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How Does that Shoe Taste?
a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos
We all have one don’t we? That well-meaning but obtuse friend, I mean.
There’s one woman in my life, in particular. She has knack – no, it’s a GIFT – for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Let’s call her Blahnik. It’s fitting since she puts her foot in her mouth frequently. At first I wondered how she could possibly be so tone deaf, so dense when it came to infertility and its myriad ordeals. Sure, she conceived effortlessly (several times), but still she knew my story chapter and verse. That’s why I couldn’t help but consider at one point: Was she trying to get me to gnash my teeth, stomp my feet or pound the table in frustration?
She’s sweet in every other way so the backhanded slights can’t be deliberate, but trust me I’ve since moved to high alert when in her presence. I’ve been on guard since the time I emailed Blahnik a beautifully written eulogy composed by a mutual friend – a pal who herself was unable to have children. The eulogy paid tribute to an elderly but feisty mother. It was sweet, funny, poignant, a real work of art. Blahnik was effusive in her review and then she ended her email response by driving a virtual stake in my heart. The closer: “Thanks for sharing. I only hope my children one day will have such heartfelt high words of praise, such kind things to say about me.”
(Uh, and what about us barren chickens? Those who won’t have offspring to celebrate our memory? Yep, didn’t seem occur to her that we might not have such a warm moment to ponder.)
Then there’s the offhanded, but Chinese-water torture-like way Blahnik routinely describes her encounters with other women who also, among other things, have young children. Hardly a sentence springs forth from her lips without some reference to a dominant mother identity: “We ‘moms’ get together every week for our book club…” “So I’m talking to another mom about…” “Did I tell you about my ‘mom’ friend who directs films?”
It’s become almost sport for me now, trying to keep track of the number of her references that include the “m” word. Now granted she’s stay at home mom (SAHM) but it made me think hard about how my own mother (also a SAHM) refers to herself now, and years ago when child-rearing was her predominant occupation. I recall lots of references to “my friend Delores or Shirley or Dee” and “the girls,” but not “my mom friend this” and “my mom friend that.”
Identity and how we portray ourselves changes depending on where we are in life and how we relate to others. Some of us are more multi-dimensional or varied in our personas. My reproductive challenges certainly give me plenty of fodder for writing, but I’m toying now with the idea of dropping some infertile identifiers into run-of-the-mill conversations for effect: “Yeah, so I was talking to another infertile last week…” or “let me tell you what we infertiles think about that restaurant…”
I’m guessing it would raise an eyebrow or two, wouldn’t you say?