Since being divorced and becoming a single mom, I’ve noticed that people sometimes assume things about me — my relationship status, how I spend my time, who I am. I’ve been collecting these tidbits for a while now and thought I’d share them with you. I know some of the people were well-intentioned; I just find it interesting (and puzzling) about what people will say to a complete stranger. I suppose this happens to everyone, right? I mean, when I was pregnant with Drama Girl I remember the man sitting next to me on the plane telling me (unsolicited) all the reasons why I should quit work to stay at home with my child. His main line of reasoning: “No one can love a child like his mother.” Well, no shit, Sherlock. But that doesn’t mean a child can’t be loved by more than his mother!
We all say strange, silly or just plain foot-in-the-mouth things now and then — I have, too — but next time you see a single woman with children try to avoid these:
Flashback: A few years ago
Scenario 1: I’m out shopping for kids’ clothes by myself. Another mother and I are scrounging through racks of clothes looking for the right sizes for our precious ones. She says, “If only our husbands knew how hard this was!” If only.
Scenario 2: I’m selected to be one of the parent volunteers for my daughter’s kindergarten Valentine Day party. I’m invited to the party planning meeting (sort of like this one — ha, not quite!), which is held at 9:30 a.m…just late enough to be inconvenient for a working parent who commutes over 20 miles each day to her employer. I walk into the cafeteria in my professional dress garb. One of the mothers smiles. “Oh, right. You’re our working mom!”
Later she was explaining some elaborate craft that included little IOU’s for the kids to fill out — “IOU a hug” or an IOU for keeping the toy room clean, that type of thing. The Party Mom explained that she was going to pre-address all the IOUs to save time — that is, to “Mom and Dad.” But she had decided against this, lamenting that a child might not have a mom and a dad due to divorce, death, one parent being jailed for assaulting a lame-brain homeroom mother trapped in a 1950’s time warp…
Needless to say I wholeheartedly agreed we should let each child decide who should receive the IOU. (Note that the first part of this story became the premise for my essay in the Chicken Soup for the Working Mom’s Soul. Hey, use what you’ve got!)
Flashback: Last year
Scenario: I’m at the unfinished wood furniture store buying a bookcase. I’m going through the delivery details with the 70-something man helping me, and I make a comment about having the guys deliver the bookcase right into my family room so I could stain it in there (after everything was prepped and covered, of course). This way, I explained, I wouldn’t have to find someone to help me move the bookcase up from the more logical places people stain furniture, like a garage. The man suggested I should have my husband help me move the piece. I chuckled and said I didn’t have one of those at home.
He seemed confused by this. “Oh, I assumed everyone who came in here was married.”
Is there a local ordinance I’m not aware of?
Flashback: Last month
Scenario 1: On the way back from my grandmother’s funeral I’m standing in line at a Starbucks on the Ohio Turnpike with my very fidgety kids. A mom standing next to me with her own fidgety kids grumbles: “If only our husbands knew how hard this was!” [she may have said something a little different, but it definitely had the same meaning as before]
Scenario 2: The kids and I are dining in the hotel restaurant on the same trip before heading over to the funeral home. The bloated, gold chain wearing night manager comes over and wants to make small talk. (I think he’s also checking me out. Ew.) He asks how we are, what brings us to the area, etc. I tell him why we’re there and try to discourage further talk. He’s oblivious and keeps talking.
“Oh, so dad didn’t make the trip?”
I want to say “no, but I’m sure his girlfriend is keeping him company.” Which is FINE because we’re not married anymore. But that isn’t the worst of it. The worst is when the manager then asks the kids if they’ve tried out the pool – the big pool, the one with the hot tub, the one with the…
T-Rex looks at me. “Mom, you didn’t tell us they had a pool!”
No, son, I didn’t. On purpose. Because I knew we wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy it.
Scenario 3: We’re in the church during my grandmother’s funeral mass. Long story short, the priest is using the analogy of a child being born and learning how terrific life is outside the womb to explain how my grandmother is in a better place now where her spirit thrives and that she would not want to come back. Anyway, he invites Drama Girl up to the front as part of his sermon. He looks at her, then at me. “This is your daughter?” he asks me. I nod. “Dad isn’t here today?” Here we go again. I shake my head and grit my teeth.
He goes on to ask my daughter if she came from my belly and if she remembered being in there. (She doesn’t.) He glances over at me at one point and asks, “You did carry her — right?”
No, Father. My lesbian lover and I had an aging rock star fertilize my Drama Egg in a test tube and hired an atheist surrogate to carry her for us.
I didn’t say that — you know, considering the circumstances and all. But you can be sure I was thinking it.
(The hands are a little reminder to keep praying for me!)
I don’t know — do strangers ever say strange things to you? Or do I give off a special pheromone that makes me special?