“So, what do you ladies do?” The hairy, overly tanned middle-aged white man asked.
My friend, Laney, and I had been busy chatting in the hot tub on our last day together when Bob*, with the self-importance only a middle-aged white man can project, interjected and proceeded to monologue for the next 45 minutes wherein our sole purpose was to murmur sweet, appreciative assents while we seethed yet somehow were trapped in societal expectations and did not extricate ourselves. After all, we were there first! Why should we be forced to move? And yet, who was the big loser in this encounter? Us.
I am still pissed about this.
Anyhow, Bob had now moved on from what he thought about himself and was now, however briefly, willing to share the spotlight with one of us.
“What do you do?” he asked again as Laney and I hesitated. Do we engage more? Do we reply in a way to seem interesting? Or do we reply in such a way as to shut down conversation?
I knew what I would do.
“I’m a stay at home mom,” I said.
I watched as the interest in his eyes died before I even finished speaking the words. He turned immediately to Laney.
I was uncertain whether I was relieved or furious that he did exactly as I had ensured. Hadn’t I answered in this way so that he would dismiss me and my life? So that I could deflect and not have to endure him any more than I had to?
And yet. And yet.
Every now and then when I think about my life, I think how it is the perfect NOC (non-official cover for those of you not in the know) for spies, cons, and surveillance personnel. After all, there is nothing more nondescript than a mother with her children. No one expects them to be anything but what they are – which is innocuous background noise (at least, until one of those kids has a very public meltdown).
We blend. We are scenery. We disappear.
Today, I walked into a cafe without my usual coterie of babies and for a brief second, I made eye contact with a man sitting at the counter. My mind wandered to where it normally wanders in a split second. I wondered, what would I be like now if I were single? Would I still be attractive? Desirable?
When I meet men now, do they even see me? Or do they only see my SAHM uniform of sweats, unwashed face and hair, long sleeve tee, thick ugly socks, and double-wrapped scarf?
And why does it matter?
Every time I ask Hapa Papa if he is ever worried I will have an affair, he always laughs. Not unkindly, mind you. But still. He laughs.
Nothing is as flattering as your husband laughing at the idea of you having an affair because who would want to have an illicit affair with someone encumbered with three small, young children?
Hapa Papa sure knows how to make a woman feel desirable. Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.
Incidentally, this is not a post to elicit reassurances from my lovely and dear friends.
Lately, I wonder if I ever felt as if I were visible or if it is solely a consequence of my current identity. Did I ever feel as if I owned a place? Secure with my place in the world? My role? My identity?
Or is this merely another manifestation of feeling as if amazing and I are mutually exclusive states of being?
Whatever the reason, I’m done. 2016, you’ve been warned. And you’ll see me coming.
*Not his real name. Or it could be. I have no idea. I’m still pissed off about it but I forgot his name in its entirety.