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.

The Wench Who Stole Christmas

Ah, soul sister. Beat me to it.

I hear you girl. Last Christmas, that song was no joke. I got dumped two weeks before Christmas and it was probably the toughest holiday season ever. One night, I tried to close my eyes and tossed and turned. Finally, I got out of bed and went to the wall decorated with holiday cards. I stared at the source of my discomfort and once determined, tore them off my wall and into the garbage. A gush of relief washed away the tinge of guilt–I was able to fall asleep.

Here I was all alone with a bleeding heart on a cold winter night, and there were these families straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog jeering at me from my very own wall. “We refinanced our mortgage of our four-bedroom house while you’re still renting.” “We had our third child this year and expect he’ll row crew at an Ivy League while you’ll be getting surgery to remove cobwebs from your vagina.” “Our marriage is cemented in love, blood and property while you got dumped on a whim.”

I didn’t throw out all family cards though.

It basically boiled down to how obnoxious the cards were, or in other words, how tacky their parents were. I believe the kids are innocent (for now).

Survivors

-photos are candid shots only

-if posed, has to be dorky (like matching sweaters)

-sign-off as “The _____ Family” totally acceptable. Better: listing everyone’s name (Jay, Beyonce, Blue Ivy). Best: include pet names.

-you are in the photos. By you, I mean, my adult friend, the one I have a relationship with, and not that critter I’ve met maybe never

Your Shutterfly Artwork Will Make Good Compost

-monograms–GAUCHE. dead on arrival.

-anything signed off “The ______s” unless your last name is Simpson and you look like them.

-photos of only your kids. See above. I’m friends with you, not your kids. Also, your kids are cute…but not cute enough to land real estate on my wall.

Sorry, but that’s the truth. Call me a hater. Fine, no Christmas pudding for me. I can’t afford to eat it anyway. I’m your sad, single sorry sister-in-law.

The Sans’ Burden

We gathered in the conference room to listen to HR give a presentation on the changes to the health insurance plan.

“This is a result of the Affordable Care Act. A family plan will never exceed two times  the cost of a single person’s plan.”

Hmph. I smirk and steal a glance at the guy who has three kids. Nice subsidy.

Yes, I feel like a jerk when I think like that. But still. I pay for everything on a single woman’s income (more on that shortly)–all living expenses, savings, retirement, insurance, taxes, oh did I mention taxes? No child tax credit, no dependent care credit, oh and no tax breaks for home ownership. Look at all the tax breaks you don’t get because society doesn’t care for the childless single woman.

Women still trail men in income. In fact, women outlive men, so really we should be making more if anything. Gender bias, where men are perceived as primary breadwinners, works like this. I once witnessed a decisionmaker fiddle with compensation numbers, where he initially lowered but then increased the salary of an employee everyone knows is incompetent. “Well, he is a dad. That would have been too little.” Mr. Incompetent’s wife works, too, and I’m sure her boss is not upping her pay because she’s a mother.

But enough with the gripes. It’s my fault I pay full taxes for not having kids, a suburban home, a husband and a dog. Since I’ve failed society by failing to breed and breastfeed, the least I can do is let the employer and government milk me dry.