I had more than my share of bad dates during my single years, but one stands out from the crowd of mis-matches: He huffed ’n’ puffed during the flat, 10-minute walk to dinner (I was training for a half marathon), he complained about the food at the restaurant I’d recommended (Who doesn’t like Italian?), and he griped that all the women in California were snobby b*tches (Um, hello?).
As soon as I got home, I called my friend and asked why she’d set us up. “You’re both single,” she said.
After a couple of deep breaths, I gently suggested that she raise her standards. Perhaps in the future she should find out if I had anything in common with the random, eligible bachelor of her choosing before handing out my phone number.
Sadly, I was reminded of this during a recent ladies’ lunch. I was seated next to a woman I hadn’t met before and launched into standard getting-to-know-you questions—job, hometown, connection to the hostess. She was nice enough, but it was soon clear we had little in common…except we were both childfree, the only childfree women at the table.
I looked up from my seat as the other women laughed over toddler antics, compared poopy diaper horror stories, discussed the pros/cons of various baby carriers, and exchanged knowing glances about the challenges of sleepless nights with newborns. In all fairness to the host, I don’t believe she placed us childfree women together on purpose; it was more that the mothers were drawn to each other. But that didn’t make it any easier to bear.
I certainly understand the need for mothers, especially new mothers, to get out and socialize and to be able to get information and support in their new roles. Had I known what I was walking into, though, maybe I would have bowed out of the lunch. Maybe I could have risen above it and made another stab at finding common ground with my seat mate, but I felt so downtrodden, so invisible, that I just couldn’t muster the courage to make the extra effort. I also didn’t want to talk about being childfree; I’m mostly over it.
What I had looked forward to that day was getting out and talking with women about all sorts of issues, things we could all relate to. Maybe moving forward I should only accept invitations to after-work drinks. I’m thinking not a lot of new mommies will make it out for that, and I’ll be in more amiable company.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She still looks for the good in people.