I recently attended a party in town with my husband. He knew everyone there, and I knew a few people. Well, I knew two people. The rest, I was either introduced to, or it was assumed we should already know each other, which is basically the same thing.
A lot of people had painted their faces that night (there was sort of a fairy theme going on), or they were wearing strings of beads. I wasn’t wearing any effeminate war paint or show-me-your-boobs necklaces, as Greg and I both spent the afternoon working, instead of pregaming like the other party folks. (Though I wouldn’t have pregamed, even if I hadn’t spent a day working, as I just don’t care for booze. And Greg is on the first part of the Atkins diet right now, which means no alcohol.)
But anyway, back to this fairy-theme party.
There are two things I am always guaranteed to hear at parties. The first is, “Well, aren’t you a tall drink of water!” I have never told a stranger he or she is a tall drink of water, and yet, this expression has hounded me all my life. I mean, I have nothing against water, I love drinking water, I love tall glasses of water, but why must I always be told I’m a tall drink of water? Isn’t this kind of bizarre? I know I can’t stop people from saying whatever it is they want to say, but this expression still strikes me as weird, especially when I hear it fifty times in one night. Women, men, this expression is not gender-specific, it can come from anyone.
The second thing I am always guaranteed to hear at parties is, “Do you have kids?”
But at this party, after the obligatory opening of, “Aren’t you a tall drink of water!” the second line of introduction from my new party friends was not to ask if I had kids, it was to ask, “Where are your kids?”
And I was like, “Uhhhhh…. my kids?”
Which was followed by:
“Yeah! Your kids! How’d you escape them this evening?”
That’s how my conversations went, over and over again. Even though these people knew my husband, and some of them worked with my husband, they still asked me, “Where are your kids?”
And no, this was not drunk talk. This was seven o’clock at night in a huge carpeted room with nice art on the walls, not a one a.m. blitz-fest at slumdog gross-out bar. (No offense to slumdog gross-out bars. I spent many a childhood afternoon in bars like that.)
But the fact remains. I do not have children. I’m not planning to have children. And yet, I found myself being asked, “Where are your kids?” by every person I met.
And I was like, when did I miss the memo that I have children??
And more importantly, what is it about me that makes everyone assume I have wee tots at home?
Then I was like, wait, maybe I walked in here with a diaper bag.
Like this one. Isn’t this a cute diaper bag? Classic, understated. Definitely the type of diaper bag I would probably tote, had I ever in my life wanted to have a baby.
But no. I did not walk into this party with a diaper bag.
Then I was like, wait, maybe I have a baby bump. So I checked my belly for the telltale sign of motherhood, but my stomach is as flat as my computer desk. No baby bump.
Then I wondered if I accidentally lost my mind, bought some kind of weird baby toy at Target, and clipped it onto my purse.
Like this toy. If I ever accidentally lost my mind and went shopping at Target, this is exactly the toy I would buy and clip onto my purse.
So I checked my purse. But no. I did not have any weird baby toys hanging from a zipper, or anywhere else on my clothing.
Now, because I am socially inept, every time someone asked me, “Where are your kids?” I continued to stutter the same response, which was, “Uhhhhh… I don’t… uhhh… I don’t have any kids,” with an expression like this:
When in reality I felt a lot more like this:
I mean, the assumption that I had babies at home, babies that, had I given birth to them, I would have hired a babysitter to attend this fairy-themed party, was just kind of shocking and horrifying, tied up with a big bow of, “Am I in the Twilight Zone?”
I mean, what the flipping hell was going on with these people?
Again and again, I faced this question of what I’d done with my children, and the situation just felt more and more bizarre. Why would anyone even ask about someone’s babysitter? It’s usually a family member or a teenager, so it’s inherently a question with a boring answer, which made me wonder if these people assumed I was some kind of party dolt who would plop her wee babes in front of the TV with a gallon of ice cream and say, “Bye, sweets! Mumsie has to get wasted with the fairies now!” before I rushed out the door.
Which, come to think of it, is what I totally should have said to these people. Because, obviously, I am way too literal, which is what makes me so socially inept. Though I would have needed to slug back a few beers before I was willing to joke about being that kind of a mother… unless, of course, I made it clear that my toddlers were home alone eating Rocky Road and watching Monty Python, which of course would be okay.
In another interesting twist, no one asked Greg where his kids were. Which further added to my confusion. Who was I supposed to be having these kids with, if they weren’t my husband’s? And why did everyone only ask me about these kids, and not the proud papa?
I pondered all of these questions as soon as we left the party, which was sometime around ten, and it took me the entire trip home before I had my Eureka moment of happiness and enlightenment:
and figured it out.
The question “Where are your kids?” existed to serve one purpose–
to let me know I am older.
I am not a young twenty-something anymore, and people can tell.
I’m in my thirties, I’m at that age where reproduction seems a given, and therefore, I must obviously have kids.
So next time I go to a party, I’ll know exactly what to say when I’m asked, “Where are your kids?”
Answer: “They’re on my computer, right where I left them. Novel one, novel two, novel three. Manuscripts, book covers, and print proof files.”
Honest, witty, and all around lovely. I definitely think it is curious that between you and your special someone, only you were addressed with this. It raises more questions of the gender expectations kind. I love your proposed response — and it certainly makes a lot of sense.
People are ridiculous, but I enjoy the thought of you accidentally losing your mind and buying a baby toy to hang on your purse.