A few months ago I met a woman at a party.
Friends had been telling me we would like each other, and when we finally started talking, she said: “Oh, you’re Sarah. Everyone has been telling me I would like you.”
I did like her, and we did like each other. She makes jokes and laughs at them, and talks fast, which is good. I tend to like people who talk fast. I don’t mean that the words come out of their mouths fast. I am talking about the amount of time that passes before I close my mouth and they open theirs, which should ideally be negative one and a half seconds.
She spoke, I spoke, she spoke, I spoke, as God intended. You know how when some people, people who are usually women, meet, and then just get right into it? That’s what happened with us. We were enjoying ourselves for quite some time, drinking, not hammered, but drinking, and talking our faces off, a fun activity.
We started talking about kids. She is a mom. I am not. She expressed some reservations about being a mom but was pro. I said yeah, I was extremely glad I didn’t have kids. In the way having kids was a source of delight for some, not having them was a source of delight for me. I felt I had made many, many mistakes in life, some of them huge, but not having kids was not one of them.
She smiled, but it was also kind of a smirk. Her eyes lit up, as if she had just slipped in a pair of contacts in a custom color called Inner Wisdom. She said: “Wow, I feel like … you’re really overstating that. I mean — do you think maybe from the way you’re talking that you actually did want kids? I mean, you certainly have a lot to say about how you don’t want them?”
I was astonished, although I didn’t feel a huge surge of “defend yourself with cruelty” adrenaline. I felt pretty calm. I think I said: “Well, you don’t really know me that well? And I think if you did, you’d probably just — understand that I am actually telling the truth?”
She didn’t apologize, but she nodded as if she were considering being reflective. “It’s true that I don’t know you that well,” she said. “I guess I’m just the kind of person who thinks if someone is super passionate about making sure I think something about them, then the opposite is probably true.”
I said something like that was an interesting way of interpreting information and not wholly without merit but maybe it was a good idea to start with the premise that the words coming out of a person’s mouth were indeed a fairly accurate representation of what was in that person’s head.
She seemed to accept this.
I don’t remember what happened next, but I know our conversation didn’t come to a stop then and there. And we ended up exchanging phone numbers before the party was over. But we haven’t seen each other since.
I know I don’t want kids and am glad I don’t have them, and I know this is true deep in my heart because every time I talk about something that actually upsets me, I start crying. I don’t want to cry all the time like that. It’s embarrassing. But it is a handy gauge of things I actually find upsetting. When I start talking about kids, or not having kids, or having terminated pregnancies, my eyes are dry. My heart rate is slow.
What’s often hardest about making a choice that goes against the mainstream is that people tend to think you secretly want the mainstream thing and you have to pretend that you don’t. It’s hard to be treated as if you’re acting, as if you’re just playing the role of carefree childless woman and secretly pining for a baby when it’s not what you want or have ever wanted. Still, I think I was less put off by what my fast-talking new friend said than the idea that she knew me better than I knew myself.
I want to make it clear I don’t think this person is bad. I say thoughtless things to people all the time. And it is very likely I will still try to become better friends with this person, because talking fast and being funny can be way more important than getting it all right, in my opinion.
Every once in a while I hear a parent laughing with a teenager and I think, I would like to laugh with a teenager, because I like teenagers (sometimes, some of them). Incidentally, I don’t trust parents who are amazing with toddlers and bad with teenagers.
Luckily, nothing is stopping me from laughing with a teenager. There are plenty of them around, and I don’t have to be their mom to enjoy them. In fact, I personally have to be not their mom to enjoy them, which is convenient, because I am not anyone’s mom, which, as I mentioned, rules.
Sarah Miller is a writer living in Northern California.