Dear Ms. Behavior:
I received an invitation for a reunion of my old softball team. I was close to several women back then. Although I haven’t seen them for more than two decades, I am curious about how their lives have turned out. But I’m apprehensive about questions people might ask, so I’m not sure if I should go.I don’t know how to respond to questions about why my girlfriend and I don’t have children. I’ve found that my quick brush-off about it not being “meant to be” doesn’t work anymore. I often end up with a well-meaning person reassuring me that it’s not too late, and I should keep trying.
This is unbearably awkward, because my partner and I don’t want to “try.” We are in our 40s, and actually childless by choice. But it’s hard to say this without sounding grumpy, or having people look at me with pity.
I don’t want to be judged as a loser.
If I choose to go to the reunion, how should I respond to nosy questions about my fertility? Or should I just stay home to avoid the issue?
Reunions are terrifying events, designed to make everyone feel inferior.
Just imagine how many of your former teammates feel acutely self-conscious about their fourth divorce, their 40th unsuccessful rehab attempt, or their mortifying appearance on The Jerry Springer Show.
Right now, most of them undoubtedly are standing in front of their mirrors with whitening strips on their teeth, grasping the real or imaginary fat around their middle, wondering how many ounces they can lose in the days remaining until the big event. They’re irrationally hungry, because they have subsisted on either sprouts and carrots or meat and cheese, ever since that damn reunion invitation arrived.
The point is that reunions activate self-doubt. Your feelings are normal, but unwarranted, because most people are self-centered, and unlikely to ask more than a question or two.
You may long for the days when lesbians were viewed as earnest, sexless, softball-playing spinsters. But just because Rosie and Kelly have eight or nine babies doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. And you don’t need to explain your choice to anyone.
The baby issue is annoying. Even though most lesbians (or even most women) can have babies doesn’t mean they all should. Some people are better suited to raise Dalmatians or hairless felines. Others prefer to drink vodka and write sonnets. A regular feeding schedule and sore nipples would be too dire a distraction.
Some, too, are happier alone or in a calm little dyad. They don’t have the energy or desire to feed, educate, and comfort clingy little creatures for two or more decades. People who prefer a lifestyle that allows for spontaneous travel to exotic countries or service to disadvantaged neighbors are better left to such pursuits.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My friend, Laurel, is smart and interesting, but also single and lonely, so I set her up on blind dates with three different women. Apparently, all the dates went fairly well, at least at first. The problem is that none of the women agreed to see her again after the second or third time.
Laurel was really discouraged, and felt like she was doing something wrong, so she asked me if I could find out why they all had cooled off. I said I thought it was too awkward, but Laurel begged, so I finally consented to ask.
One of the dates refused to tell me what happened. The others both said that Laurel talked in a baby voice during sex, and that they were embarrassed by it. I didn’t ask questions, because that was more information than I wanted.
Now, I’m in an awkward position: Do I tell Laurel what I’ve learned, or do I protect her dignity by telling her I couldn’t find out?
Dear Laurel’s Friend:
Now that you’ve accepted your special mission as Laurel’s love spy, it’s your duty to tell her the mortifying truth without embarrassing her. First, tell her something weird about yourself. Say whichever one might apply: “I have hairy buttocks”; “I long to be peed on”; “I wear a silicone butt plug to work.” Don’t say it in a sexy way—the plan will backfire if you’re so alluring that she jumps on you. Then, once you’ve disclosed your own nasty little secret, you can switch gears, and tell her that she needs to clam up during sex.
© 2009 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.