For quite a few years now my husband and I have marveled over (and made mental note of) the outrageous things we’ve had to stomach from those worthy of induction to “The Dense Hall of Fame.” Here’s a little anecdote that’s sure to get some blood boiling. My last post described a recent rather awkward exchange with a colleague inquiring about my childlessness (see Handling the Loaded Question). The comment, however, that has always stood apart for its abject insensitivity went like this…
A few years ago while my husband and I were in the heat of battle with hormone shots, ultrasounds, follicle counts and sperm scrubbing, a woman at my husband’s workplace was shooting the breeze with he and some other colleagues when she turned to him and asked (here’s that load question, again) if he had any kids. He’s not one to offer up extraneous details and answered simply. “No.”
She, in turn, jumped to the wrong conclusion and then some. Her response?
“My husband and I also thought about taking the selfish route, but then we thought, what would we do buy a more expensive BMW? So now we have three kids…”
My husband doesn’t recall the rest of her prattling because he was so stunned at her erroneous judgment of him, of our situation and that of many other couples. Selfish? Oh where do I begin?
He was also amazed that the comment came from a woman. He might have expected such a snide observation from a guy who craved nice wheels in his garage rather than colicky baby, but a woman? He expected more empathy from someone tuned into monthly cycles and nursing schedules.
It’s also remarkable to me that her first response to a married childless man was to think in purely consumer terms. How shallow is that? In her case, I began to wonder if there shouldn’t be some intelligence requirement for procreating.
My husband tucked this story away for quite a few years without sharing. He knew that until recently it would wound me deeply to think that others perceived our childless state as a choice of hedonist consumption over conceiving and raising a family. To put it purely in financial terms (and that’s only a small slice of the sacrifices we’ve made), we invested a fortune into our efforts to conceive — enough to buy more than a few high-end BMWs to put it in terms the woman in question might understand. Our many efforts, sadly, didn’t lead to what most every couple around the globe desires: a child that marries our rich history of family traits.
My husband is no longer is associated with the company and it’s a good thing because if I ever got a few minutes with that woman she’d get a dressing down the likes of which she’d never encountered before…