caught a cold. She succumbed to the cold all three kids had earlier in the week. The messages came pouring in. “It sucks when it’s the mom who has the cold. Get well soon.” “Mom colds are the worst. I feel so bad for you. Feel better.” “Get some rest, you of all people, deserve it!” And so on.

I wasn’t asking for sympathy but maybe I got one “feel better” from the same group. And that was it. Living alone and getting sick has its own set of challenges. There’s no one to peel you an orange, bring you soup or run to the drug store to get lozenges or toilet paper you ran out of at the worst time possible. You have to do it all by yourself. There are no wide-eyed kids by your bed looking worried telling you to feel better. You stare at the ceiling and maybe tell yourself to feel better. You don’t even know you lost your voice until you get to work because that’s the first time you’ve conversed with someone that day. Kinda sad, right? Yeah, but it’s par for the course. It’s my choice to be single, therefore, I deal with the consequence.

So I wasn’t looking for sympathy but the difference of the reactions to Margot and me was too stark. I didn’t even know “mom-cold” was a word. I’m not saying my job is more important than being commander of chief of a suburban household, but work flow in two countries does come to a grinding halt when I take an unplanned leave from the office. Jussayin.

But no one cares, no one’s asking. Apparently if I want attention I need to catch a mom-cold.

Reality Check

There’s that moment–when everything in your life is rendered irrelevant faster than you can say “holy shit.”

It happened to me today in the form of a photo. A good friend visited my mother with her parents, husband and kids, and sent over the pics from the family friend gathering. There was my mother, the cool, understanding mom who said “go for it!” when I mentioned the crazy idea of becoming a documentary filmmaker, the original feminist of our family, the only mom I know who has not pulled a passive-aggressive stunt about her daughter not having kids–there she was with the widest ear to ear smile holding my friend’s nine-month-old. I cannot remember when she last smiled like that, or if she has ever.

I felt small. I felt guilty. I felt bad she lived alone. She could have been like my friend’s parents–two grandkids, daughter happily married to a good man. Like a normal person. I mean, what are the odds? My mother had three kids, and it’s yielded only one grandkid. The math doesn’t seem right. What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, me, right. Me. At least my younger sister gave her one, my older one is trying with her husband. Me, I’m not even trying to date, completely happy with being single. The Michelin chef’s special tasting menu dinner, the five-mile run along the river, afterwork drinks at the secret tequila bar, the power lunch with a journalist, the artwork I’m preparing for next week’s group show…is this a description of a rich, fulfilling lifestyle of a New York single gal, or the self-indulgent, shallow days of an ingrate of a daughter?

I’m sorry mom. I didn’t know you smiled like that. And my heart clenches because I don’t know if I can ever make you.