Monday, November 21, 2011

Being Different

Tonight we had dinner plans with our friends who have a new baby. They actually started trying to conceive after we did, and now their baby just turned 6 months old. Of course, they brought the baby to dinner and he was adorable and delightful and a complete darling.

But as I was getting ready to go, I realized that I was making a little bit more of an effort than I probably would have if I'd just been planning to meet my best friend for dinner at the Indian place up the street. It was as if I was unconsciously trying to show them that "You might have that adorable baby, but I have glowing skin that's the result of 8 consecutive hours of sleep, shiny hair that I had plenty of time and money to have highlighted, and, (although I'm not going to pull it out at dinner) a vagina that's lovely, un-stretched and still fits in these jeans."

At some point, I think my inability to get pregnant turned into some sort of a competition in my head where I feel like it's Us vs. Them. The Haves vs. the Have Nots. The Sharks vs. the Jets. The Tutsis vs. The Hutus. The Fertiles vs. the Infertiles.

I resent it when my fertile friends make comments like, "Wow! You're so lucky that you can keep your house so clean!" or "Enjoy having the freedom to travel while you can!" Yet, when they're coming over for lunch, I frantically vacuum the floors and hide the piles of books and magazines under the couch. When they ask, "What have you been up to lately?" I go overboard about how excited we are for our upcoming trip to Mexico.

You could rightly argue that that showing off my clean house and gushing about my vacation plans are an absolutely fine response to these situations. After all, what am I supposed to do, invite them over to sit in my dusty living room amidst my piles of fertility books and boxes of hormone injections and tell them that what I've really been up to lately is frantically googling my estrogen numbers and follicle counts and comparing them with anonymous women on the internet?

But I think that there is actually more to the story than that.

When I was just starting junior high school, my parents got divorced and my mother went back to graduate school at the same time. For the next 4 years, we lived off my mother's graduate assistant stipend, which you can imagine, was not a lot to sustain an adult and two children. Compared to my friends in my suburban middle class town, we had very little money for new clothes, school trips and other activities. I certainly wasn't deprived compared to many people in the world, but I constantly felt different compared to the people around me.

So I took control of my situation. The way I saw it, I was different. So I had two options: I could be different because I was poor, or I could be different because I was interesting. I chose interesting. I didn't need back to school shopping trips at the Gap, I made my outfits from vintage clothes that I bought at Goodwill. I didn't need to join school activities that required money for equipment or uniforms, I was too busy working on my latest masterpiece in the art room after school. I didn't need school trips, I was planning to take the bus into the city and hang out in smoky coffeehouses talking to college boys.

This strategy worked really well for me and, on some level, it's still working for me. Once again I feel different compared to all the people around me. I can't be one of the women with their adorable new babies, sharing the dramas of parenting. Believe me, I've tried. So instead, I'll dazzle them with my gorgeous house that's like nothing they've seen since the day they gave birth and stories of trips that they can no longer afford and frankly would be too tired to take.

If I can't be fertile, I can at least be interesting. If I can't have a baby, I can at least have good hair.


  1. I LOVE this post. I never thought of it that way, but I do similar things to prove it's OK that I'm infertile. Like, "I'll have another glass of wine, because I CAN!" :)

    Happy ICLW week!

  2. I hear ya. I find myself bragging about stuff I can do because I don't have kids--stay late at parties without worrying about babysitters, sleep in, keep beautiful (and very breakable) vases at kid height. I can practice yoga every morning because I don't have to get kids ready for school like all of my neighborhood friends. Sometimes I don't realize I'm gushing about how good I have it, but sometimes I do... :)

  3. I've caught myself doing this for outings with new parents. Particularly new parents who started trying after us and seem to forget that this is difficult for me and hubby to handle. I put more time into my makeup and hair. I dress better than I would, I dig out my heels, I wear my fancy jacket and my 40 dollar scarf. I think deep down I want them to feel jealous of me like I feel jealous of them. Your post brings me back to all those times. And thats not good or bad, it just is. :o)

  4. I know exactly what you're saying. I had a friend announce that she was pregnant last week and I went OVER THE TOP exclaiming how excited I was. I then proceeded to have a too many glasses of wine to show how "fun" I was and was hungover the next day... boo!

  5. I love this post! I think I do this more than I even realize. Travel, hobbies, etc. We feel the need to find the things that we CAN enjoy and maybe flaunt them sometimes... oh well! :-)

  6. Yes! I can relate to this in so many ways! Have a great Thanksgiving!

    Stopping by from ICLW.

  7. Haha! Maybe my combining my marathon training and infertility into one blog was my unconscious way of saying "well, you have a baby, but I'm running a marathon"

    Great post! (stopping by from ICLW)

  8. i think i do that a lot without really thinking about it.... so funny. i never really thought of it that way

  9. Wow, what a beautiful, honest post. It really spoke to me because I was that woman as well, and in a way I still am. It is hard to let go of the need to be apparently perfect in grooming and lifestyle, but I am starting to not feel the pressure anymore, and my baby is 3 months old. It is only now that I really know I had this pressure on.
    ICLW 101

  10. You know, it's amazing because just today I found myself doing this too. Taking special care with my hair and makeup and thinking well if I don't have a baby, at least people can be jealous of how good I look and how awesome the dish I made for the party is. At least I'm not alone!