I nodded, like I understood. Like I was right there with her. Which is, Im sure, what lead her to ask.
Oh, is your daughter on her schools lacrosse team, too?
No. No, shes not. Im not sure she would even know what lacrosse is; I, myself, only having the vaguest idea. We are West Coast. We are hippies. We can all sew and play a drum. We are poor. We dont lacrosse. Later in the same conversation, she was insistent.
Does your son play tennis? You must use our tennis coach. Hes a genius!
No. No tennis, either.
I wasnt at some social media gathering or literary soiree, trying to blend, as sometimes happens. I was at work. As a checkout girl. In a grocery store. Wearing a bad uniform, a barely polite smile, and feeling the stings of a hundred bees on my heart.
Should I tell her that mine are bus riding, latchkey kids who cant participate in extracurricular activities, lest they sit on the curb outside school until I finish up at work which is sometimes long after dark?
Should I tell her that my kids dont have health insurance and we try to stay away from any and all physical activities because even tennis has an elbow named after it and we are still deep in debt from the bout of bronchitis that my daughter suffered last year?
Should I tell her that we cant afford uniforms and equipment for such things and that my son carries a hot pink hand-me-down camera to photography class and I had to approach my daughters choir teacher about making payments on the dress required for performances because that kind of expense just isnt in the budget and has to be planned for?
Should I tell her that its only me? For everything? Only me? Only me to pick them up? Only me to pay the bills? Only me to do the grocery shopping? Only me to go to games/concerts/matches and cheer them on? Only me to lie awake at night and wonder exactly how much I fucked them up that day and worry that I wont have the emotional and physical strength to get up the next morning and do it all again?
She went on. She talked about how her son had totaled his truck and fussed that they had to go out and buy him a new one so he could still get around. She sighed, exaggeratedly, like we were leaned over tea and scones in her good living room. The one that her children, husband and dog are strictly forbidden to enter.
Teenage boys, right?
I nodded. Agreeing that they are, indeed, a handful.
Should I tell her that I wonder if Im enough? Enough to raise a daughter without daddy issues by loving her harder than Ive ever loved someone in the hopes that she doesnt spend the rest of her life trying to fill the void that not having a father has left? Enough to make a boy into a good man by telling him how to treat a lady, avoid a fight, and respect all living things because god knows I dont know the first thing about shaving a face, choosing boxers vs briefs, or grilling meat?
Should I tell her that her life is not my life and, everywhere I turn, I have trouble relating to other mothers? Other bloggers? Other social media personalities? Other people? Should I tell her that I am so many things that I end most days feeling like Ive succeeded at being none of them?
I dont tell her. I stand there looking interested. No, BEING interested. Fascinated. By that life. And its different set of problems. And the bubble that it affords.
I am Molly Ringwald, reworking the outdated, thrifted prom dress, desperate to fit in with the cool kids, but determined to never be one of them. Never wanting the bubble. Never wanting to unleash the hundred bees. Just wanting someone, anyone, to understand.